SHSAT: Language of the Test

Before you can answer the Verbal sections on the SHSAT (NYC's Specialized High Schools Admissions Test), you first need to know what the question is asking. Learn this list of words extracted from the directions, questions, and choices of several practice tests.

For more general words that might help you comprehend the reading passages, learn this list: 100 Words Every Middle Schooler Should Know. Once you’ve mastered that list, try this one: The Vocabulary.com Top 1000.
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Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. scramble
    bring into random order
    Because in these places, all of the usual categories by which we organize our lives—like race and class—get scrambled.Salon (Feb 24, 2016)
    The scrambled paragraph portion of the test measures your ability to organize written material according to the sequence of ideas and/or cues provided by transitional words and phrases.
  2. arrange
    put into a proper or systematic order
    All of the books are arranged cover out, rather than spine out, in the belief that it makes browsing more friendly.New York Times (Mar 10, 2016)
    In this section, arrange each group of sentences to create the best paragraph.
  3. create
    make or cause to be or to become
    “Cows will help get the seed in the ground. Just by walking, they dig and create a better land.”Washington Times (Mar 19, 2016)
  4. remaining
    not used up
    And that’s with four of the seven declaring they had sent none, and two of the remaining three sending all of two texts each.Washington Times (Mar 11, 2016)
    The first sentence for each paragraph is given; the remaining five sentences are listed in random order.
  5. random
    lacking any definite plan or order or purpose
    Now pick up a pen, close your eyes and put dots on the paper at random.Time (Mar 14, 2016)
  6. organized
    formed into a structured or coherent whole
    An enormous line of more than 200 voters will be organized alphabetically.New York Times (Feb 23, 2016)
    Choose the order for these five sentences that will create the best paragraph, one that is well-organized, logical, and grammatically correct.
  7. logical
    marked by an orderly and coherent relation of parts
    Perhaps the logical conclusion of everyone looking the same was everyone thinking the same.Uglies
  8. grammatical
    of or pertaining to the rules that structure language
    Writers of real grammars do not class mere spelling mistakes as grammatical errors.The Guardian (Mar 4, 2016)
    The sentences may also provide grammatical cues as to how to construct the paragraph. For example, the pronoun “she” may refer to someone mentioned in a previous sentence. Transitional words such as “although” and “however” also provide cues about how the sentences relate to one another.
  9. paragraph
    one of several distinct subdivisions of a text
    This story has been corrected to say pore, not pour in the first paragraph.US News (Mar 11, 2016)
    Each correctly ordered paragraph is worth double the value of a question in any other section of the test.
  10. satisfied
    filled with contentment
    But after the first round of the search, the commissioners decided they were not satisfied with the choices presented and extended the hunt.New York Times (Mar 17, 2016)
    When you are satisfied with your sentence order, mark your choices on your answer sheet.
  11. information
    a collection of facts from which conclusions may be drawn
    Additional information and resources help people understand their connection to us and the country.Time (Mar 18, 2016)
    Read the information given and choose the best answer to each question.
  12. base
    use as a foundation for; establish or found on
    She was basing the number on the guess that every pony year is equal to 3-4 human years.Washington Times (Mar 19, 2016)
    Base your answer only on the information given.
    Based only on the information above, which of the following must be true?
  13. caution
    judiciousness in avoiding harm or danger
    But it would be just as dangerous to ignore history’s cautions unless one is bent on repeating its follies.Salon (Mar 10, 2016)
    In a logical reasoning test, certain words must be read with caution.
  14. necessarily
    in such a manner as could not be otherwise
    This conversation can be very simple, although that doesn’t necessarily mean easy.The Verge (Mar 19, 2016)
    For example, “The red house is between the yellow and blue houses” does not necessarily mean “The red house is between and next to the yellow and blue houses”; one or more other houses may separate the red house from the yellow house or from the blue house.
  15. apply
    be relevant to, as to an analysis
    There are cautions, though, about applying the study to human Alzheimer's patients.US News (Mar 18, 2016)
    This precaution also applies to words such as above, below, before, after, ahead of, and behind.
  16. passage
    a section of text, particularly a section of medium length
    In many iBooks, you can also share notes and selected passages with your friends on Facebook, Twitter or by Messages or Mail.New York Times (Mar 15, 2016)
    There are five passages with six questions each. Each passage is 350 to 450 words long. The subjects include short biographies, discussions of historical events, descriptions of scientific phenomena, brief essays on art or music, discussions with a point of view, and human interest stories.
    Read each passage below and answer the questions following it.
    Which of the following best tells what this passage is about?
