Words in Context

In an English Language exam, you may come across questions about words in context. These are multiple-choice questions that ask you to consider the meaning of a word. You can identify them by paying close attention to how the questions are worded. To answer words in context questions, you should look for the circumstances surrounding the passage each question is based on.

Words in Context Words in Context

Create learning materials about Words in Context with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account
Table of contents

    Words in Context Meaning

    "Words in context" refers to how words change meaning in different circumstances. Words often mean slightly different things depending on their context.

    Context is the set of facts and circumstances that surround a word or phrase in a text.

    Context sometimes changes the meaning of words. For example, the word "restrain" means different things depending on its context.

    • I had to restrain my laughter when he fell over that chair!
    • The coach had to restrain the football team captain to keep a fight from breaking out.
    • These tariffs were designed to restrain international trading.

    What changes the meaning of "restrain" in each of these examples? The circumstances surrounding them!

    1. In the first example, the fact that something funny happened made it clear "restrain" means to control emotions.
    2. In the second example, the mention of a possible fight indicates "restrain" means to physically hold back.
    3. In the third example, the verb "designed" and the reference to international trade made it clear that "restrain" means to limit trade.

    When answering questions about words in context, you are really just identifying how the meaning of a word changes based on the circumstances that surround it.

    Words in Context Identification

    There are two primary types of context: Immediate context and broad context.

    Immediate context includes the words, phrases, and sentences of the passage surrounding the word.

    Broad context includes the larger historical, biographical, and genre considerations in which the passage was written.

    Here is how you identify each type of context.

    Identifying Immediate Context

    Ask yourself some questions.

    • What is the situation being described in this passage?
    • What is the tone the author takes in this passage?
    • What other words in this passage can help me understand how this word is being used?
    • What similar words does the author use in this passage?

    Identifying Broad Context

    Ask yourself some questions.

    • When was this passage written or published?
    • Where was this passage written or published?
    • Who wrote this passage? What do I know about them?
    • What type of genre is this passage?
    • What do I know about the political, social, or economical situation in which this passage was written?

    Words in Context Scenic road vista StudySmarterFig. 1 - Look out for the big, big picture.

    Words in Context Questions

    The purpose of words in context questions is to check your understanding of how circumstances can change the meaning of the words or the passage around them. Understanding the effects of context is important for understanding language AND the world around you.

    Context changes everything. Everything you read, write, watch, listen to, or do is shaped by context. Think about what it's like to learn about your favorite author. You probably first read their books with an idea of what it meant. However, once you learned more about the author's life and the time period they lived in, this probably changed what their writing meant to you. The context of their writing changed what their writing means.

    Words in context questions are great practice for identifying and explaining context. They remind you of how circumstances can change what something means. Identifying context and how it changes meaning is a key feature of critical thinking.

    Words in Context Examples

    Words in context questions are multiple choice questions. Just like other multiple choice questions, they appear immediately after a reference passage from a story, poem, or essay.

    A reference passage is the passage of text a question refers to. It appears before each set of multiple choice questions.

    Here is an example of a reference passage in an English Language exam:

    Words in Context, Reference Passage Example, StudySmarterFig. 2 - Example passage.

    Words in context questions are based on reference passages. Reference passages have numbered lines so you can easily refer to the correct lines when answering questions about the passage.

    Words in context questions include a list of possible word or phrase choices to answer the question. Your job is to select the word or phrase that best answers the question, considering the context of the passage.

    In the passage, the author uses the phrase "revolutionary methods" primarily to:

    (A) Contrast the needs of modern women against those of historical women.

    (B) Emphasize the humanity of women.

    (C) Compare the methods of modern women to those of historical men.

    (D) To criticize the suffrage movement.

    Did you get C for this question? If so, you're right! If you didn't, or simply if you want a little more information, the following section contains how you might arrive at this answer.

    How to Answer Words in Context Questions

    To answer words in context questions, read the reference passage, identify context clues, predict the answer, and test out each possibility. Follow this 4-step process to effectively answer questions about words in context.

    1. Read the Reference Passage

    Before looking at the questions, read the reference passage closely. Mark any words, phrases, or sentences that reflect the author's purpose.

    2. Identify Context Clues

    After reading the passage, take a moment to identify context clues.

    Context clues are anything that gives you an idea of the context of a passage.

    Here are some context clues you might identify:

    • Words that indicate the author's tone and attitude toward the subject
    • Sentences that indicate the genre of the passage.
    • Information on the location, time period, or other historical aspects of the passage.
    • Information on the author.
    • Words and phrases that give you a sense of the author's purpose.

    3. Predict the Answer

    Don't look at the answer choices at first. Instead, try to make an educated guess. What do you think the right answer might be, without looking at the answer choices? This will help anticipate possible answers.

    For example, you might think of a synonym for "compromise." You find your guess isn't in the list of options. However, the synonym you guessed most closely aligns with one of the answer options! You just made things a lot easier on yourself by trying to make an educated guess first.

    Words in Context Tarot cards StudySmarterFig. 3 - Make educated not random predictions.

    4. Test out Each Possibility

    Once you have an educated guess, it's time to consider the answer options. Take a moment to try out each answer. For example, if the question asks you to select the best synonym for a word, just replace that word with each answer option. See which one makes the most sense.

    Words in Context - Key Takeaways

    • "Words in context" refers to how words change depending on their context, the set of facts and circumstances that surround a word or phrase.
    • The purpose of words in context questions is to check your understanding of how context changes things.

    • Words in context questions appear immediately after a reference passage and include a list of possible word choices to choose from.

    • To identify words in context questions, read each question closely to see what it asks you and how it phrases the question.

    • To answer words in context questions, read the reference passage, identify context clues, predict the answer, and test out each possibility.

    Frequently Asked Questions about Words in Context

    What is the meaning of word in context? 

    "Word in context" refers to how words change meaning depending on their context, the set of facts and circumstances that surround a word or phrase.

    What is an example of a word in context? 

    An example of a word in context is "I had to restrain my laughter when he fell over that chair!" From the context, you can guess the word "restrain" likely means to control one's emotions.

    How do you identify words in context questions?

    To identify words in context questions, read each question closely to see what it asks you and how it phrases the question.

    How do you answer a words in a context question? 

    To answer a words in context question, read the reference passage, identify context clues, predict the answer, and test out each possibility.

    How do you find the meaning of a word in context? 

    To find the meaning of a word in context, look for context clues. Context clues include the author's tone, the genre of the passage, historical and biographical information, and words that indicate the author's purpose.

    How do you use the word context in a sentence? 

    To use the word context in a sentence, refer to the circumstances surrounding something. For example, "What is the historical context of this book?"

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Fill in the blank: Context sometimes changes the _______ of words.

    If one looks at the words, phrases, and sentences surrounding a word in a text to understand its meaning, this is an example of using what type of context?

    Broad context includes which of the following considerations?

    Next

    Discover learning materials with the free StudySmarter app

    Sign up for free
    1
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team English Teachers

    • 7 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    Get unlimited access with a free StudySmarter account.

    • Instant access to millions of learning materials.
    • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams, AI tools and more.
    • Everything you need to ace your exams.
    Second Popup Banner