What are Context Clues? | Reading

October 14, 2015 thetasctest

Say you’re leisurely reading a book and stumble upon a phrase you’re not familiar with. Or you’re asked to analyze a passage on a literature test and you encounter a word you don’t understand. What do you do?

Authors incorporate new vocabulary to challenge readers, but they realize difficult words can lead to confusion. Because of this, authors use context clues – or hints that help define an unknown word – to improve reading comprehension.

Look for these four types of context clues to your reading strategy in preparation for the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Reading subtest:


Definition Clues

Definition clues state the meaning of the unknown word directly in the sentence.

  • Example: She began to mollify, or soften, the demands she made on her employees.
  • Example: The doctor assured the parents their baby was afebrile, or feverless.

Synonym Clues

Also called restatement clues, synonym clues use words with similar meanings to describe the word in question.

  • Example: The slender woman was so thin her clothes were too big on her.
  • Example: This mundane vacation is so ordinary I don’t even know why we came.  

Antonym Clues

Antonym clues, also known as contrast clues, clarify unfamiliar words by using an opposing meaning in the same sentence.

  • Example: Unlike Amy’s room, which was immaculate, Jenny’s room was quite messy.
  • Example: Unlike the agile cat we saw at the barn, our cat is clumsy.

Inference Clues

Inference clues push readers to interpret surrounding content to uncover the meaning of an unclear word.

  • Example: Jimmy’s antagonistic behavior made his opponent back down.
  • Example: Kelly is again enceinte, and her baby shower is being held in February.

Want to advance your understanding of difficult vocabulary? Catch the word of the day at Dictionary.com, and complete fun word challenges at Vocabulary.com.

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