Tips & Techniques in English For competitive Exams – Word-Stock
SYNONYMS AND ANTONYMS
This is very important area of the vocabulary section. This section tests widely and exhaustively one’s knowledge of the language and word power, but goes beyond that to test your ability to remember words with similar meanings or opposite meanings. Or, alternately, to discover the similarity or proximity between the meaning of the given word with one of those in the options.
These exercises can get confusing sometimes because more than one option may appear as the right answer or none of them may look like the right answer. For such questions a student may consider the following strategies:
If you do not know the meaning of the given word, think of a context in which you might have used it, that may help you to figure out the meaning, for example, in the question below find the word nearest in meaning to
Now if you do not know what magnify means think of a magnifying glass and what it does. It expands or makes a thing look bigger. So the right answer will be (c).
If you cannot find a correct antonym in the given option think of the antonyms you know of and subsequently check if there is any word in the given options which is synonymous to the antonyms in your mind. For example
If you don’t know any of the words given as options think of antonyms you could think of, like lazy, idle. Now think of synonyms of lazy and you will know indolent is a synonym of lazy. So it will be the antonym to industrious. Formula → SYNONYM of ANTONYM is another ANTONYM.
Look at the part of speech of the given word. A word may exist in various parts of speech. For example precipitate exists as a verb which means send rapidly into a certain state and also as a noun, precipitate, which means a substance de posited from a solution.
Now is this the verb polish or noun polish? Since all options are nouns, his cannot be the verb polish related to shoes but noun polish which means culture and sophistication and the antonym to this would be gaucheness.
Analogy literally means a comparison or a comparable similarity. A student has to find a pair of words in the same relation or a similar relation as that of the given pair of words. Analogy is, in a sense, a test of vocabulary since you need to know the meaning of the words given, but in a broader sense it is a test of reasoning ability. To know the meaning of the words will not be enough if one is not able to understand clearly what the relation between the pairs of words is. Therefore, there are two things that are important to attempt a question on analogy:
- meaning of all given words
- relationship between the given pairs of words
It is more convenient and time saving to first figure out the relation between the given pair and then compare it with the relations between the pairs in the options given for choice. Consider the following example
Pen : Write : : Book :
Now first determine the relation between the first two words, it is that of purpose, pen is used to write. Then determine the other word which will be in the same relation to the third word. Book is used to read, then
Pen : Write : : Book : read
There are different kinds of relationships that could be drawn from daily usage but some common relationships are given below:
1. CAUSE : EFFECT
Liquor : Intoxication → Liquor causes intoxication
Wound : pain → wound causes pain.
In this relation the first word is the cause for the second and the second is the result of the first
Bottle : Cork → a cork is used to close a bottle
Dress : cloth → cloth is used to make a dress
In this relation, one word is used for another, there is a purpose
between the two
3. OBJECT : ACTION
Gun : Fire → you fire a gun
Violin : play→ you play a violin
In this, one term is an object and the other one is action undertaken with the help of that object.
4. ACTION: OBJECT
foment : Riot → you foment a riot
Wear : clothes → you wear clothes
This is opposite to the previous relation, here the first word is the action and the second the object with which that action is done.
5. PART: WHOLE
Book : Literature → a book is a part of the larger body of literature
Ship : fleet → ship is a part of the collection called fleet
In this relation, the first word will in the same way be a constituent of a bigger body represented by the second word.
Abundant : ample → ample means the same as abundant
Skilled : adroit → the two words are synonymous, i.e., they mean the same
This relation is when both the words are synonyms.
Abstinence : indulgence → indulgence means the opposite of Abstinence
Legitimate : Unlawful → Legitimate means legal which is the opposite of unlawful.
In this relation, the two words are opposite to each other in meaning.
Callous : Indifference → . The synonym of callous will be indifferent, since both words are adjectives but rather the noun form, indifference, has been given in the relation
Brainwave: Inspired → The synonym of Brainwave is inspiration, but instead the second word in this relation is Inspired – the one who has inspiration.
In this relation, the two words are not directly synonymous but a slight change of the part of speech has been made in the second word.
9. WORKER: ARTICLE CREATED
Carpenter : furniture → carpenter makes wooden furniture Compose : music → a composer composes or creates music In this relation, the first word is the doer and the second is the professional work done by the first.
10. SYMBOL : QUALITY
Olive leaf : Peace → an olive leaf is a symbol of peace.
Red : passion → the colour red symbolises passion.
In this relation the first word is a symbol, and the second is the meaning represented by the symbol.
11. CLASS : MEMBER
mammal : man → man belongs to the class of mammals.
Doggerel : Poem → Doggerel is a class of poem which is bad in quality.
In this relation the first word is a member belonging to the class denoted by the second word.
12. ACTION : SIGNIFICANCE
Blush : embarrassment → if one blushes, that signifies that the person is embarrassed.
