New SAT Reading : Advanced Vocabulary in Context

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for New SAT Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Vocabulary In Context

This passage is adapted from Jane Austen, Mansfield Park. Originally published 1814. Fanny has recently moved to live with her relatives at Mansfield Park.

They were a remarkably fine family, the sons very well-looking, the daughters decidedly handsome, and all of them well-grown and forward of their age, which produced as striking a difference between the cousins in person, as education had given to their address; and no one would have supposed the girls so nearly of an age as they really were. There were in fact but two years between the youngest and Fanny. Julia Bertram was only twelve, and Maria but a year older.

As used in line 43, "address" most nearly means

Possible Answers:

house.

inscription

 lecture.

speech.

Correct answer:

speech.

Explanation:

For any vocabulary in context question, you should first look at the context of the sentence and determine what word or idea would best replace the word you are being asked about. The paragraph is describing the Bertram sisters and talking about the relative development of the Bertrams and Fanny. The paragraph compares their "person," referring to their appearances, and their "address." This obviously has to do with something about the girls, whether about how they act, dress, or look. The only answer that could refer to an aspect of a person's actions is "speech," as the other answer choices do not logically describe an aspect of a person's character or appearance.

Example Question #2 : Vocabulary In Context

The following passage and corresponding figure are from Emilie Reas. "How the brain learns to read: development of the “word form area”", PLOS Neuro Community, 2018.

Earlier studies have shown that the ventral visual cortex supports recognition of an array of visual stimuli, including objects, faces, and places. Within this area, a subregion in the left hemisphere known as the “visual word form area” (VWFA) shows a particular selectivity for written words. However, this region is characteristically plastic. It’s been proposed that stimuli compete for representation in this malleable area, such that “winner takes all” depending on the strongest input. That is, how a site is ultimately mapped is dependent on what it’s used for in early childhood. But this idea has yet to be confirmed, and the evolution of specialized brain areas for reading in children is still poorly understood.

As used in the highlighted line, “plastic” most nearly means 

Possible Answers:

artificial.

springy.

resistant.

adaptable.

Correct answer:

adaptable.

Explanation:

As with any vocabulary in context question, you should look to understand the context of the sentence and then to choose the answer choice that best completes the idea presented. In the sentence itself, you're only told that the area is "characteristically plastic". However, in the next paragraph, you are told that the region is "malleable," indicating that plastic must be a synonym for malleable. The only answer that matches this is, "adaptable".

Example Question #3 : Vocabulary In Context

This passage is adapted from Adam K. Fetterman and Kai Sassenberg, “The Reputational Consequences of Failed Replications and Wrongness Admission among Scientists", first published in December 2015 by PLOS ONE.

It may seem strange that others consider it less likely that questionable research practices, for example, were used when a scientist admits that they were wrong. However, it does make sense from the standpoint that wrongness admission seems to indicate honesty. Therefore, if one is honest in one domain, they are likely honest in other domains. Moreover, the refusal to admit might indicate to others that the original scientist is trying to cover something up. The lack of significance of most of the interactions in our study suggests that it even seems as if scientists might already realize this. Therefore, we can generally suggest that scientists admit they are wrong, but only when the evidence suggests they should.

As used in the highlighted line, “domain” most nearly means

 

Possible Answers:

field.

value.

kingdom.

context.

Correct answer:

context.

Explanation:

As with other vocabulary in context questions, the key here is to look at the context of the sentence and then figure out which answer choice would best replace the word in question. In this case, the author is arguing that if someone appears to be honest in one area they may be seen as being honest in other areas as well. "Kingdom" and "value" are obviously outside the scope of the idea of "area"."Field and "context", "field" would seem to imply field of study, which is too specific for this sentence. The more general "context" is a better fit and more closely matches the idea of "area" that you are trying to account for.

Example Question #1 : Vocabulary In Context

The passage is excerpted from Ngonghala CN, et. al’s “Poverty, Disease, and the Ecology of Complex Systems” © 2014 Ngonghala et al.

The modern economics literature on poverty traps, however, is strikingly silent about the role of feedbacks from biophysical and biosocial processes. Two overwhelming characteristics of under-developed economies and the poorest, mostly rural, subpopulations in those countries are (i) the dominant role of resource-dependent primary production—from soils, fisheries, forests, and wildlife—as the root source of income and (ii) the high rates of morbidity and mortality due to parasitic and infectious diseases. For basic subsistence, the extremely poor rely on human capital that is directly generated from their ability to obtain resources, and thus critically influenced by climate and soil that determine the success of food production. These resources in turn influence the nutrition and health of individuals, but can also be influenced by a variety of other biophysical processes. For example, infectious and parasitic diseases effectively steal human resources for their own survival and transmission. Yet scientists rarely integrate even the most rudimentary frameworks for understanding these ecological processes into models of economic growth and poverty. 

