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Identifying Synonyms and Antonyms Through Examples of Multiple Choice Test Questions

written by: Peter Boysen • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 2/8/2012

Picking the right word answer out of 4 or 5 multiple choice options, doesn't have to be such an anguished decision. Learning how to identify synonyms and antonyms on reading tests may be the key to getting the good grade you want!

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    "Synonym" and "antonym" are words that we just don't use in any other context besides reading tests, and so the definition keeps sliding out of kids' minds.

    Here we will take a look at some examples of multiple choice test questions about synonyms and antonyms in order to give you a better result on your reading test. Understanding their meanings and context use will make it easier for you to grasp.

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    What's a Synonym Again?

    In order to help my students remember the definition of"synonym", I teach them that "synonym" means the "same," and that both start with the letter "S." That helps many of them remember.

    Here is a reading test example asking to identify the synonym:

    Bob walked into his house to find that his dog and two cats had gotten into a frenzy. Cushions from his couch had been ripped open and emptied, the pumpkin pie he'd set out onto the counter to cool that morning had been knocked to the floor and devoured, and his parakeet was still trembling, perched on the highest bar inside its cage.

    Which of the following is the BEST synonym for "frenzy"?

    A) struggle

    B) parade

    C) riot

    D) celebration

    The first question to ask yourself is whether "frenzy" seems to be a positive or negative word here. A quick look at the context (torn couch, purloined pie) should indicate that "frenzy" is a negative word.

    Now, look at the four choices, and decide whether each choice has positive or negative associations.

    Parades and celebrations are generally good things; struggles and riots generally are not. For a synonym question, the answer choice needs to have the same association as the word itself. Therefore, you've just ruled out B and D. And for the struggling test-taker, a 50-50 shot is a lot better than a 1-in-4 shot.

    So is it "struggle" or "riot"? Both words could fit here -- so which one is the best choice? Again, look at the context. The destruction in Bob's house is considerable, and so the correct answer choice will be the one that shows the most damage. What would wreak more havoc -- a struggle, or a riot? Struggle could just be two kids wrestling over a Wii remote, but riots generally involve crowds and fires, so the correct answer here is C.

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    Picking the Right Antonym

    The process here is somewhat similar to the one used to find a synonym. However, you must remember that an antonym is going to be just about the opposite of the word in question. Look at the prefix for "antonym" -- what else have you seen start with "ant-" or "anti"? Antifreeze. Antitank weapon. Antidote. All of those words have to do with opposition, and so do antonyms.

    Here is a test example of one:

    I asked my teacher whether or not I was going to pass for the last six weeks. Still seated at her desk, bent over a stack of essays that she had not yet graded, she looked up at me, narrowed her eyes, and gave me an ambiguous smirk, looked back down at her work, and said nothing.

    Which of the following is the BEST antonym for "ambiguous"?

    A) clear

    B) vague

    C) obnoxious

    D) sinister

    What is the association with ambiguous? Is it negative or positive? Check out the context. Her eyes are narrowed, which usually means anger or contempt. Her mouth twists into a smirk, which is a scornful smile. The context gives a somewhat negative association -- but the teacher doesn't give an answer.

    Do the answer choices have positive or negative associations? "Sinister" is a word familiar to every Scooby-Doo fan who has seen the villain unmasked. Now, with an antonym, we're looking for the opposite of the test word, so we want a positive association. Since "sinister" is negative, we can rule out D. "Obnoxious" -- negative again. Strike out C. "Vague" doesn't really have associations one way or another -- in a way, it's like "ambiguous." What about "clear"? This is the only choice with a positive association, so you have to go with A. Choice B is actually a synonym for "ambiguous" -- and often you will see the synonym as a distractor answer for "antonym" questions, because the test takers also want to make sure that you know what the difference between synonym and antonym is.

    Any way that you can rule out answers helps you increase your chances of getting these multiple choice test questions right. The positive/negative association test is just one way that you can find the right synonym or antonym on a reading test.


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