TOEFL : Vocabulary

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for TOEFL

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Vocabulary

Adapted from "Taking a Second Look: An Analysis of Genetic Markers in Species Relatedness" by Joseph Ritchie (2014)

Phylogenetics is the study of genetic composition in various species and is used by evolutionary biologists to investigate similarities in the molecular sequences of proteins in varying organisms. The amino acid sequences that build proteins are used to construct mathematical matrices that aid in determining evolutionary ties through the investigation of percentage similarities. The study of these matrices helps to expose evolutionary relationships between species that may not have the same overt characteristics.

Species adapt and evolve based on the pressures that exist in their environment. Climate, food source, and habitat availability are only a few factors that act on species adaptation. These stressors can alter the physical characteristics of organisms. This divergence in evolution has made it difficult to determine the interrelatedness of organisms by analyzing their physical characteristics alone.

For instance, looking only at physical characteristics, the ghost bat resembles a pigeon more than a spider monkey; however, phylogenetics has found that the amino acid sequences that construct the beta hemoglobin molecules of bats are twenty percent more similar to those of mammalian primates than those of birds. This helps reject the assumption that common physical characteristics between species are all that is needed to determine relatedness. 

The differences produced by divergent evolution observed in the forest-dwelling, arboreal spider monkey and the nocturnal, airborne ghost bat can be reconciled through homology. Homologous characteristics are anatomical traits that are similar in two or more different species. For instance, the bone structure of a spider monkey’s wrist and fingers greatly resembles that of a bat’s wing or even a whale’s fin. These similarities are reinforced by phylogenetic evidence that supports the idea that physically dissimilar species can be evolutionarily related through anatomical and genetic similarities.

The underlined word "divergent" in paragraph four most nearly means which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Cooperative

Similar

Indirect

Dividing

Correct answer:

Dividing

Explanation:

The different appendages mentioned were all resultant from divergent evolution, or evolution that caused differences to emerge as distinct. It is suggested that the two organisms mentioned started out very similar to one another, then changed greatly in physical appearance over the years, yet still maintained some similarities to one another. Thus, "dividing" is the best answer choice.

Example Question #2 : Vocabulary

Adapted from "Taking a Second Look: An Analysis of Genetic Markers in Species Relatedness" by Joseph Ritchie (2014)

Phylogenetics is the study of genetic composition in various species and is used by evolutionary biologists to investigate similarities in the molecular sequences of proteins in varying organisms. The amino acid sequences that build proteins are used to construct mathematical matrices that aid in determining evolutionary ties through the investigation of percentage similarities. The study of these matrices helps to expose evolutionary relationships between species that may not have the same overt characteristics.

Species adapt and evolve based on the pressures that exist in their environment. Climate, food source, and habitat availability are only a few factors that act on species adaptation. These stressors can alter the physical characteristics of organisms. This divergence in evolution has made it difficult to determine the interrelatedness of organisms by analyzing their physical characteristics alone.

For instance, looking only at physical characteristics, the ghost bat resembles a pigeon more than a spider monkey; however, phylogenetics has found that the amino acid sequences that construct the beta hemoglobin molecules of bats are twenty percent more similar to those of mammalian primates than those of birds. This helps reject the assumption that common physical characteristics between species are all that is needed to determine relatedness. 

The differences produced by divergent evolution observed in the forest-dwelling, arboreal spider monkey and the nocturnal, airborne ghost bat can be reconciled through homology. Homologous characteristics are anatomical traits that are similar in two or more different species. For instance, the bone structure of a spider monkey’s wrist and fingers greatly resembles that of a bat’s wing or even a whale’s fin. These similarities are reinforced by phylogenetic evidence that supports the idea that physically dissimilar species can be evolutionarily related through anatomical and genetic similarities.

What is the meaning of the underlined word "overt" in paragraph 1?

Possible Answers:

Hidden

Sub-atomic

Obvious

On top of

Correct answer:

Obvious

Explanation:

The sentence here refers to "overt characteristics," meaning characteristics that are "obvious" or immediately apparent.

