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Thread: Context clues

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    ESE Instructor fearlessboy38's Avatar
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    Default Context clues


    n the Reading session of the Next Generation iBT TOEFL test, you may be asked to determine the meaning of a word or phrase. It may be a difficult word or phrase that you have never seen it before, or it may be an easier-looking word or phrase that has number of varied meanings. In any of these cases, the passage will probably give you a clear indication of what the word or phrase means. Look at an example of a difficult word that perhaps you have never seen before; in this example, the context helps you to understand the meaning of the unknown word.

    Read the following passage and answer the question:
    A 1625 map of North America drawn by Henry Briggs is one of the most notorious maps in the history of North American cartography. It was the first printed map to show California as an island. Briggs based his map on information from the 1602 Spanish expedition to the West Coast in search account , in which he described California as a “goodly islande.” The map and treatise initiated one of the most famous and persistent ò all cartographical misconception, and California was still being depicted as an island in atlases issued in Amsterdam as late as the 1790s.

    What is cartography?

    · Geography
    · Exploration
    · Printing
    · Mapmaking

    Look at the word cartography in the passage. What other words in the passage help you understand the meaning of this word? Some possible clues are map, drawn, history of and primed map. These clues will help you see that the correct answer is mapmaking.

    Now answer the question:
    The word depicted in the passage is closest meaning to:
    · Promised
    · Drawn
    · Developed
    · Sought
    Some clues to the meaning of depicted are:
    …the first printed map to show California as an island. … California was still being depicted as an island in atlases…
    In the passage, depicted means shown or drawn. Therefore, the correct answer is drawn.


    The context is the setting – the sentence and paragraph—In which a word or phrase appears. The meaning of a word or phrase in context is its meaning in the particular sentence and paragraph in which it is used. A single English word can have many different meanings. Its precise meaning always depends on the context in which it is used.
    To understand the meaning of a word in context, you can use different type of context clues: your knowledge of structure, punctuation, and the meaning of other words in the same sentence or paragraph. In the reading that you do in class and the real world there may not always be context clues to help you. However, sometimes you can guess the portable meaning of an unfamiliar word by using your overall understanding if the ideas in a passage as well as your common sense and knowledge of the world.
    Structural clues are one type of context clue. Structural clues are certain words, phrases, and grammatical structures that point to the relationships among the various parts of a sentence. These clues help you to understand the meaning of an unfamiliar word by showing show the word relates to other words and ideas in the sentence. The structural clues below can help you understand vocabulary in context.

    Here are some types context clues:
    1. CLUE: BE (give you the definition of the word before it)
    2. CLUE: OR (give you the synonym of the words after the conjunction or)
    3. CLUE: APPOSITIVE (give you the definition of the word after it)
    4. CLUE: ADJECTIVE CLAUSE OR PHRASE (relative clause)
    5. CLUE: LIST OR SERIES (items in a list or series are related in some ways)
    6. CLUE: EXAMPLE (the meaning of the word is given by the information after for example/for instance/ like/ such as)
    7. CLUE: CONTRAST (antonym)
    8. Punctuation clues are another type of context clue that can help you understand the meaning of unfamiliar words. Punctuation marks often show that one word identifies, renames, or defines another word.
    9. Key words in a sentence or passage can be context clues. Uses the meanings of key words and your understanding of the sentence or paragraph as a whole to help you guess the meaning of an unfamiliar word.
    10. Word parts are clues that can help you understand the meaning of unfamiliar words. Many English word are made up of parts of older English, Greek, and Latin words. If you know the meaning of some of these word pans, you will have a general understanding of some unfamiliar words, especially in context. Study the list of common prefixes and stems.

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