Word Wars

One of the biggest road blocks to the reading passages on the HSE exams can be unfamiliar words or vocabulary. Imagine this: You are cruising right along on your test, time is being managed, you’re reading with purpose, and “EKKKKKK” the breaks throw down over some crazy word you’ve never seen before. Don’t panic! Go to war!

That’s an overly dramatic description. But you DO need a plan of attack. One of the biggest helps for finding meaning in an unknown word is using context clues.

Context clues are just a fancy way of saying to use ALL the other words in a sentence or paragraph to give meaning to an unknown word. This can include looking for examples, synonyms, and antonyms.


Examples – Signal words: such as, for example, including. Ex: Prisoners face tribulations such as depression, poor nutrition, and group violence.

Synonyms – Look for word similar in meaning to the unknown word. Ex: Our plans finally came to fruition, when we reached our goal.

Antonyms – Gives a clue to the OPPOSITE of the unknown word. Signal words: however, but, than, yet, in contrast, on the other hand. Ex: The speech was quite verbose, but the email recap was brief.

TIP: Check with substitutes – Fill in the blank with a similar word/definition to see if you are correct and check for consistent meaning.


With these tools in your arsenal, you can tackle word wars with the best of them and continue on with confidence! Need more coaching or testing advice? Get to know the Student Success Team at Essential Education. Your success is our goal!

1-800-460-8150 or studenthelp@essentialed.com

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