EXAM COUNTDOWN – STRATEGIES AND ADVICE
PAPER 1: Reading and Use of English PART 3: Word Formation
*This is a task with eight gaps, based on a text of between 150-170 words
This is a test of your ability in word formation. The focus is on vocabulary and the formation of words from a root, using prefixes and suffixes, internal changes and compound words. There may also be a grammatical element (such as plural forms, verb tenses and participles) to the changes that need to be made. Some of the words you have to form may be part of fixed expressions or collocations.
You may be given a noun and have to transform it into a verb, or produce an adjective from a noun. It is important that you know the meaning and the functions of the many different prefixes (e.g. un/in/dis/re-) and suffixes (e.g. -ally/ion/able/ment) and that you are familiar with compounds (e.g. worldwide/outcome/downsize).
Always read the title and the whole text carefully, ignoring the gaps for the moment, to get an overview of the topic and to understand the main points of each paragraph or group of sentences.
Use your knowledge of grammar to understand what part of speech the missing word is (e.g. noun, verb, adjective, adverb) and think through the range of possible affixes, negative prefixes and suffixes.
Look carefully at the way the sentence is constructed to decide whether the missing word should be positive or negative. Look for evidence of two opposing ideas. When the root presents several possible derivatives, look at the context carefully to check that you have the derivative with the correct meaning. Remember that more than one change to the stem word can often be required.
Let’s look at the verb DECIDE and it’s derivatives. Look at these two sentences and think about syntax.
- The people couldn’t believe that once again their Prime Minister was shown to be a weak and ___________ leader.
- Even after she had asked her friends and family for advice, Nadine was still ____________ whether to go to college or not.
In both sentences we need an adjective. Here are the possibilities……
….now think about semantics. We can see from the meaning and construction of the sentences that we need a negative adjective in both. Now check the meaning of both derivatives.
a) undecided: (not before a noun) not having made a decision about something important
b) indecisive: 1. unable to make clear decisions or choices 2. not having a clear result
ANSWERS 1(b) 2(a)
Now look at these two sentences and think about syntax:
- Due to internal disagreement there were weeks of __________ about who would get the promotion and when.
- It was a maddening trait of his, this __________, which in his case was complicated by his extreme politeness.
This time we need a noun in both sentences. Here are the possibilities:
…The semantics tell us that we need a negative noun in both sentences.
a) indecision: the state of being unable to decide what to do
b) indecisiveness: describing a person’s inability to make clear decisions or choices
ANSWERS 1(a) 2(b)
To sum up, don’t forget these TOP TIPS:
1) Analyse the text on two levels: SYNTAX and SEMANTICS
2) Check to see if the word is plural or singular
3) Remember the root word ALWAYS has to be changed
4) Brainstorm the root word to see how many forms you can think of…
5) Remember….TIMING. Don’t let the clock tick away for the want of ONE WORD. Take an educated guess.