Example Question #3 : Vocabulary

Adapted from "Taking a Second Look: An Analysis of Genetic Markers in Species Relatedness" by Joseph Ritchie (2014)

Phylogenetics is the study of genetic composition in various species and is used by evolutionary biologists to investigate similarities in the molecular sequences of proteins in varying organisms. The amino acid sequences that build proteins are used to construct mathematical matrices that aid in determining evolutionary ties through the investigation of percentage similarities. The study of these matrices helps to expose evolutionary relationships between species that may not have the same overt characteristics.

Species adapt and evolve based on the pressures that exist in their environment. Climate, food source, and habitat availability are only a few factors that act on species adaptation. These stressors can alter the physical characteristics of organisms. This divergence in evolution has made it difficult to determine the interrelatedness of organisms by analyzing their physical characteristics alone.

For instance, looking only at physical characteristics, the ghost bat resembles a pigeon more than a spider monkey; however, phylogenetics has found that the amino acid sequences that construct the beta hemoglobin molecules of bats are twenty percent more similar to those of mammalian primates than those of birds. This helps reject the assumption that common physical characteristics between species are all that is needed to determine relatedness. 

The differences produced by divergent evolution observed in the forest-dwelling, arboreal spider monkey and the nocturnal, airborne ghost bat can be reconciled through homology. Homologous characteristics are anatomical traits that are similar in two or more different species. For instance, the bone structure of a spider monkey’s wrist and fingers greatly resembles that of a bat’s wing or even a whale’s fin. These similarities are reinforced by phylogenetic evidence that supports the idea that physically dissimilar species can be evolutionarily related through anatomical and genetic similarities.

What is the meaning of the underlined word "dissimilar" in the last paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Not alike

Opposite

Alike

Indistinguishable

Correct answer:

Not alike

Explanation:

The key to this answer is recognizing the "dis" prefix. This prefix negates the meaning of the stem word. In this case it means that the species is not similar. "Not alike" is the only answer that reflects this meaning.

Example Question #2 : Vocabulary

Passage adapted from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

"'If you will thank me,' he replied, 'let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.'"

Elizabeth was too much embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, 'you are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged; but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.'

Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced was such as he had probably never felt before, and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eyes, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight diffused over his face became him; but, though she could not look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his affection every moment more valuable.

They walked on, without knowing in what direction. There was too much to be thought, and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects. ..."

The word bolded and underlined word inducements most nearly means _______________.

Possible Answers:

beauties

causes

excitements

people

Correct answer:

causes

Explanation:

From the passage, we can see that the inducements are something that lead the speaker on. The desire to make Elizabeth happy was one of these inducements. We realize later that the speaker is referring to a prior marriage proposal, so we can infer that his inducements to propose could be called "causes" to propose.

Example Question #5 : Vocabulary

Passage adapted from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

"'If you will thank me,' he replied, 'let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.'"

Elizabeth was too much embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, 'you are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged; but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.'

Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced was such as he had probably never felt before, and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eyes, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight diffused over his face became him; but, though she could not look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his affection every moment more valuable.

They walked on, without knowing in what direction. There was too much to be thought, and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects. ..."

In the passage above, the bolded and underlined word "sentiments" most nearly means _______________.

Possible Answers:

family members

appearance

marriage prospects

feelings

Correct answer:

feelings

Explanation:

Elizabeth is telling the speaker that, in contrast to the last time he proposed to her, she now wishes to accept, and to marry him. This indicates that her feelings toward him and his proposal have changed. Thus, the correct answer is "feelings." Outside of the specific context of the passage, this question also reflects a synonym pair that is well within the level of vocabulary demanded on the test. Think of the word "sentimental," which means full of emotions or feelings.

Example Question #6 : Vocabulary

Passage adapted from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

"'If you will thank me,' he replied, 'let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.'"

Elizabeth was too much embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, 'you are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged; but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.'

Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced was such as he had probably never felt before, and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eyes, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight diffused over his face became him; but, though she could not look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his affection every moment more valuable.

They walked on, without knowing in what direction. There was too much to be thought, and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects. ..."

In the above passage, the bolded and underlined word "alluded" most nearly means

Possible Answers:

originated

believed

pointed

referred

Correct answer:

referred

Explanation:

The speaker mentions "last April" and seems to have proposed to Elizabeth at that time. Elizabeth responds by saying that her feelings have changed since then, and she would now like to accept his proposal. "The period to which he alluded" is last April, and "alluded" most nearly means "referred." In literature, an "allusion" is an indirect reference to a work or event outside the text.

Example Question #7 : Vocabulary

Passage adapted from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

"'If you will thank me,' he replied, 'let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.'"

Elizabeth was too much embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, 'you are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged; but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.'

Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced was such as he had probably never felt before, and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eyes, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight diffused over his face became him; but, though she could not look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his affection every moment more valuable.

They walked on, without knowing in what direction. There was too much to be thought, and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects. ..."

In the passage above, the bolded and underlined word "encounter" most nearly means _______________.

Possible Answers:

find

avoid

meet

get a glimpse of

Correct answer:

meet

Explanation:

The passage describes what Elizabeth would have seen on his face if she had been able to encounter his eyes. This indicates that she "could not look," not that she could not find his eyes, or get a glimpse of them. Thus, "meet" is the best answer here. Think about it, the very act of "meeting" someone be definition involves an "encounter" between the two people involved.

Example Question #3 : Vocabulary

Passage adapted from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

"'If you will thank me,' he replied, 'let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.'"

Elizabeth was too much embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, 'you are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged; but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.'

Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced was such as he had probably never felt before, and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eyes, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight diffused over his face became him; but, though she could not look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his affection every moment more valuable.

They walked on, without knowing in what direction. There was too much to be thought, and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects. ..."

In the passage above, the word "diffused" most nearly means ___________________.

Possible Answers:

hidden

speckled

spread

thrown

Correct answer:

spread

Explanation:

Elizabeth is unable to see the expression "diffused over his face." A facial expression is something that involves the whole face, as indicated by the word "over." Thus, the word "spread" is the best answer here. Say you have a giant glob of peanut butter, then you "spread" it on some toast; you have, in so doing, "diffused" the peanut butter over the toast, taking to from a giant ball to a thinner coating over a wider area.

Example Question #9 : Vocabulary

Passage adapted from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

Occupied in observing Mr. Bingley's attentions to her sister, Elizabeth was far from suspecting that she was herself becoming an object of some interest in the eyes of his friend. Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticize. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness. Of this she was perfectly unaware;--to her he was only the man who made himself agreeable nowhere, and who had not thought her handsome enough to dance with.

In the passage above, the word "rendered" most nearly means ________________.

Possible Answers:

prevented

hidden

given

made

Correct answer:

made

Explanation:

Darcy notes that Elizabeth's face is "rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes." This indicates that her eyes do something to her face - they change it. Her face is made to look intelligent by her eyes.

Example Question #4 : Vocabulary

Passage adapted from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

Occupied in observing Mr. Bingley's attentions to her sister, Elizabeth was far from suspecting that she was herself becoming an object of some interest in the eyes of his friend. Mr. Darcy; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticize. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness. Of this she was perfectly unaware;--to her he was only the man who made himself agreeable nowhere, and who had not thought her handsome enough to dance with.

He began to wish to know more of her, and as a step towards conversing with her himself, attended to her conversation with others. His doing so drew her notice.

 

In the above passage, the word "mortifying" most nearly means ________________.

Possible Answers:

embarrassing

deadly

flattering

terrifying

Correct answer:

embarrassing

Explanation:

Mr. Darcy "had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty," and tells all his friends how mediocre she is. But then, suddenly, he notices her positive qualities, and feels embarrassed that he was initially wrong, and that he will have to tell his friends that he's changed his mind. "Mortified" is a stronger synonym of "embarrassed."

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