This gap in the literature represents a major missed opportunity to advance our understanding of coupled ecological-economic systems. Through feedbacks between lower-level localized behavior and the higher-level processes that they drive, ecological systems are known to demonstrate complex emergent properties that can be sensitive to initial conditions. A large range of ecological systems—as revealed in processes like desertification, soil degradation, coral reef bleaching, and epidemic disease—have been characterized by multiple stable states, with direct consequences for the livelihoods of the poor. These multiple stable states, which arise from nonlinear positive feedbacks, imply sensitivity to initial conditions.

As used in the highlighted line, “emergent” most nearly means

Possible Answers:

unchanging

urgent

essential

developing

Correct answer:

developing

Explanation:

If we look to the context of the sentence in this example and fill-in-the-blank with our own new word in the sentence, “through feedbacks between lower-level localized behavior and the higher-level processes that they drive, ecological systems are known to demonstrate complex emergent properties that can be sensitive to initial conditions,” The word you would most likely choose on your own given the context is either “new” or “emerging.” So, we need an answer that maintains that meaning. “Unchanging” can be eliminated because the context shows that there is a change from initial conditions. “Essential” does not fit in with the context as nothing indicates they are important or required. “Urgent” is tricky, as it seems on the surface to be a synonym of “emergent” (emergency/urgent), but makes no sense when inserted into the sentence. ‘Developing” works perfectly when you place it in the sentence, as it is similar to “new” and “emerging” and creates a logical meaning.

Example Question #5 : Vocabulary In Context

The passage is adapted from Ngonghala CN, et. al’s “Poverty, Disease, and the Ecology of Complex Systems” © 2014 Ngonghala et al.

In his landmark treatise, An Essay on the Principle of Population, Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus argued that population growth will necessarily exceed the growth rate of the means of subsistence, making poverty inevitable. The system of feedbacks that Malthus posited creates a situation similar to what social scientists now term a “poverty trap”: i.e., a self-reinforcing mechanism that causes poverty to persist. Malthus’s erroneous assumptions, which did not account for rapid technological progress, rendered his core prediction wrong: the world has enjoyed unprecedented economic development in the ensuing two centuries due to technology-driven productivity growth.

As used in the highlighted line, “posited” most nearly means

Possible Answers:

replicated

undermined

challenged

conceived

Correct answer:

conceived

Explanation:

If we look to fill-in-the-blanks in our existing context, “The system of feedbacks that Malthus posited creates a situation similar to what social scientists now term a “poverty trap”: i.e., a self-reinforcing mechanism that causes poverty to persist,” the most likely word you would pick on your own here is either “developed” or “theorized.” Looking at the answer choices, “challenged” and “undermined” are both the opposite of what is required by the context. “Replicated” would be correct if he was replicating someone else’s work, but the evidence in the context of the paragraph is that this system was his own creation. “Conceived” nicely matches “developed” and “theorized” and is thus our correct choice.

Example Question #1 : Vocabulary In Context

The following is an excerpt from Night and Day, a novel by Virginia Woolf that was first published in 1919. The novel tells the story of two main female characters in London in the early 20th century.

It was a Sunday evening in October, and in common with many other young ladies of her class, Katharine Hilbery was pouring out tea. Perhaps a fifth part of her mind was thus occupied, and the remaining parts leapt over the little barrier of day which interposed between Monday morning and this rather subdued moment, and played with the things one does voluntarily and normally in the daylight. But although she was silent, she was evidently mistress of a situation which was familiar enough to her, and inclined to let it take its way for the six hundredth time, perhaps, without bringing into play any of her unoccupied faculties. A single glance was enough to show that Mrs. Hilbery was so rich in the gifts which make tea-parties of elderly distinguished people successful, that she scarcely needed any help from her daughter, provided that the tiresome business of teacups and bread and butter was discharged for her.

