English Language Proficiency Test : Vocabulary

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for English Language Proficiency Test

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

All English Language Proficiency Test Resources

1 Diagnostic Test 29 Practice Tests Question of the Day Flashcards Learn by Concept

Example Questions

← Previous 1

Example Question #1 : Vocabulary

1 All her life Miss Elizabeth Dwarris had been a sore trial to her relations. 2 A woman of means, she ruled tyrannously over a large number of impecunious cousins, using her bank-balance like the scorpions of Rehoboam to chastise them, and, like many another pious creature, for their soul’s good making all and sundry excessively miserable. 3 Nurtured in the evangelical ways current in her youth, she insisted that her connections should seek salvation according to her own lights; and, with harsh tongue and with bitter gibe, made it her constant business to persuade them of their extreme unworthiness. 4 She arranged lives as she thought fit, and ventured not only to order the costume and habits, but even the inner thought of those about her: the Last Judgment could have no terrors for any that had faced her searching examination. 5 She invited to stay with her in succession various poor ladies who presumed on a distant tie to call her Aunt Eliza, and they accepted her summons, more imperious than a royal command, with gratitude by no means unmixed with fear, bearing the servitude meekly as a cross which in the future would meet due testamentary reward.

In Sentence 5, what does “imperious” most likely mean?

Possible Answers:

Hypercritical

Hypocritical

Meditative

Qualitative

Peremptory

Correct answer:

Peremptory

Explanation:

Here, you could notice that “imperial,” or emperorly, shares a root with “imperious.” We can also derive the word’s meaning from context, though. The poor ladies are “forced to accept her summons,” and her imperiousness is greater than “a royal command.” The only choice that makes sense in this context is peremptory. 

Passage adapted from W. Somerset Maugham’s The Merry-Go-Round (1904)

Example Question #2 : Vocabulary

1 With one of her relations only, Miss Dwarris found it needful to observe a certain restraint, for Miss Ley, perhaps the most distant of her cousins, was as plain-spoken as herself, and had, besides, a far keener wit whereby she could turn rash statements to the utter ridicule of the speaker. 2 Nor did Miss Dwarris precisely dislike this independent spirit; she looked upon her in fact with a certain degree of affection and not a little fear. 3 Miss Ley, seldom lacking a repartee, appeared really to enjoy the verbal contests, from which, by her greater urbanity, readiness, and knowledge, she usually emerged victorious: it confounded, but at the same time almost amused, the elder lady that a woman so much poorer than herself, with no smaller claims than others to the coveted inheritance, should venture not only to be facetious at her expense, but even to carry war into her very camp. 4 …No cherished opinion of Miss Dwarris was safe from satire—even her evangelicism was laughed at, and the rich old woman, unused to argument, was easily driven into self-contradiction; and then—for the victor took no pains to conceal her triumph—she grew pale and speechless with rage.

5 … Miss Ley, accustomed, when she went abroad in the winter, to let her little flat in Chelsea, had been obliged by unforeseen circumstances to return to England while her tenants were still in possession; and had asked Miss Dwarris whether she might stay with her in Old Queen Street. 6 The old tyrant, much as she hated her relations, hated still more to live alone; she needed some one on whom to vent her temper, and through the illness of a niece, due to spend March and April with her, had been forced to pass a month of solitude; she wrote back, in the peremptory fashion which, even with Miss Ley, she could not refrain from using, that she expected her on such and such a day by such and such a train. 7 It is not clear whether there was in the letter anything to excite in Miss Ley a contradictory spirit, or whether her engagements really prevented it; but, at all events, she answered that her plans made it more convenient to arrive on the day following and by a different train.

In Sentence 6, what does “peremptory” mean?

Possible Answers:

Lascivious

Magnanimous

High-handed

Quizzical

Munificent

Correct answer:

High-handed

Explanation:

“Peremptory” is defined as imperious, high-handed, or even dictatorial. Even if you didn’t know this, you could still eliminate those answer choices that don’t fit Miss Dwarris’s personality and actions. Magnanimous and munificent both mean generous, lascivious means lustful, and quizzical means puzzled or curious.

Passage adapted from W. Somerset Maugham’s The Merry-Go-Round (1904)

Example Question #1 : Vocabulary

1 Ye who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and pursue with eagerness the phantoms of hope; who expect that age will perform the promises of youth, and that the deficiencies of the present day will be supplied by the morrow, attend to the history of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia.

2 … According to the custom which has descended from age to age among the monarchs of the torrid zone, Rasselas was confined in a private palace, with the other sons and daughters of Abyssinian royalty, till the order of succession should call him to the throne.