  17. contain
    hold or have within
    At Cal, a report prepared by the university and released on Tuesday contained a trove of ugly details that needed to be explained.New York Times (Mar 16, 2016)
    Base your answers on information contained only in the passage.
  18. according
    as reported or stated by
    According to the Guinness World Records, the longest paddle board journey on record is an eight-day, 345-mile trek up the Florida coast in 2007.Washington Times (Mar 20, 2016)
  19. author
    someone who originates or causes or initiates something
    The authors will turn you into a vegan by proving you can turn anything into a taco.Los Angeles Times (Mar 19, 2016)
  20. topic
    the subject matter of a conversation or discussion
    There has to be fun, and there have to be little acts that show you’re paying attention even when the topic isn’t weighty and deep.The Verge (Mar 12, 2016)
    For each passage, one question will always assess your understanding of the main idea of the passage. Do not depend solely on your prior knowledge of the topic. Enough information will be given for you to arrive at the correct answer.
  21. fact
    a statement of information about something that is the case
    Here they offer a show focusing on some truths that are stranger than fiction, like the fact that butterflies have taste sensors on their feet.New York Times (Mar 17, 2016)
    Other questions will ask about factual details and inferences that can be drawn. Ask yourself whether the question requires you to draw a conclusion or inference from statements in the passage or simply to identify a restatement of the facts.
  22. situation
    a condition or position in which you find yourself
    “In a situation like that, what can a parent do?” said Julia, the pain raw in her voice.Washington Times (Mar 20, 2016)
    Which of the following situations is most similar to the painful one that Julia is referring to?
  23. purpose
    what something is used for
    The one thing they did give us a lot of was rolls of toilet paper, which served many purposes.MSNBC (Mar 20, 2016)
  24. significance
    the quality of being important
    The significance of the number 27 comes from the number of years Nelson Mandela spent in prison.BBC (Feb 15, 2016)
  25. role
    what something is used for
    Mr Gething said the system had played a significant role in encouraging businesses to improve food hygiene standards.BBC (Mar 19, 2016)
  26. theory
    a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the world
    One theory of autism is that there is an imbalance in the brain’s connections, making some mental tasks confusing and difficult, and others enormously easy.Washington Post (Mar 17, 2016)
    Which of the following best summarizes the theory?
  27. opinion
    a message expressing a belief about something
    Mr Ravtaray is of the opinion that books have to reach India's "remote corners if we are to prosper as a society".BBC (Mar 18, 2016)
    Which of the following statements shows that the author agrees with Mr. Ravtaray's opinion?
  28. context
    the set of facts or circumstances that surround a situation
    With that context we see the delightful art from “Knuffle Bunny” in a more poignant and serious light.New York Times (Mar 17, 2016)
    According to the passage, what effect can contextual knowledge have on viewers' opinions of art?
  29. evidence
    means by which an alleged matter is established or disproved
    New evidence supports the theory that King Tut's tomb has a hidden chamber, according to experts.National Geographic
    What evidence does the author provide to support the last sentence of the passage?
  30. phrase
    an expression consisting of one or more words
    Schools are notorious for talking about finding children who are "a good fit," a phrase that fills parents with anxiety and confusion.Los Angeles Times (Mar 18, 2016)
    What meaning of the phrase “a good fit” (line 48) is least likely to fill parents with anxiety?
  31. notion
    a general inclusive concept
    This notion — that life is getting better, often in ways we are barely measuring — is fairly common in tech circles.New York Times (Mar 4, 2016)
    Which of the following statements supports the notion referred to in line 19?
  32. example
    an item of information that is typical of a class or group
    For example, the deaf use “train gone” to express mock pity; it’s the sign language equivalent of “you missed it.”Washington Times (Mar 18, 2016)
  33. support
    provide with evidence or authority or make more certain
    I have no evidence to support the previous sentence, but I say it with no fear it could be wrong.Salon (Mar 18, 2016)
    Which of the following statements is best supported by the passage?
    Which of the following statements is not supported by the passage?
  34. establish
    show the validity of something, as by example or explanation
    Mr. Ra said it was impossible to establish the exact sequence of events that led to Mr. Jang’s downfall.New York Times (Mar 12, 2016)
  35. prove
    establish the validity of something
    While the study found an association between rats in the neighborhood and depression, it wasn't designed to prove a cause-and-effect link between those factors.US News (Mar 17, 2016)
  36. provide
    give something useful or necessary to
    The school system promised to provide bottled water for all 190 of its buildings until those buildings could be renovated or replaced.Washington Post (Mar 18, 2016)
  37. undermine
    weaken or impair, especially gradually
    “Such rhetoric undermines who we are as a country and the example we set for the rest of the world,” she said.MSNBC (Mar 8, 2016)
    According to the passage, which of the following would be an example of rhetoric that would undermine the country?