Spasm : pain → a spasm indicates that the person is in pain.
In this relation the first word is an action and the second is what that action signifies.
Although most of the questions asked in a competitive exam can be solved with the help of the given relationships, for subtle questions a student should apply reasoning to figure out the relation between the given words. Following are certain tips that would help a student to attempt analogy questions.
The first and foremost step while attempting an analogy question should be to DEFINE THE RELATIONSHIP. To avoid any errors, first define the relationship on paper or in your mind before searching for options. Once you have defined the relationship analyse the given pairs in the light of the relationship.
→ resentful : gratitude
→ perplexed : classification
→ insured : imagination
→ vociferous : suppression
First, the relationship can be defined as ‘need’ i.e. an anxious person needs reassurance and then you can check the given pairs to find out that ‘a perplexed person needs classification’. Thus this will be the right analogy.
→ Cook : Fry
→ Chill : Freeze
→ Roast : Stew
→ Slice : Cut
Now, establish the relation between the two given words. It is that of degree. Simmer is the lower degree of boil. Just as chill is the lower degree of freeze.
Always be careful about apparent and easy similarity. These are only to deceive the student as you would be attracted by these options. .Always confirm all the options and be highly careful while considering an obvious answer.
e.g. STUTTER: SPEECH
→ Blare : hearing
→ Aroma : smelling
→ Astigmatism : sight
→ Novocaine : Touch
Stutter is a defect of speech, so the relation between the two is that of defect. But Blare and hearing are closely related since blare means a harsh sound. This may attract the student, but this is not a relation of defect. This relation is in the third option, astigmatism is a defect of sight. So always avoid giving into the temptation of obviously correct answers.
Sometimes a word has two meanings, while what may first come to your mind will be the more frequent use of that word, if you cannot find a logical relation between the two words. Go beyond the obvious meaning and link the word with the other meaning of the second word.
→ Red : Ship
→ Crimson : flower
→ Stranded : Tourist
→ Colour : Dress
Maroon also has two meanings the colour ‘maroon’ and the verb maroon which means being left alone or abandoned. Obviously the second meaning will make a logical relation with sailor, a sailor is marooned just as a tourist is stranded.
FILL IN THE BLANKS OR SENTENCE COMPLETION
BEFORE YOU LOOK AT THE CHOICES, READ THE SENTENCE AND THINK OF A WORD THAT MAKES SENSE
Your problem is to find the word that best completes the sentence in both thought and style. Before you look at the answer choices, see if you can come up with a word that makes logical sense in the context. Then look at all five choices. If the word you thought of is one of your five choices, select that as your answer. If the word you thought of is not one of your five choices, look for a synonym of that word. Select the synonym as your answer.
This technique is helpful because it enables you to get a sense of the sentence as a whole without being distracted by any misleading answers among the answer choices. You are free to concentrate on spotting
key words or phrases in the body of the sentence and to call on your own , “writer’s intuition” in arriving at a stylistically apt choice of word.
See how the process works in a typical model question.
1. Because experience had convinced her that he was both self-seeking and avaricious, she rejected the likelihood that his donation had been………..
This sentence presents a simple case of cause and effect. The key phrase here is self-seeking and avaricious. The woman has found the man to be, selfish and greedy. Therefore, she refuses to believe he can do something………. What words immediately come to mind? Selfless, generous, charitable? The missing word is, of course, altruistic. The woman expects selfishness (self-seeking) and greediness (avaricious), not altruism (magnanimity). The correct answer is Choice E.
Practice of Funda 1 extensively develops your intuitive sense of just the exactly right word. However, do not rely on Funda 1 alone. On the test, always follow up Funda 1 with Funda 2.
BEFORE YOU LOOK AT THE CHOICES, READ THE SENTENCE AND THINK OF A WORD THAT MAKES SENSE
Never decide on an answer before you have read all the choices. You are looking for the word that best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole. In order to be sure you have not been hasty in making your decision, substitute all the answer choices for the missing word. Do not spend a lot of time doing so, but do try them all. That way you can satisfy yourself that you have come up with the best answer.
See how this Funda helps you deal with another question.
The evil of class and race hatred must be eliminated while it is still in an……….state; otherwise it may grow to dangerous proportions.
On the basis of a loose sense of this sentence’s meaning, you might be tempted to select Choice A. After all, this sentence basically tells you that you should wipe out hatred before it gets too dangerous. Clearly, if hatred
is vague or amorphous, it is less formidable than if it is well defined. However, this reading of the sentence is inadequate: it fails to take into account the sentence’s key phrase.
