Synonyms and Antonyms Strategy

This is the other very important area of the vocabulary section. This section tests widely and exhaustively one’s knowledge of the language and word power, but goes beyond that to test your ability to remember words with similar meanings or opposite meanings. Or, alternately, to discover the similarity or proximity between the meaning of the given word with one of those in the options.
These exercises can get confusing sometimes because more than one option may appear as the right answer or none of them may look like the right answer. For such questions a student may consider the following strategies.

STRATEGY 1

If you do not know the meaning of the given word, think of a context in which you might have used it, that may help you to figure out the meaning, for example, in the question find the word nearest in meaning to MAGNIFY

  • (a) Forgive
  • (b) diminish
  • (c) swell
  • (d) extract

Now if you do not know what magnify means think of a magnifying glass and what it does. It expands or makes a thing look bigger. So the right answer will be (c).

STRATEGY 2

If you cannot find a correct antonym in the given option think of the antonyms you know of and subsequently check if there is any word in the given options which is synonymous to the antonyms in your mind. For example INDUSTRIOUS

  • (a) stupid
  • (b) harsh
  • (c) indolent
  • (d) complex

If you don’t know any of the words given as options think of antonyms you could think of, like lazy, idle. Now think of synonyms of lazy and you will know indolent is a synonym of lazy. So it will be the antonym to industrious. Formula: SYNONYM of ANTONYM is another ANTONYM.

STRATEGY 3

Look at the part of speech of the given word. A word may exist in various parts of speech. For example precipitate exists as a verb which means send rapidly into a certain state and also as a noun, precipitate, which means a substance deposited from a solution.
POLISH

  • (a) ruthlessness
  • (b) honesty
  • (c) indolence
  • (d) gaucheness

Now is this the verb polish or noun polish. Since all options are nouns, this cannot be the verb polish related to shoes but noun polish which means culture and sophistication and the antonym to this would be gaucheness.

Contextual Meaning

Contextual meaning or Contextual usage is another important word-based question. Contexual usage basically involves, identifying the synonym/antonym of a word when it is used in a particular context so the context provides you a clue to the meaning, even if the word is unfamiliar to you.

Example 1

MORIBUND: By the fourth century A.D, the Roman Civilization was already moribund.

  • (a) extinct
  • (b) forgotten
  • (c) flourishing
  • (d) stagnant

In the context of the given sentence the meaning of the word will be stagnant, hence (d).

There may be sentences where most or even all of the options are synonymous to the highlighted word, but only one of them fits the particualr context. This means that you have to be aware of the very subtle nuances of the words, making contexual usage more of a challenge to your command over words.

More Examples

GELID: It is hard to believe that any life could ever arise in the gelid environment of Titan.

  • (a) Frigid
  • (b) Suffocation
  • (c) gelatinous
  • (d) hostile

Gelid means icy-cold or frozen. In the context also we can see that gelid can refer to a cold environment where no life can arise. The answer is (a).

Strategies for contextual usage:

The following steps and strategies will be useful while attempting contextual usage questions.

  • Read the highlighted word first; if it is familiar to you try to think of a synonym for it before going on to read the sentence or the option.
  • If it is not a familiar word, simply read the sentence and try to understand its meaning from the context. Think of a word that could suitably take its place.
  • Read the options if one of them is the word you thought of in step 1 or 2, or its close synonym, then choose that as an answer not before at least glancing at the other options and trying to see if one of them might be more suitable.
  • If none of the options is similar to the word you thought of in step 1 or 2, then read all the options and see if any of them suit the context of the sentence.
  • f you cannot understand the word from the context of the sentence or if you have trouble understanding the sentence itself, then look at the options. Sometimes the options can give you a clue, if you know where to look. For example, if all the options, except one have a negative / positive connotation then the exception is likely to be the answer. Also sometimes the words in the options are much more familiar ones than the question word, so using them in the sentence instead of the question word should help you eliminate the wrong options.