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English - Synonyms


There are lots of different ways that these questions can be presented in the English test rather than the more structured verbal reasoning test. Look to familiarise your child with as many as possible and make sure that they understand that the elements which are identical are the key ones. The format of the question may vary but that is purely aimed to stop people becoming familiar with one style and to catch poorly-trained children out.

Here is one version:

false _ o _ us = bogus

Complete the word on the right so that it means the same or nearly the same as the word on the left.

share _ l l _ t = ?

The answer will hopefully come to your child straight away as often there are many such questions in a very short period of time. If you have to complete 30 questions in 8 minutes or something equally daunting, it's very helpful to just be able to see these rather than work them out - indeed, it's almost foolish to stop and work out the ones you can't immediately see unless you've already tried to answer the ones you can.

In the example above, use some common sense reasoning to solve it. With time at a premium, write nothing down unless there is time. The first letter can only be a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) as there are no words in the English language beginning with a consonant followed by double l. the second missing letter must also be a vowel - hopefully the word 'allot' should be visible once you start thinking in these terms.

Example 2 - Find the word which is a synonym of the word in capitals:

ATTRIBUTE own property characteristic loss

This time we are using another format of finding out how good your child's vocabulary is. The task is slightly easier as there are answers given in a multiple choice format; however, the question may be tougher as the vocabulary may be more advanced. In some counties there are recognised word banks which the 11+ testing companies produce which give a clear indicator of the words they feel are necessary for a suitably qualified child to know the meaning and spelling of. These will fall well beyond the level of most year 6 children; they are there to test and push the best candidates. As ever, the best advice is to ensure your child is reading at a high level, enjoying what they are reading and asking questions about words they are not familiar with. Learning lists of words to pass a test is counter-productive unless you have a child who loves such banal tasks.

The key to answering this type of synonym question is to consider the word in a sentence. What does 'attribute' mean? Where has your child heard it before? Can they try to put it into context? If not, look at the word formation and decide on what type of word it is. Does it sound like a noun, verb, adjective etc? Does it have a root shared with other words that they may already know? Are there any tell-tale prefixes and suffixes which give an indication of either meaning or word class? Does it sound positive or negative or evoke any particular feeling?

Here, depending on whether you stress the first or second syllable, you can create a noun or a verb from 'attribute'. Usually the word OR the possible answers will be difficult, not both. Here, the answers are fairly mundane words so hopefully your child could run those through their minds within a sentence and see if the word 'attribute' feels right in their stead.

The answer is 'characteristic' (in the sense of a noun) as a feature of someone or something can be a 'characteristic' of it or an 'attribute' of it.

Technique Tip:

There are usually some clues somewhere along the line - just guard against 'it sounds a bit like 'x' so might mean the same.' Unless the word they are comparing it to shares exactly the same string of letters then it probably isn't a helpful way of looking at it. Just because 'you' and 'ewe' sound similar, doesn't mean they are similar in meaning. They share nothing but a similar sound!


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