TASC Reading Test—Word and Phrase Analysis

By Stuart Donnelly

When you know how to analyze words and phrases in text, understanding an author’s intentions is easier. You should look for clues in the TASC Reading passages to determine the meaning that the author is trying to convey.

When you’re unsure of the meaning an author is trying to convey because you’re unsure of the meaning of a word or words, it can help to look at the words next to the ones you’re unsure of to find meaning. In other words, look at the context of the words to try to find meaning. Here’s an example:

Although not done with their game, the baseball team needed to curtail the game because it was getting dark and there were no lights on the field.

You may know what the word curtail means, but if you don’t, what words in the sentence could help you figure it out? First you can use the words “baseball team” to get a sense of what’s going on, and then you can look at “not done,” “dark,” and “no lights” to figure out that curtail means to stop or end early.

Now try to figure out what the underlined phrase means in context:

We went to the diner yesterday, and Joe was really stuck in the weeds! People were lined up outside, and his cashier and his other server called in sick. He was handling the whole place by himself! I’ve never seen him so stressed out. He was running around like mad, calling orders into the kitchen, checking people out, and serving food. People were complaining, and Joe looked like he would scream!

Although you may not have ever heard the phrase stuck in the weeds, can you figure out its meaning by looking at the words around it? Words and phrases like “people were lined up outside,” “his cashier and his other server called in sick,” and “handling the whole place by himself” give you a sense of what stuck in the weeds means. Right?