  38. argue
    present reasons to support one's views
    Because of this, the study authors argue that genetic testing should not be used as a tool for improving people's health.The Verge (Mar 15, 2016)
    Which of the following arguments about genetic testing would the study authors most likely agree with?
  39. explain
    make plain and comprehensible
    "I recommend showering and washing your hair after being outside. Hair is a pollen magnet," he explained.US News (Mar 20, 2016)
  40. express
    communicate beliefs or opinions
    Being able to think and express yourself in a linear way is important, so when you lose that ability, you lose your sense of self.New York Times (Mar 17, 2016)
    Which of the following best expresses the author’s opinion regarding verbal expression?
  41. convey
    make known; pass on, of information
    That is all part of the museum’s mission to convey the magic of math to everyone.New York Times (Feb 1, 2016)
    What does the author intend to convey by the phrase “the magic of math" (line 3)?
  42. state
    express in words
    Voters directly elect 54 of the 71 delegates, and the loyalty of delegates isn’t plainly stated on the ballot.New York Times (Mar 19, 2016)
  43. mention
    make reference to
    In fact, “The Encyclopedia of New York City” made no mention of 1625 in its entry on Manhattan.New York Times (Mar 13, 2016)
    What is the most likely reason that the author mentioned the encyclopedia's Manhattan entry in the fourth paragraph?
  44. suggest
    imply as a possibility
    Although this study focused on adolescents between ages 12 and 15, other research suggests that a troubled sibling relationship might have repercussions well into adulthood.Time (Mar 17, 2016)
    Which of the following statements about the effect of sibling relationships is suggested by the passage?
  45. imply
    express or state indirectly
    Though it wasn’t said, the high price seems to imply that this would include debt.Wall Street Journal (Mar 10, 2016)
    The word “imply” means you must look for information to support an inference not directly stated.
  46. inference
    drawing a conclusion on the basis of circumstantial evidence
    As a species, one of our greatest strengths is our ability to find meaningful patterns in the world around us and to make causal inferences.Scientific American (Jul 27, 2015)
    Which of the following is the most reasonable inference about the ability to infer?
    This question asks for an inference based on information in the passage, but which is not directly stated.
  47. prefer
    like better; value more highly
    Eighty percent of those I have surveyed prefer spending time with their friends in person rather than on the phone or online.The Guardian (Mar 19, 2016)
  48. intend
    have in mind as a purpose
    It is possible to walk around the space and imagine what its architects intended.BBC (Mar 18, 2016)
  49. interpret
    make sense of; assign a meaning to
    Other countries interpreted the same luxury goods category to include such things as snowmobiles and certain makes of snow groomers.Washington Times (Mar 17, 2016)
    What can be inferred about the interpretation of the phrase "luxury goods" (line 50)?
  50. predict
    tell in advance
    There were signs that an eruption was coming, but no one predicted how big it would be.National Geographic (Mar 20, 2016)
  51. concern
    something that interests you because it is important
    “Safety should be the primary concern, but there needs to be something set in place so that there could be competition.”Washington Times (Mar 19, 2016)
  52. denote
    have as a meaning
    They were just four words, but they denoted something that led to a wonderful swerve in world history.Washington Post (Mar 7, 2016)
    According to the passage, what do the words "Tear down this wall" (line 87) denote in world history?
  53. depict
    give a description of
    The new guidelines depict high schools as hotbeds of extremism, where dangers lurk in every corner.Salon (Mar 6, 2016)
  54. describe
    give an account or representation of in words
    "No one considers the little people," said Gou, a petite woman who described her hands as small.Los Angeles Times (Mar 20, 2016)
    Which of the following best describes Guo's feeling about being small?
