Page 1 Word Knowledge Study Guide for the ASVAB

How to Prepare for the ASVAB Word Knowledge Test

General Information

The Word Knowledge section of the ASVAB test measures your knowledge of vocabulary. It is considered one of the four most important sections on the exam because the backbone of military operations is built on verbal and written orders. To have a successful military career, clear communication skills are a must, whether you are asking for supplies or applying for an advancement.

Parts of the Word Knowledge Exam

In this section of the ASVAB exam, you may encounter these two types of questions:

Straight Definition of a Given Word

These questions ask for the literal definition to a word. For example, the question might ask:

Cursory most nearly means:


The correct answer would be hasty because cursory means “not thought through or detailed.”

Note that in both kinds of word knowledge questions, you are asked to find the word that most nearly means the same. None of the answers may seem to be an exact match, but you must pick the one that is the best choice.

Emphasized Word (underlined or italicized)

These questions ask you to decipher the meaning of a word used in a sentence. In these questions, you are not looking for an exact definition but rather a similar or related word. For example, you might encounter an item like this:

Choose the word that means nearly the same as the italicized word in this sentence:

“Karen was feeling very melancholy that afternoon.”


The correct option in this case would be bummed. It is not the exact definition of melancholy (which is defined as a feeling of sadness with no apparent cause), but it is the closest of the options presented.