3 The place which the wisdom or policy of antiquity had destined for the residence of the Abyssinian princes was a spacious valley in the kingdom of Amhara, surrounded on every side by mountains, of which the summits overhang the middle part. 4 The only passage by which it could be entered was a cavern that passed under a rock, [and the] outlet of the cavern was concealed by a thick wood, and the mouth which opened into the valley was closed with gates of iron, forged by the artificers of ancient days, so massive that no man, without the help of engines, could open or shut them.

5 From the mountains on every side rivulets descended that filled all the valley with verdure and fertility, and formed a lake in the middle, inhabited by fish of every species, and frequented by every fowl whom nature has taught to dip the wing in water. 6 This lake discharged its superfluities by a stream, which entered a dark cleft of the mountain on the northern side, and fell with dreadful noise from precipice to precipice till it was heard no more.

In Sentence 5, what does “rivulets” mean?

Possible Answers:

Brooks

Rich soil

Manure

Rocky outcrops

Fertile fields

Correct answer:

Brooks

Explanation:

We see from the passage that the rivulets “descended [and] that filled all the valley with verdure and fertility.” In other words, the rivulets are a physical feature that bring greenness (verdure) to the valley. The only choice that makes sense is “brooks.”

Passage adapted from Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas: Prince of Abyssinia (1759)

Example Question #4 : Vocabulary

1 Ye who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and pursue with eagerness the phantoms of hope; who expect that age will perform the promises of youth, and that the deficiencies of the present day will be supplied by the morrow, attend to the history of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia.

2 … According to the custom which has descended from age to age among the monarchs of the torrid zone, Rasselas was confined in a private palace, with the other sons and daughters of Abyssinian royalty, till the order of succession should call him to the throne.

3 The place which the wisdom or policy of antiquity had destined for the residence of the Abyssinian princes was a spacious valley in the kingdom of Amhara, surrounded on every side by mountains, of which the summits overhang the middle part. 4 The only passage by which it could be entered was a cavern that passed under a rock, [and the] outlet of the cavern was concealed by a thick wood, and the mouth which opened into the valley was closed with gates of iron, forged by the artificers of ancient days, so massive that no man, without the help of engines, could open or shut them.

5 From the mountains on every side rivulets descended that filled all the valley with verdure and fertility, and formed a lake in the middle, inhabited by fish of every species, and frequented by every fowl whom nature has taught to dip the wing in water. 6 This lake discharged its superfluities by a stream, which entered a dark cleft of the mountain on the northern side, and fell with dreadful noise from precipice to precipice till it was heard no more.

In Sentence 6, what is meant by “superfluities”?

Possible Answers:

Excess water

Functionaries

Dignitaries

Minor noblemen or their children

Non-native fish and fowl

Correct answer:

Excess water

Explanation:

Knowing that “superfluous” describes something excess or unnecessary would help with this question, but context clues can also give you the answer. In Sentence 6, we see that these “superfluities” are carried by a stream and fall “with dreadful noise from precipice to precipice.” In other words, the sentence is describing excess water that drains from the lake and falls in the form of roaring waterfalls.

Passage adapted from Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas: Prince of Abyssinia (1759)

Example Question #2 : Vocabulary

1 Ye who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and pursue with eagerness the phantoms of hope; who expect that age will perform the promises of youth, and that the deficiencies of the present day will be supplied by the morrow, attend to the history of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia.

2 … According to the custom which has descended from age to age among the monarchs of the torrid zone, Rasselas was confined in a private palace, with the other sons and daughters of Abyssinian royalty, till the order of succession should call him to the throne.

3 The place which the wisdom or policy of antiquity had destined for the residence of the Abyssinian princes was a spacious valley in the kingdom of Amhara, surrounded on every side by mountains, of which the summits overhang the middle part. 4 The only passage by which it could be entered was a cavern that passed under a rock, [and the] outlet of the cavern was concealed by a thick wood, and the mouth which opened into the valley was closed with gates of iron, forged by the artificers of ancient days, so massive that no man, without the help of engines, could open or shut them.

5 From the mountains on every side rivulets descended that filled all the valley with verdure and fertility, and formed a lake in the middle, inhabited by fish of every species, and frequented by every fowl whom nature has taught to dip the wing in water. 6 This lake discharged its superfluities by a stream, which entered a dark cleft of the mountain on the northern side, and fell with dreadful noise from precipice to precipice till it was heard no more.

Based on the context of Sentence 4, what does “artificers” mean?

Possible Answers:

Craftspeople

Fakers

Guild members

Sorcerers

Day laborers

Correct answer:

Craftspeople

Explanation:

While “artifice” traditionally means cunning and trickery, it can also mean artfulness. This is the meaning that makes most sense in the context of Sentence 4’s description of the “gates of iron.” The enormous gates were artfully constructed by skilled artisans or craftspeople. None of the other choices have textual support.