  55. demonstrate
    provide evidence for
    It demonstrates the grit and determination of these laborers, who put in 10-hour days, seven days a week, no matter what, all season long.New York Times (Jan 7, 1465)
  56. illustrate
    clarify by giving an example of
    In a 1975 paper called “The Meaning of ‘Meaning,’” Professor Putnam further illustrated his argument with a famous thought experiment called Twin Earth.New York Times (Mar 17, 2016)
  57. indicate
    give evidence of
    Both tests indicated the bear had been cut up by a human about 12,500 years ago.The Guardian (Mar 20, 2016)
  58. reveal
    make known to the public information previously kept secret
    Here, in order of coolness—insanely cool down to only slightly less cool—are the top five craziest things the papers reveal about Pluto.Time (Mar 18, 2016)
  59. include
    have as a part; be made up out of
    Fun features include a basketball half-court, a putting green and a secret room with a hidden passage and a thumbprint entry system.Los Angeles Times (Mar 19, 2016)
  60. examine
    consider in detail in order to discover essential features
    The film examines some of the world’s earliest known paintings, which cover the walls of the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave, in France.The New Yorker (Jan 12, 2016)
  61. emphasize
    stress or single out as important
    It emphasized the importance of recognizing, not erasing, school history.MSNBC (Mar 15, 2016)
  62. summarize
    present the main points in a concise form
    DuBois was given a daunting task: help summarize African-American life at the turn of the century for a curious world audience gathering at the exposition.Time (Feb 17, 2016)
  63. require
    have need of
    Paragraph by paragraph, it unspooled and required as little effort as watching a movie.The New Yorker (Mar 21, 2016)
  64. develop
    cause to grow and differentiate
    He grew up helping her in the kitchen — stirring sauces, reading recipes, measuring ingredients — all of which helped to develop his reading and math skills.Washington Times (Mar 19, 2016)
  65. characteristic
    typical or distinctive
    The fungus invades the skin of the bats and causes characteristic white markings on the face and wings.BBC (Mar 9, 2016)
    Which of the following is characteristic of a bat infected by fungus?
  66. cause
    any entity that produces an effect
    However, while the study found an association between growing up in a poor neighborhood and later obesity, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.US News (Mar 18, 2016)
  67. effect
    a phenomenon that is caused by some previous phenomenon
    Recent policies to improve air quality in the areas of New York City where the study participants live, for example, are already having an effect.Time (Mar 17, 2016)
  68. origin
    the source of something's existence or from which it derives
    It's a kind of origin story for painted eggs, chocolate animals, the Easter bunny.Los Angeles Times (Mar 18, 2016)
  69. function
    serve a purpose or role
    Confusion here functions as a sign of comprehension, since the baby would only be thrown off if he understood that something weird had taken place.Slate (Mar 21, 2016)
  70. contradict
    prove negative; show to be false
    “When we had information we made it public, but then sometimes we had to go back and say, we have new information that contradicts it.”New York Times (Mar 9, 2016)
  71. contrast
    the opposition or dissimilarity of things that are compared
    “Respect” is the choice word, the defining principle — a sharp contrast with “imperialism,” the term associated with the United States for more than 50 years.New York Times (Mar 20, 2016)
  72. comparison
    relation based on similarities and differences
    In contrast, human Go experts have their experience to rely on, but it is fuzzy by comparison.New York Times (Mar 12, 2016)
  73. consistent
    in agreement or reliable
    Some biographical details in the forms are not consistent with known information.The Guardian (Mar 10, 2016)
  74. parallel
    duplicate, correspond to, or match
    The wig fashions of England in the 17th and 18th centuries paralleled those of the French court.Time (Mar 14, 2016)
  75. aspect
    a characteristic to be considered
    Amid the scramble to attract more students, other aspects of the admission process are changing, too.Washington Times (Mar 21, 2016)
  76. feature
    a prominent attribute or aspect of something
    Even though the dinosaurs' bones were clearly tyrannosaur-like, certain features were unusual.The Verge (Mar 14, 2016)
  77. factor
    anything that contributes causally to a result
    There was no immediate information on the cause, although some news reports suggested weather could have been a factor.US News (Mar 18, 2016)
  78. influence
    have and exert an effect
    The Dalai Lama also reflected on how positive change could be made, starting with one person who can influence others.Washington Times (Mar 10, 2016)
  79. contribute
    be conducive to
    The goal is to find and fix household problems that contribute to childhood asthma.Washington Times (Mar 20, 2016)
    Which of the following features in a home would least likely contribute to asthma?
  80. accurate
    characterized by perfect conformity to fact or truth
    Then we can test how right or wrong we were and adjust later predictions to make them more accurate.Washington Post (Feb 12, 2016)
  81. precisely
    in a sharply exact manner
    As a number, it as approximately equal to 3.14159—approximately, because to pin it down precisely, the decimals would have to go on forever.Slate (Mar 14, 2016)
  82. apparent
    clearly revealed to the mind or the senses or judgment
    Gross says the smell typically doesn’t become apparent as winter nears its end because there’s normally more snow on the ground.Washington Times (Feb 19, 2016)
  83. possible
    capable of happening or existing
    Our growing understanding of the human genome makes it possible to come up with precisely targeted therapies for many diseases, not just cancer.US News (Mar 21, 2016)
  84. likely
    with considerable certainty; without much doubt
    It likely leached into the schools' water through lead pipes or other building fixtures made of lead or lead solder.US News (Mar 17, 2016)
    What is the most likely reason that the schools' water contained lead?
