Vocabulary Test Results

Here are some of the words on national vocabulary tests, and the proportion of students at each grade who understood their meaning.

Grade 4

75 percent or more recognized the meaning of these words: created, spread, underestimate

From 50 percent to 74 percent recognized the meaning of these words: breakthrough, cleared, clenched, gaze, models, outraged, poses, puzzled, sparkle, staggering, striking, suggested

49 percent or less recognized the meaning of these words: barren, detected, eerie, flourish, prestigious

Grade 8

75 percent or more recognized the meaning of these words: anecdotes, edible, enticing, grimace, icons, motivate, replicate, specialty

From 50 percent to 74 percent recognized the meaning of these words: concocted, embedded, laden, permeated, pressed, responsible, solace, tolerate, vast, wistful

49 percent or less recognized the meaning of these words: urbane

Grade 12

75 percent or more recognized the meaning of these words: anecdotes, capitalize, prospective, prospered, reimburse

From 50 percent to 74 percent recognized the meaning of these words: articulate, mitigate, proactive, self-possessed

49 percent or less recognized the meaning of these words: delusion, urbane

Note: For 12th grade, the vocabulary test was administered only in 2009, and so has fewer words.


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Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress

Sample Vocabulary Questions

For eighth-graders

From a passage of "Mint Snowball" by Naomi Shihab Nye:

"My mother had watched my great-grandfather make the syrup so often she thought she could replicate it. But what did he have in those little unmarked bottles? She experimented."

Q: On page 2, the author says that her mother "thought she could replicate" the great-grandfather's mint syrup. This means the author's mother thought she could

a. buy back the mint syrup recipe

b. make mint syrup that tasted like his

c. remember how the mint syrup tasted

d. make a better mint syrup than his.

For 12th-graders

From "Capitalizing on the Cognitive Niche," by Bill Gates:

"By embracing the digital age, we can accelerate the positive effects and mitigate the challenges, such as privacy and have-vs.-have-not."

Q: On page 1, the author says that we can mitigate the challenges of the digital age. He is suggesting that we can

a. expand research studies of technological problems

b. look forward to many technological advances

c. lessen the problems caused by technology

d. increase public awareness of technology

Correct answers are b (chosen by 89 percent of eighth-graders) and c (chosen by 50 percent of 12th-graders)