Question Type 4: Closest Meaning Questions

Eleven-Plus Preparation Specialists

These questions rely heavily on your vocabulary. You’ll need to have done lots of reading in advance, and done vocab exercises that help you understand different types of words.

What does this question type involve?

Here, you will be given either one or two groups of words, and then have to choose the two words that are closest in meaning.

Type 4: Closest Meaning

These questions ask you to find the two words that are closest in meaning. You may be given one group to choose from or two. In fact, there are some different variations on this question type. The first variation is two sets of words in brackets, and you must pick out a word from each that is synonymous. The next variation involves you being given a particular word, and then having to choose a word from the list that is similar to it. You might also be given a word in a sentence – i.e. in context – and then asked to find the word that matches up with it from a group.

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Example questions

(sea, lake, river) (stream, bath, cup)

Answer: river, stream

Here, you need to realise that two words mean running water – the river and the stream.

Find the word most similar to SLANDER

Lie, prejudice, support, hinder, help, stop

Answer: Lie

To slander someone is to make a false statement about them – in other words, to lie.

Find the word most similar to the word capitalised in the sentence.

Over the hills there was a faint, almost IMPERCEPTIBLE haze.

Heavy, thin, thick, impossible, indiscernible

Here, the answer is indiscernible, which means hard to see or impossible to make out – as does imperceptible.

The R-TAF Approach to Finding Similar Words

This is a vocabulary question where you need to spot synonyms. Therefore, your approach should be focused on finding similarity. This approach is the same as that used for Type 2 Questions, so it should be easy to remember.

R-TAF stands for read, type, associations and form.

The first thing to do is read all the words, and ensure that you understand each. If you don’t understand one, then come back to it as needed as you work through the question.

Next, you need to consider what type of thing each word is. Is one of the words an emotion, and although you’re not quite sure what, you’re sure that the word you’ve been given is one? If so, perhaps you’ve found the clue that you need. However, it’s likely that you might need to think further than this. The next step is considering what the word means.

We’ll call the meanings of words their associations so that we can keep the same approach. So, in the example above, the association I make with ‘imperceptible’ is that something is hard to see – in fact, this is emphasised for us by the use of the word ‘faint’ as well, which we can use as a clue.

Lastly, if you’re still struggling, you can use the form of the words. Check whether they’re nouns, or verbs, or adjectives, or perhaps even adverbs. If you’ve struggled to pin down an answer so far, this could be your best solution. Look at the endings of the words – words ending in ‘ed’ for example are likely verbs, while words ending in ‘ly’ are likely adverbs. Perhaps this could be a simple way of finding the answer. 

Worked Example

Find the word most similar to the word capitalised in the sentence.

The lion was a powerful, MAJESTIC beast, rippling with muscle and energy.

Options: powerful, stately, mean, calculating, massive

Here, we begin by reading the sentence as a whole to get an idea of the context. It’s clear that a sense of power is the main takeaway. So, even if we don’t know what majestic means, we have an idea of what it could mean. Next, we look at the type of word. Let’s imagine that we don’t know what majestic means, and we’re not quite sure therefore what type of word it is either. We have to move on to associations. When I see ‘majestic’ and think of associations, I realise that I think of something majestic as something royal. That means something dignified and perhaps somehow above others. Looking back at the options, I see that stately is an option, so I can choose that. 

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Top Tricks

If you don’t know a word, don’t panic. Use the context to inform you and make a best guess using that.

Common Pitfalls

The most common error is panicking if you’re not sure of an exact definition. Remember, the options are there for you, you simply need to choose one. 


In summary, you need a good vocabulary to excel here. Use the approach above and make a decision that fits with the information you have. If in doubt, make an educated guess and move on to the next question – you may not know all the words, and sometimes exact definitions can be difficult.
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