  85. essential
    of the greatest importance
    One of the essential responsibilities of our time—for everyone—is to exit ourselves sufficiently to enter “the Other” for the sake of understanding.Salon (Mar 20, 2016)
  86. primary
    of first rank or importance or value
    That’s the primary reason the world’s top computer scientists engage in these games—it helps drive major breakthroughs in technology, which in turn benefits society.Time (Mar 21, 2016)
    Which of the following is the primary reason that computer scientists play games?
  87. principal
    main or most important
    "I think it’s very impressive," says Murray Campbell, an IBM research scientist who was one of the principal creators of Deep Blue.The Verge (Mar 8, 2016)
    What is the principal goal of the scientific research described in the third paragraph?
  88. refer
    be relevant to
    The Age of Exploration refers to a period between the mid-15th and 17th centuries when European countries sought out global maritime trade routes.National Geographic (Mar 14, 2016)
    Questions 1 and 2 refer to the following information.
  89. determine
    find out or learn with certainty, as by making an inquiry
    She said elementary and middle school students were challenged to first have their robot approach the alien to determine if it was friend or foe.Washington Times (Mar 19, 2016)
    The answer cannot be determined from the information given.
  90. additional
    further or extra
    Some admissions committees will determine scholarship awards based on your application materials, while others may request additional materials.US News (Mar 16, 2016)
    Which of the following pieces of additional information makes it possible to determine who was awarded which scholarship?
  91. similar
    having the same or nearly the same characteristics
    Similar temperatures during spring and fall allow plants like kale, arugula and carrots to be planted during both times.Washington Times (Mar 12, 2016)
  92. relationship
    a state of connectedness between people
    “You develop a relationship with your work sometimes, and it makes you do strange things, think strange things.”Washington Times (Mar 20, 2016)
    To answer the logical reasoning questions correctly, it is important to understand the relationships or positions among the given people or objects.
  93. consecutive
    one after the other
    For the sixth consecutive year, the Honda Odyssey won Best Minivan for Families, the longest streak in the awards' history.US News (Mar 9, 2016)
    Six houses are next to one another on one side of Park Street. The houses are lettered L, M, N, P, Q, and R, consecutively.
  94. symbol
    something visible that represents something invisible
    If there’s a single symbol that represents the Internet Age, it’s the “@” sign.Time (Mar 7, 2016)
  95. represent
    take the place of or be parallel or equivalent to
    A large white circle with a red center represents the “O” for Ohio.New York Times (Mar 15, 2016)
    In the code below, (1) each letter always represents the same word, (2) each word is represented by only one letter, and (3) in any given sentence, the letters may or may not be presented in the same order as the words.
  96. strategy
    an elaborate and systematic plan of action
    As you update your test-taking strategies, also consider the circumstances in which you would retake the SAT.US News (Mar 21, 2016)
    The most important strategy is to read the information carefully and make no assumptions that are not supported by the given information. Certain words must be read carefully. For example, between cannot be assumed to mean between and right next to; other things may be between these two objects as well. The same may be true of words such as above, below, before, and after.
  97. definitely
    without question and beyond doubt
    "If the city doesn't have enough money to hire teachers and pay them well, it will definitely impact how students learn," Aldeman says.US News (Mar 18, 2016)
    Another good strategy is to look for information that is definitely stated, such as, “The red box is the largest,” or “Jane is not standing next to Erik.” This information makes it easier to determine the relative relationships.
  98. probably
    with considerable certainty; without much doubt
    “Definitely, we have contrasting styles, and whoever is able to impose their will of their style will probably have an easier game.”Washington Times (Mar 18, 2016)
  99. valid
    well grounded in logic or truth or having legal force
    But, "How much is too much?" is a valid question.The Verge (Mar 1, 2016)
    There are different types of logical reasoning questions: figuring out codes, determining the relative positions of things or people, identifying correct assumptions, and drawing valid conclusions.
  100. conclusion
    the proposition arrived at by logical reasoning
    “That being said, until we know what is going to be there, we really can’t jump to conclusions.”Washington Times (Mar 14, 2016)
    Based only on the information above, which of the following is a valid conclusion?

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