As used in the highlighted line, “mistress” most nearly means

Possible Answers:

victim

admirer

manager

supporter

Correct answer:

manager

Explanation:

If we look to the context, we can see that Katharine Hilbery is hosting a group of people and pouring tea. So, when the sentence in question uses the term “mistress,” the passage intends to say that she is “in charge of” the situation unfolding before her. This aligns most directly with “manager.” It would not make sense in context to say that she was an admirer or supporter of the situation, nor is she precisely the “victim” of the situation at hand. It’s important to keep in mind when tackling vocabulary in context questions that vocabulary in context is a context question, not a memorization question, so our job is generally to take common terms and find the meaning of those terms that best matches the context.

Example Question #7 : Vocabulary In Context

The following is an excerpt from “Human Life and Migration - an Origin Story,” (2020)

It is now commonly accepted that human life originated in East Africa. There is less agreement as to whether the humans that left Africa in a final exodus as recently as 100,000 years ago replaced all other hominids (thus becoming ancestors to everyone now alive) or humans evolved independently in geographically separated regions. Recently, the replacement scenario, as it is sometimes called, has been lent support from genetic research.

Genetic investigations into the origins of human life most often focus on mitochondrial DNA. As opposed to nuclear DNA, mitochondrial DNA is transmitted only from the mother. This allows for the tracing of mutations that arise independently of changes that occur because of the combining of the mother’s and father’s DNA. As useful as this is, the high mutation rate of mitochondrial DNA allows scientists a look at only relatively recent prehistory. Nuclear DNA, on the other hand, has a low mutation rate, making it ideal for looking into the more distant past. Studying the nuclear DNA of fossils now shows a substantial decrease in population size in Europe and Asia approximately 50—80 thousand years ago. No such decrease happened in Africa. This supports the idea that migrants from Africa replaced all previous humans, and did not interbreed with earlier migrants.

Other research shows less genetic diversity the farther human populations are located from Africa. This difference in diversity, which continues to the present day, also supports the hypothesis that modern human life came from Africa and gradually spread throughout the world. It is worth noting that there is no discontinuity in the decrease of diversity as one travels from Africa; this points to less distinct ethnic and racial divisions than is popularly thought to be the case.

As used in the highlighted portion, “discontinuity” most nearly means

Possible Answers:

predictability

consistency

discontentedness

inconsistency

Correct answer:

inconsistency

Explanation:

In this example, “discontinuity” is used in context to mean that the decrease of diversity is consistent, basically, that the described pattern continues without interruption. This aligns perfectly with our correct answer, “inconsistency.” “Consistency” and “predictability,” run counter to the meaning, and would change the interpretation of the sentence in question entirely, and discontentedness might *sound* similar to the given word, but would make no sense in the given context. So, by process of elimination, “inconsistency” is our only viable option in the context of the sentence.

Example Question #1 : Vocabulary In Context

The following is an excerpt from Agnes Grey, an autobiographical novel by Anne Bronte that follows the life of a governess working in wealthy British households in the 19th century.

To avoid trouble and confusion, I have taken my pupils one by one, and discussed their various qualities; but this can give no adequate idea of being worried by the whole three together; when, as was often the case, all were determined to ‘be naughty, and to tease Miss Grey, and put her in a passion.’ 

Sometimes, on such occasions, the thought has suddenly occurred to me—’If they could see me now!’ meaning, of course, my friends at home; and the idea of how they would pity me has made me pity myself—so greatly that I have had the utmost difficulty to restrain my tears: but I have restrained them, till my little tormentors were gone to dessert, or cleared off to bed (my only prospects of deliverance), and then, in all the bliss of solitude, I have given myself up to the luxury of an unrestricted burst of weeping. But this was a weakness I did not often indulge: my employments were too numerous, my leisure moments too precious, to admit of much time being given to fruitless lamentations.

As used in the highlighted sentence, “admit of” most nearly means 

Possible Answers:

tolerate

want

forbid

necessitate

Correct answer:

tolerate

Explanation:

With vocabulary in context questions, we need to focus on the context first and foremost. In the sentence, if we were to take out the phrase “admit of,” and replace it with something else, “allow” (or tolerate!) would be the best fit. So, “tolerate” is our correct answer. Contextually, it doesn’t make sense to say that she was too busy to “want” to spend time feeling sorry for herself, or “necessitate” doing so. Finally, “forbid” certainly doesn’t make sense contextually, as she isn’t “too busy to forbid herself from crying,” - she’s attempting *not to* cry because she is too busy to afford to be able to do so. Keep in mind, vocabulary in context is a context question, not a vocabulary memorization question, so our job is generally to take common terms and find the meaning of those terms that best matches with the context.

