Words in Context

In this section, you’ll be given a paragraph or passage and asked to determine the meaning of a word or phrase based on the clues around it. Trying to figure out what a word or phrase means can be done through context clues. When taking the Paro Pro test, you won’t be given a dictionary to just look up definitions. Instead, you must be able to look at the words and even sentences around it to determine the meaning.

Ask yourself the following when trying to figure out the definition of a word:

  • What is the tone or mood of the passage you’re reading?
  • Is there a prefix or suffix you know that you can attribute to the word?
  • What is going on before and after the word or phrase in the sentence? Is there a keyword that helps you eliminate other answers and helps you determine the right answer?
  • Try replacing the answer option with the word to see if it makes sense.

Look at the passage below from the short story Regret:

Example 1

If Mamzelle Aurlie’s responsibilities might have begun and ended there, they could easily have been dismissed; for her larder was amply provided against an emergency of this nature. But little children are not little pigs: they require and demand attentions which were wholly unexpected by Mamzelle Aurlie, and which she was ill prepared to give.

She was, indeed, very inapt in her management of Odile’s children during the first few days. How could she know that Marclette always wept when spoken to in a loud and commanding tone of voice? It was a peculiarity of Marclette’s. She became acquainted with Ti Nomme’s passion for flowers only when he had plucked all the choicest gardenias and pinks for the apparent purpose of critically studying their botanical construction.

Using context clues, what definition would best fit the underlined word Inapt:

  1. Lacking skill or ability
  2. Talented
  3. Mysterious and strange
  4. Happy and positive

To find out the answer to this question, we can look at certain clues to help us find the answer. The last sentence of the first paragraph and second second sentence of the second paragraph are a huge clues. We know she has a to be careful in how she manages Odie’s children from the first paragraph, and the second paragraph signals she didn’t know how to speak to the children. Therefore, we can conclude she wasn’t talented, nor was she happy and positive. If you’re not doing something right, it means you’re lacking skill or ability. That makes option A the answer here.

Questions may also center around a word with multiple meanings. For example, the word “bat” has several different meanings and can be used as a noun or verb. Thus, you must be able to look at how it’s used in a sentence and determine which is the correct definition.

Look at the example below from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:

Example 2

Nearly ten years had passed since the Dursleys had woken up to find their nephew on the front step, but Privet Drive had hardly changed at all. The sun rose on the same tidy front gardens and lit up the brass number four on the Dursleys’ front door; it crept into their living room, which was almost exactly the same as it had been on the night when Mr. Dursley had seen that fateful news report about the owls.

Rose: (noun): 1. a prickly bush or shrub that typically bears red, pink, yellow, or white fragrant flowers, native to north temperate regions. 2. A warm pink or light color. 3. (verb) A past tense of the word rise which means to get up. 4. (adjective) A specific type of wine.

Which definition should the student use to best understand the word Rose in the context of the sentence?

  1. Definition 1
  2. Definition 2
  3. Definition 3
  4. Definition 4

The answer here would be definition 3. The sun is doing an action here (rose) so we know that the word “rose” is in the past-verb tense to the word “rising.” The sun is not being used as a flower, color, or wine, so we know it can’t be any of the other options.

Words in Context Review Test

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