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ASVAB Word Knowledge Study Guide!

Feb 10th, 2020
asvab word knowledge study guide

Word Knowledge on the ASVAB Exam!

Word Knowledge is one of the nine core knowledge domains of the ASVAB exam. Put simply, this test is about vocabulary – your knowledge of it and whether you can understand the meaning of words in defined contexts. Here, in this ASVAB Word knowledge study guide, we learn more about the exam and how you can prepare in the coming weeks and months.

Many candidates struggle with the Word Knowledge exam.

After all, where is the syllabus? There are millions of words and the sheer prospect of hoping to prepare for all eventualities can prove daunting. That said, there are ways and means of preparing for the exam that radically cut down the effort you need to put in. Put simply, it’s all about building structure into your study.

Whether you are taking the CAT-ASVAB or the paper ASVAB determines how many questions you will be asked and what time you have available:

  • CAT-ASVAB: 15 questions to be answered in 9-minutes.
  • Paper ASVAB: 35 questions to be answered in 11-minutes.

The Word Knowledge exam is one of four tests used to calculate your AFQT score – the score that establishes whether you are eligible to enlist in the US military. Therefore, this exam has added importance and, given that competition for places within boot camp is currently high, you need to achieve a top score.

Question Types on the Word Knowledge Exam

There are two kinds of question asked on the Word Knowledge exam:

  • Synonym-based questions
  • Contextualised questions

A synonym is a word that most resembles the meaning of another word.

For example: hate and despise are synonyms of one another because they have similar meanings. Words that have the opposite meanings to one another are known as antonyms. For instance, good and bad are antonyms of one another.

On the ASVAB Word Knowledge exam, you will be asked questions about synonyms.

The format is typically expressed as follows:

Q. Vindictive most nearly means:

  • Unforgiving
  • Jealous
  • Loathsome
  • Aggressive

In this case, the correct answer is “unforgiving”; a vindictive person is someone who seeks out to gain revenge and, for that reason, are unforgiving.

The second kind of questions asked on the ASVAB Word Knowledge exam is contextualised questions. These are questions that offer a sentence and ask you to interpret the meaning of one of the words in that sentence. For example:

Q. Leonard was implacable in his pursuit of his political goals.

  • Aggressive
  • Bored
  • Doubtful
  • Relentless

 In this case, the correct answer is “relentless”. Someone who is implacable is unstoppable and relentless in what they do. In this example, it states that Leonard was relentless and determined in pursuing his political goals.

These two kinds of questions – synonym and contextual – are the types of questions that candidates must prepare for in the weeks leading up to the ASVAB exam.

The question now becomes, how to prepare for the ASVAB word knowledge test?

How to Pass the ASVAB Word Knowledge Exam

In this section of our ASVAB word knowledge study guide, we learn more about the study techniques that you must apply to develop your word knowledge in the coming weeks and months.

And yes, it takes that long – depending, of course, on your current word knowledge standard. Regardless of what level you are at, you cannot take the risk of a relaxed approach – hoping that the words you know will appear on the exam. They may not, and this can seriously damage your AFQT score.

To pass the ASVAB word knowledge exam, you must build your vocabulary – and fast. One of the best ways to achieve this is by studying roots, prefixes, and suffixes. All words have roots and, by knowing these roots, you can infer the meaning of other words – even if you have never seen those words before.

Below, we have put together some tables of key roots, prefixes, and suffixes that you should know.