Example Question #9 : Vocabulary In Context

The following is an excerpt from Night and Day, a novel by Virginia Woolf that was first published in 1919. The novel tells the story of two main female characters in London in the early 20th century.

It was a Sunday evening in October, and in common with many other young ladies of her class, Katharine Hilbery was pouring out tea. Perhaps a fifth part of her mind was thus occupied, and the remaining parts leapt over the little barrier of day which interposed between Monday morning and this rather subdued moment, and played with the things one does voluntarily and normally in the daylight. But although she was silent, she was evidently mistress of a situation which was familiar enough to her, and inclined to let it take its way for the six hundredth time, perhaps, without bringing into play any of her unoccupied faculties. A single glance was enough to show that Mrs. Hilbery was so rich in the gifts which make tea-parties of elderly distinguished people successful, that she scarcely needed any help from her daughter, provided that the tiresome business of teacups and bread and butter was discharged for her. 

Considering that the little party had been seated round the tea-table for less than twenty minutes, the animation observable on their faces, and the amount of sound they were producing collectively, were very creditable to the hostess. It suddenly came into Katharine’s mind that if some one opened the door at this moment he would think that they were enjoying themselves; he would think, “What an extremely nice house to come into!” and instinctively she laughed, and said something to increase the noise, for the credit of the house presumably, since she herself had not been feeling exhilarated. At the very same moment, rather to her amusement, the door was flung open, and a young man entered the room. Katharine, as she shook hands with him, asked him, in her own mind, “Now, do you think we’re enjoying ourselves enormously?”... “Mr. Denham, mother,” she said aloud, for she saw that her mother had forgotten his name.

As used in the highlighted line, “faculties” most nearly means

Possible Answers:

abilities

annoyances

teachers

priorities

Correct answer:

abilities

Explanation:

In this example, we’ll need to be careful to assess the meaning of the term in its context. While “faculties” might sometimes be associated with the term “teachers,” - this term definitely doesn’t fit the meaning at play in the given context. The sentence in question is attempting to say that the task at hand seemed at this point to be routine to Katharine, and that it didn’t require her to apply her “talents.” So, if we would fill in the blank on our own using the term “talents,” the only answer that matches this option is “abilities.” It’s important that we ensure that the chosen answer doesn’t just express “a” meaning of the term in question - we need the meaning that fits the context and maintains the given meaning.

Example Question #10 : Vocabulary In Context

The following is an excerpt from “Human Life and Migration - an Origin Story,” (2020)

It is now commonly accepted that human life originated in East Africa. There is less agreement as to whether the humans that left Africa in a final exodus as recently as 100,000 years ago replaced all other hominids (thus becoming ancestors to everyone now alive) or humans evolved independently in geographically separated regions. Recently, the replacement scenario, as it is sometimes called, has been lent support from genetic research.

Genetic investigations into the origins of human life most often focus on mitochondrial DNA. As opposed to nuclear DNA, mitochondrial DNA is transmitted only from the mother. This allows for the tracing of mutations that arise independently of changes that occur because of the combining of the mother’s and father’s DNA. As useful as this is, the high mutation rate of mitochondrial DNA allows scientists a look at only relatively recent prehistory. Nuclear DNA, on the other hand, has a low mutation rate, making it ideal for looking into the more distant past. Studying the nuclear DNA of fossils now shows a substantial decrease in population size in Europe and Asia approximately 50—80 thousand years ago. No such decrease happened in Africa. This supports the idea that migrants from Africa replaced all previous humans, and did not interbreed with earlier migrants.

Other research shows less genetic diversity the farther human populations are located from Africa. This difference in diversity, which continues to the present day, also supports the hypothesis that modern human life came from Africa and gradually spread throughout the world. It is worth noting that there is no discontinuity in the decrease of diversity as one travels from Africa; this points to less distinct ethnic and racial divisions than is popularly thought to be the case.

As used in the highlighted portion, “tracing” most nearly means

Possible Answers:

sketching

overlooking

tracking

outlining

Correct answer:

tracking

Explanation:

In this example, the context suggests that transmittal of mitochondrial DNA from the mother allows the origins of mutations to be “traced.” If we were to fill in the blank with another term that maintains this context, “tracking” aligns well, as it maintains the meaning that the origins of the mutations can be kept track of. While “tracing” can mean outlining or sketching in other contexts, it would be completely illogical here. Keep in mind with vocabulary in context, it’s important that we ensure that the chosen answer doesn’t just express “a” meaning of the term in question - we need the meaning that fits the context and maintains the given meaning.

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