The key phrase here is ‘grow to dangerous proportions’. The writer fears that class and race hatred may grow large enough to endanger society. He wants us to wipe out this hatred before it is fully-grown. Examine each answer choice, eliminating those answers that carry no suggestion that something lacks its full growth. Does overt suggest that something isn’t fully-grown? No, it suggests that something is obvious or evident. Does uncultivated suggest that something isn’t fully grown? No, it suggests that something is unrefined or growing without proper care or training. Does independent suggest that something isn’t fully-grown? No, it suggests that something is free and unconstrained. Only one word suggests a lack of full growth: embryonic (at a rudimentary, early stage of development). The correct answer is Choice D.
IN DOUBLE-BLANK SENTENCES, GO THROUGH THE ANSWERS, TESTING
THE FIRST WORD I N EACH CHOICE (AND ELIMINATING THOSE THAT DON’T FIT)
In a sentence completion question with two blanks, read through the entire sentence to get a sense of it as a whole. Then insert the first word of each answer pair in the sentence’s first blank. Ask yourself whether this particular word makes sense in this blank. If the initial word of an answer pair makes no sense in the sentence, you can eliminate that answer pair.
(Note: Occasionally this Funda will not work. In some questions, for example, the first words of all five answer pairs may be near-synonyms. However, the Funda frequently pays off, as it does in the following example.)
Critics of the movie version of The Colour Purple……….its saccharine, overoptimistic mood at odds with the novel’s more ………. tone.
(A) applauded, sombre
(B) condemned, hopeful
(C) acclaimed, positive
(D) denounced, sanguine
(E) decried, acerbic
For a quick, general sense of the opening clause, break it up. What does it say? Critics ……….. the movie’s sugary sweet mood.
How would critics react to something sugary sweet and over-hopeful? They would disapprove. Your first missing word must be a synonym for disapprove.
Now eliminate the misfits. Choices A and C fail to meet the test: applauded and acclaimed signify approval, not disapproval. Choice B, condemned, Choice D, denounced and Choice E, decried, however, all disapprobation; they require a second look.
To decide among Choices B, D, and E, consider the second blank. The movie’s sugary, overly hopeful mood is at odds with the novel’s tone: the two moods disagree. Therefore, the novel’s tone is not hopeful or sugary sweet. It is instead on the bitter or sour side; in a word, acerbic, the correct answer is clearly Choice E.
Remember that, in double-blank sentences, the right answer must correctly fill both blanks. A wrong answer choice often includes one correct and one incorrect answer. ALWAYS test both words.
WATCH FOR SIGNAL WORDS THAT LINK ONE PART OF THE SENTENCE TO ANOTHER
Writers use transitions to link their ideas logically. These transitions or signal words are clues that can help you figure out what the sentence actually means. Sentences often contain several signal words, combining them in complex ways.
1. Cause and Effect Signals
Look for words or phrases explicitly indicating that one thing causes another or logically determines another.
Cause and Effect Signal Words
Accordingly in order to Because
Look for words or phrases explicitly indicating that the omitted portion of the sentence supports or continues a thought developed elsewhere in the sentence. In such cases, a synonym or near-synonym for
another word in the sentence may provide the correct answer.
2. Contrast Signals (Explicit)
Look for functional words or phrases (conjunctions, adverbs, etc.) that explicitly indicate a contrast between one idea and another, setting up a reversal of a thought. In such cases, an antonym or near-antonym for another word in the sentence may provide the correct answer.
3. Contrast Signals (Implicit)
Look for content words whose meanings inherently indicate a contrast. These words can turn a situation on its head. They indicate that something unexpected, possibly even unwanted, has occurred.
Note the function of such a contrast signal word in the following question.
1. Paradoxically, the more…………… the details this artist chooses, the better able she is to depict her fantastic, otherworldly landscapes.
The artist creates imaginary landscapes that do not seem to belong to this world. We normally would expect the details comprising these landscapes to be as fantastic and supernatural as the landscapes themselves. But the truth of the matter, however, is paradoxical: it contradicts what we expect. The details she chooses are realistic, and the more realistic they are, the more fantastic the paintings become. The correct answer is Choice B.
USE YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF WORD PARTS AND PARTS OF SPEECH TO FIGURE OUT THE MEANINGS OF UNFAMILIAR WORDS
If a word used by the author is unfamiliar, or if an answer choice is unknown to you, two approaches are helpful.
1. Break up the word into its component parts – prefixes, suffixes, and roots – to see whether they provide a clue to its meaning. For example, in the preceding list of Implicit Contrast Signal Words, the word incongruous contains three major word parts, in- here means not; con- means together; gru- means to move or conic. Incongruous behaviour, therefore, is behaviour that does not go together or agree with someone’s usual behaviour; it is unexpected.
2. Change the unfamiliar word from one part of speech to another. If the adjective embryonic is unfamiliar to you, cut off its adjective suffix -nic and recognise the familiar word embryo. If the noun precocity is unfamiliar to you cut off its noun suffix -ity and visualise it with different endings. You may think of the adjective precocious (maturing early). If the verb appropriate is unfamiliar to you, by adding a word part or two, you may come up with the common noun appropriation or the still more common noun misappropriation (as in the misappropriation of funds).
