What is a verbal reasoning word meaning question?

As part of a verbal reasoning test, you are likely to be asked questions relating to the meaning of words. Verbal reasoning assessments are designed to test your ability to read, understand and assess written information to make a reasoned and logical decision to find the answer.

Success in the verbal reasoning test requires good understanding of the language, and this can be assessed in various ways. While in more top-level assessments for roles in management there is more focus on critical thinking, knowledge of word meanings – and the relationships between words – is found in all verbal reasoning tests.

You can find questions relating to grammar, comprehension, analogies, spelling, sentence completion, word swaps and finding new words in a typical verbal reasoning test.

When taking a verbal reasoning assessment, you can improve your score by understanding more words and their meanings. Assessments tend to be easier for native speakers, since they do rely on knowledge of common idioms, precise meanings of words and the structure of sentences. See this guide for further verbal reasoning tips.

Different forms word meaning questions take

There are several different ways that you may be tested on your understanding of word meanings.

Even though words used in this part of a verbal reasoning test are usually in common use, the tests are timed, so the challenge is to answer them quickly. Without the timing pressure, the questions would often be simple to answer.

1) Word definitions

As verbal reasoning tests are usually multiple choice, in a word definition question you will be presented with a word – either in a sentence or on its own – and be asked what it means. You will be presented with a selection of possible definitions.

There is a chance that the word could have more than one meaning, so context might be important. The definitions might be similar to each other, presenting more difficulty.

2) Missing words

In these questions, you will be asked to complete a sentence. Possible words that could be used will be presented in a multiple-choice format.

Common test examples include misspelled words, homophones and antonyms, to make the answer harder. In some tests there may be more than one missing word that needs to be found.

3) Synonyms

Synonyms are a group of words that have a similar meaning, like big and large. In synonym questions, you will be asked to find the synonym for a given word, often presented in a sentence.

The challenge for these questions is that some of the words might seem to be synonyms but are spelled incorrectly, or are homophones of the actual synonym that is the correct answer.

4) Antonyms

Antonyms are words with the opposite meaning – for example, big and small are antonyms. They are presented in a similar way to synonyms, asking you to find the opposite meaning to the given word.

The challenge for antonyms is to understand the meaning of the original word as well as find the opposite. With the addition of similar-sounding words, misspellings and synonyms in the multiple choice answers, it can become even more difficult.

5) Homophones

Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings, often with slightly different spellings. They are stumbling blocks for many people in spoken and written language, and provide challenging questions in verbal reasoning tests. An example of this is advise (to provide guidance) and advice (information to help you make a decision).

Homophones are often used in multiple-choice answers to make questions more challenging, so knowing the possible spellings and alternate meanings to similar-sounding words helps you to rule these out as possibilities.

Questions about homophones will often require you to find the correct meaning for the way the word is spelled, and the answers will contain the meanings for the other ways the word can be spelled.

Example word meaning questions

Complete the sentence

Choose the right word to complete this sentence:

The Black Bear has _____ fur and can usually be found in forests or mountains”

  1. course
  2. coarse
  3. curse
  4. cord

This question is an example of where a homophone is included to make answering the question more tricky. The answer is b) as fur can be described as coarse, but the inclusion of the homophone ‘course’ makes it harder.

Find the synonym

Choose the correct synonym for the underlined word in the following sentence:

To close the door, push it until you hear a click.”

  1. near
  2. shut
  3. open
  4. push

This is an example of context being important to find the meaning of a word to answer correctly. Close could mean near or shut; without the supporting sentence it would be impossible to know the right answer.

However, presented in the context of closing a door, we can see that the correct synonym is b) shut.

Find the antonym

Select the antonym for the underlined word in the following sentence:

The powerful scent of the skunk is the last resort in their defence mechanism. Skunks do not spray unless they feel they have no other option”

  1. strong
  2. appropriate
  3. weak
  4. strange

The antonym in this question is obviously c) weak. But there is a synonym included in the possible answers, so make sure that you are aware of what the question is actually asking.

Odd one out

Choose the odd word out:

  1. Attractive
  2. Handsome
  3. Alluring
  4. Comfortable

Before working out the word that doesn’t fit, you need to discover the pattern or rule that links the words. In this case, three of the four words are synonyms for the word ‘beautiful’. This means that the odd one out is d) comfortable.

Tips for word meaning questions

There are a number of ways that you can improve your results in word meaning questions in verbal reasoning tests. Some of the tips presented here are important for many types of aptitude tests, too.

Watch out for homophones

There are a number of homophones that come up regularly on verbal reasoning tests, and recognising these can help you to avoid making a mistake with them throughout the tests.

Understand synonyms and antonyms

Many words in the English language that have similar meanings, so understanding the meaning of the initial word is the first step to finding synonyms. Antonyms have the opposite meaning – the most important step is understanding the meaning of the presented word.

Widen your reading

Although the words used in verbal reasoning tests are usually common, learning new vocabulary and reading a wider variety of books, newspapers and journals will expose you to new language, more synonyms and antonyms.

Practice papers

There is no substitute for practice when it comes to preparing for any assessment, and you can find word meaning questions on many verbal reasoning practice tests. Make the most of your practice by working under test conditions: use a timer, and find tests that are from the publisher you need.

Read questions carefully

In the actual assessment, the information that you need will be presented in the question – so make sure you read it carefully. While the questions and answers are mostly easy, with the added time pressure your instincts might be to skim the questions and answers to move through the test faster. However, this could cost your score in the long run.

Read the question thoroughly to make sure you understand what word you are looking for and what words you need to avoid.