Common PrefixesMeaningExamples
Anti-AgainstAntiseptic, antiperspirant
De-OppositeDeindustrialize, destruct
Dis-Not, opposite ofDisengage, dissatisfy
Em-Bring intoEmbody, embrace
Fore-BeforeForebode, forecast
Inter-BetweenInterconnector, intercom
A-WithoutAmoral, acellular
Auto-Self, sameAutobiographic, automobile
Circum-AroundCircumference, circumnavigate
Contra-AgainstContradict, contrary
Ex-Out ofExtract, exit, exhale
Extra-BeyondExtramarital affair
In/Ir/Im-Not, withoutInconsiderate, irresponsible
Post-AfterPost-mortem, postoperative
Sub-UnderSubstandard, submarine
Trans-Across, throughTransaction, transfer
Un-Not, lackingUnattractive, unsafe
Common Suffixes  MeaningExamples
-acyState, qualityPrivacy, delicacy
-ance / -enceState or quality ofMaintenance, permanence
-domPlace, state of beingKingdom, freedom
-enBecomeEnlighten, strengthen
-ifyMake or becomeExemplify, terrify
-izeBecomeHumanize, regularize
-ateBecomeEradicate, menstruate
-nessState of beingSadness, happiness
-istOne who isChemist, scientist
-orOne who isProtector, instructor
-ousCharacterized byDangerous, superfluous
-lessWithoutHumorless, effortless
-fulWithHateful, awful
-iveNature ofInvasive, corrective
-yCharacterized byTasty, hasty
Common Roots  MeaningExamples
AmbiBothAmbidextrous, ambivalent
Aqua-WaterAquatic, aquarium
Cent-One hundredCentimeter, century
Dict-To sayDictate, dictionary
Duct/duc-To leadInduce, induct, conduct
FacTo doFactory, manufact
FortStrengthFortitude, fortuitous
MaterMotherMaternal, maternity
MalBadMalodorous, malfeasance
FractBreakInfraction, fracture
MortDeathMortal, immortal, mortician
PortCarryPortable, import
Scribe/scriptWriteInscription, prescribe
SpectLook atInspect, retrospect
VocVoiceInvocation, advocate

There are many more, but this is a good place to start.

The more prefixes, suffixes, and roots that you know, the easier it becomes to work out the meanings of thousands of words – even if you have never seen those words before. This makes prefixes, suffixes, and roots a powerful learning tool to help you master the ASVAB word knowledge exam.

But that’s not the only learning tool at your disposal.

How to Master Vocabulary

Along with roots, suffixes, and prefixes, there are five more ways to enhance your long-term ASVAB test practice for the word knowledge exam.

These include:

  • Read more. The more reading you do, the more exposure to vocabulary – both military and non-military vocabulary – that you need to know for the exam. Furthermore, reading gives you the opportunity to find new words. Make a note of words you do not know and look them up later. Second, always try to practice your newfound knowledge of roots, prefixes, and suffixes. The more you try to work out the meaning of words, the better practice it gives you once it comes to the ASVAB test. Books, magazines, articles, e-books – the choice is yours. Just make sure to read a lot and regularly in the coming weeks and months.
  • Make flashcards. There is little point in making flashcards for thousands of words. You should just read a dictionary. But flashcards are useful for studying and reviewing the roots, prefixes, and suffixes above. If you have a complete list, it means you have covered all possible combinations, and this can save you a lot of time in the lead up to the exam.
  • Play games. There are lots of free apps out there to help you practice word knowledge. These include Scrabble and crosswords. Throwing in some games is a light-hearted way to improve your knowledge incrementally over the long-term.
  • Appreciate the addedvalue knowledge. If you are demotivated by the hours of study you need to invest, always remember that this knowledge is useful to your long-term career. No matter what career you wish to join, effective communication is a top skill to have. Unless you can develop this skill, you will find it more difficult to move up the career ladder. Furthermore, once you leave the military you will find that communication skills are a highly valuable transferrable skill that can make all the difference to your job application. So, whilst it is tempting to study word knowledge for the sake of the exam, try to see this preparation long-term and how it adds significant value to your skillset and career to come.

Over the course of this ASVAB Word Knowledge study guide, we have come across some great and effective ways to prepare for the exam. We have discussed the need to learn vocabulary from how words are constructed – through roots, prefixes, and suffixes. We also learned the value of other mechanisms, such as reading and games and flashcards, that can add to this growing vocabulary knowledge. And one of the final ways to prepare for the word knowledge exam is to take as many ASVAB test practice questions as possible. The more questions you practice, the better – it filters through where you need to focus your study and it helps to build your knowledge of what you know at the same time.

By incorporating all these tips into your long-term study plan, you will see your vocabulary grow in the coming weeks and months – making the ASVAB word knowledge exam something to master rather than something to fear. Also, you should make an extra effort to practice these newly acquired words in conversations with other people. They won’t even know that this is what you are doing and, by vocalizing the words, you are training your brain to remember the meaning of each word – improving your word knowledge vocabulary in memory and in practical speech.

That’s about it for our ASVAB word knowledge study guide. Check back to our ASVAB blog soon for more exclusive content to help you master the ASVAB test and get you straight into boot camp to undertake advanced skill training.

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