Note the application of this funda in the following typical example.
1. This island is a colony; however, in most matters, it is………… and receives no orders from the mother country.
First, eliminate any answer choices that are obviously incorrect. If a colony receives no orders from its mother country, it is essentially self-governing. It is not necessarily methodical or systematic nor is it by definition heretical (unorthodox) or disinterested (impartial). Thus, you may rule out Choices B, C, andE.
The two answer choices remaining may be unfamiliar to you. Analyse them, using what you know of related words. Choice A, dichotomous, is related to the noun dichotomy, a division into two parts, as in the dichotomy between good and evil. Though the island colony may be separated from the mother country by distance that has nothing to do with how the colony governs itself. Choice D, autonomous, comes from the prefix auto- (self) and the root nom-(law). An autonomous nation is independent; it rules itself. Thus, the correct answer is autonomous, Choice D.
BREAK UP COMPLEX SENTENCES INTO SIMPLER COMPONENTS
In analysing long, complex sentence completion items, you may find it useful to simplify the sentences by breaking them up. Rephrase dependent clauses and long participle phrases, turning them into simple sentences. See how this funda helps you to analyse the following sentence.
Museum director Hoving………… refers to the smuggled Greek urn as the “hot pot;” not because there are doubts about its authenticity or even great reservations as to its price, but because its…………….. of
acquisition is open to question.
(A) informally, costliness
(B) characteristically, date
(C) colloquially, manner
(D) repeatedly, swiftness
(E) cheerfully, mode
What do we know?
- The urn has been smuggled.
- Hoving calls it a “hot pot.”
- It is genuine. (There are no doubts about its authenticity.)
- It did not cost too much. (There are no great reservations as to its price.)
In calling the smuggled urn a “hot pot”, Hoving is not necessarily speaking characteristically or redundantly or cheerfully. He is speaking either informally or colloquially. (Hot here is a slang term meaning stolen or illegally obtained.) Its costliness is not being questioned. However, because the um has been smuggled into the country, there clearly are unresolved questions about how it got here, in other words, about its manner of acquisition. The correct answer is Choice C.
Note that in sentence completion questions a choice may he complicated by an unusual word order, such as:
- placing the subject after the verb: To the complaints window strode the angry customer.
- placing the subject after an auxiliary of the verb: Only by unending search could some few Havana cigars be found.
- inverting the subject and verb to give the sense of “ifWere defeat to befall him today’s dear friends would be tomorrow’s acquaintances, and next week’s strangers.
- placing a negative word or phrase first, which usually requires at least part of the verb to follow: Never have I encountered so demanding a test!
In all these instances, rephrase the sentence to make it more straightforward. For example:
- The angry customer strode to the complaints window.
- Some few Havana cigars could be found only by unending search.
- If defeat were to befall him, today’s dear friends would be tomorrow’s acquaintances, and next week’s strangers.
- I have never encountered so demanding a test!
Contextual meaning or Contextual usage is another important word-based question. Contextual usage basically involves identifying the synonym/ antonym of a word when it is used in a particular context so that the context provides you a clue to the meaning, even if the word is unfamiliar to you.
MORIBUND : By the fourth century AD, the Roman Civilization was already moribund.
In the context of the given sentence the meaning of the word will be stagnant, hence ,
There may be sentences where most or even all of the options are synonymous to the highlighted word, but only one of them fits the particular context. This means that you have to be aware of the very subtle nuances of the words, making contextual usage more of a challenge to your command over words.
GELID : It is hard to believe that any life could ever arise in the gelid environment of Titan.
Gelid means icy cold or frozen. In the context also we can see that gelid can refer to a cold environment where no life can arise.
The answer is ,
Strategies for contextual usage :
The following steps and strategies will be useful while attempting contextual usage questions:
- Read the highlighted word first; if it is familiar to you try to think of a synonym for it before going on to read the sentence or the option.
- If it is not a familiar word, simply read the sentence and try to understand its meaning from the context. Think of a word that could suitably take its place.
- Read the options if one of them is the word you thought of in step 1 or 2, or its close synonym, then choose that as an answer not before at least glancing at the other options and trying to see if one of them might be more suitable.
- If none of the options is similar to the word you thought of in step 1 or 2, then read all the options and see if any of them suit the context of the sentence.
- If you cannot understand the word from the context of the sentence or if you have trouble understanding the sentence itself, then look at the options. Sometimes the options can give you a clue, if you know where to look. For example, if all the options, except one, have a negative / positive connotation then the exception is likely to be the answer. Also sometimes the words in the options are much more familiar ones than the question word, so using them in the sentence instead of the question word should help you eliminate the wrong options.