Passage adapted from Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas: Prince of Abyssinia (1759)

Example Question #6 : Vocabulary

1 It has afforded the Author great amusement and satisfaction, during the progress of this work, to learn, from country friends and from a variety of ludicrous statements concerning himself in provincial newspapers, that more than one Yorkshire schoolmaster lays claim to being the original of Mr. Squeers. 2 One worthy, he has reason to believe, has actually consulted authorities learned in the law, as to his having good grounds on which to rest an action for libel; another, has meditated a journey to London, for the express purpose of committing an assault and battery on his traducer; a third, perfectly remembers being waited on, last January twelve-month, by two gentlemen, one of whom held him in conversation while the other took his likeness; and, although Mr. Squeers has but one eye, and he has two, and the published sketch does not resemble him (whoever he may be) in any other respect, still he and all his friends and neighbours know at once for whom it is meant, because—the character is so like him.

3 While the Author cannot but feel the full force of the compliment thus conveyed to him, he ventures to suggest that these contentions may arise from the fact, that Mr. Squeers is the representative of a class, and not of an individual. 4 Where imposture, ignorance, and brutal cupidity, are the stock in trade of a small body of men, and one is described by these characteristics, all his fellows will recognise something belonging to themselves, and each will have a misgiving that the portrait is his own.

In the context of Sentence 2, what is the “worthy”?

Possible Answers:

A competing author

A literary critic

A lawyer

A schoolteacher

A schoolchild

Correct answer:

A schoolteacher

Explanation:

If we read the rest of the passage, we can see that the “worthy” in question consulted lawyers to see if he could “rest an action for libel” against (in other words, sue) the author. This man did so because of the perceived great resemblance of the author’s character, a schoolteacher, to himself. Thus we can conclude that the man himself is another schoolteacher. “Worthy” is typically used for someone whose character or class is particularly fine, so the author’s use of this word here is sarcastic.

Passage adapted from Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby (1838).

Example Question #7 : Vocabulary

"The period under five years of age is one of very rapid growth. There is probably no other time in the life history of the individual when the body and mind are so responsive to environment and impressions, and when so much can be done to build up good health as during the preschool age." 

-Passage adapted from Healthy Children: A Volume Devoted to the Health of the Growing Child, by Sara Josephine Bake (1920)

Which of the following is the best definition for how responsive is used in the passage?

Possible Answers:

To react slowly and negatively 

To show interest in learning 

To show boredom 

To react quickly and positively 

Correct answer:

To react quickly and positively 

Explanation:

To be responsive, or to respond to something, indicates that an action is taken. If you respond to someone's email, you sent an email back (action). "Responsive" is the adjective form of the verb "to respond" and when used in a more scientific way, it means that a subject reacts to some sort of stimulus. If a person is in a coma, they are not being responsive to the environment around them. To be responsive means to react quickly and positively. 

Example Question #8 : Vocabulary

"During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was - but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit." 

Adapted from "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe (1839)

What is the best definition for glimpse in this passage? 

Possible Answers:

A feeling of sadness and gloom 

A momentary or partial view 

A harsh and strong smell 

A brief and serious thought

Correct answer:

A momentary or partial view 

Explanation:

Glimpse means to view/see something for a brief time. "To catch a glimpse" means to see all or only part of something quickly. 

Example Question #9 : Vocabulary

"During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was - but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit." 

Adapted from "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe (1839)

Which word could best replace pervaded in the above passage? 

Possible Answers:

Caught

Inspired

Closed

Filled

Correct answer:

Filled

Explanation:

To pervade means to fill, permeate, spread through. Poe describes a feeling of gloom spreading through and FILLING his spirit. 

Example Question #10 : Vocabulary

Email
  
Hi Mrs. Cox,
 
I completed the conference registration form last week. Just making sure I am good for the 29th? Also, when is our anticipated pay-date from the scoring we started in May? 
 
Thanks,
 
Jane Doe
 

The above text is taken from a work email. Which word could best replace the word in bold? 

Possible Answers:

Desired 

Expected

Coveted

Wanted

Correct answer:

Expected

Explanation:

The best answer choice is expected. To anticipate means to expect, predict, or regard as probable. The writer is asking when she can be expect to be paid for her work. The other answer choices all mean something like want, which would not make sense in this context. Yes, the writer wants to be paid, but a "wanted pay-date" would not indicate when her employer intends to actually pay her. 

← Previous 1

All English Language Proficiency Test Resources

1 Diagnostic Test 29 Practice Tests Question of the Day Flashcards Learn by Concept
Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors

Incompatible Browser

Please upgrade or download one of the following browsers to use Instant Tutoring: