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Expanding Your Vocabulary for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Exam

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If you are preparing for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Exam, you will need a healthy vocabulary. This chapter will help you to expand your vocabulary by gaining a deeper understanding of the mechanics of language.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Terms you'll need to understand:

  • Connotation
  • Context
  • Denotation
  • Synonyms
  • Prefix
  • Suffix
  • Root word

Techniques you'll need to master:

  • Building your vocabulary
  • Understanding words according to their usage
  • Understanding words according to their construction
  • Knowing the differences between denotation and connotation

In essence, we live in a communications-centric society. To cope in that society, you must be able to read and understand what you are reading. The beginning of overall reading comprehension lies within adept vocabulary skills—understanding individual words as they appear in context. The Word Knowledge and Paragraph Comprehension sections of the ASVAB assess your ability in vocabulary skills and reading comprehension.

The Word Knowledge module contains 25 questions (the CAT-ASVAB has 16 questions), which you will need to answer in 11 minutes, or 8 minutes on the CAT-ASVAB. To achieve your 70%, you need to answer 18 questions correctly; to achieve 80%, you need to answer 20 questions correctly.

The Word Knowledge portion of the ASVAB tests your knowledge of both common and not-so-common words. This section measures your ability to choose the correct meaning of a word, in context, and choose an appropriate synonym or meaning.

Much of the Word Knowledge module is simply word recognition and knowing the meaning of words. Because vocabulary is an essential part of reading comprehension, you need to get a good handle on this section to prepare you for the Paragraph Comprehension module. In each question on the test, you will see a sentence that contains one underlined word. Your job is to select a word or phrase that has the closest meaning to the underlined word. For example, a Word Knowledge question might look like the following, wherein you must choose a word that means approximately the same as the underlined word:

His behavior was atypical.

  1. usual

  2. abnormal

  3. bizarre

  4. calm

If you are an avid reader, or if you are simply adept at learning and using new words, this section will not be too difficult. However, because we can't all be familiar with all the words of the English language, we have to employ a few tools and methods of discerning what unfamiliar words mean. The following sections teach you about word usage and give you tips for maneuvering through the murky waters of word usage.

Building Your Vocabulary

There is nothing difficult about expanding and improving your word knowledge—it is simply a matter of practice and deliberation. The most important habit you can cultivate, if you haven't already, is to start reading more, especially material that is a little difficult for you. That doesn't mean you have to pick up a college-level physics book or a database programming manual. If you currently read popular fiction, perhaps you can start reading other fiction books in the same genre as those you enjoy, but that have a more advanced writing style. For example, if enjoy adventure novels, you can try some books by Tom Clancy or John Grisham, which contain more difficult, and sometimes technical, words. By doing this, you will encounter words that are new to you, but you can still keep up with the context as presented in an enjoyable story line.

When you come across an unfamiliar word, look it up in the dictionary as soon as possible. That way, you can derive the full meaning of the word. After you look up the word, try to use it a couple of times so you understand not only the meaning and spelling of the word, but how to use it correctly in conversation, too.

If you want to score high on the Word Knowledge portion of the ASVAB, you should develop habits of reading avidly, consulting a dictionary when you need to, playing word games—such as Scrabble—and being aware of other opportunities to improve your language and vocabulary skills through usage.


Throughout this book, you will encounter words with which you may not be familiar. This is an excellent opportunity to use your vocabulary building skills.

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