Reading Skills: Guessing New Words from Context


Today's lesson is about a long-term reading habit that will help you:

  • Learn and remember new vocabulary more quickly.
  • Increase your overall reading skills and grammar.
  • Gain a tool that will help you figure out the meaning of difficult words on the IELTS Reading Test.


The habit is called Guessing New Words from Context, and if you start practicing it today then you will probably start to see benefits within the next couple of weeks.

Warning: if your IELTS test is next week and you're just looking for quick tips, this lesson is not going to help you (however, there are other lessons on the site for that.) This lesson is really for people who have the time and motivation to practice a new habit whenever they read in English. If you are someone like that, then enjoy the lesson, and send me an email in a month when you notice your reading skills improving!

The lesson is broken up into two videos below. The first video is about 8 minutes, the second is about 5 minutes. After that, we will do some practice! So please set aside 15-20 minutes for this lesson.

Start the first video below to begin. Enjoy your new habit!



Guessing New Words from Context: Summary


So now you have a new reading skill to practice: Guessing New Words from Context.

Now, you need to make this skill into a permanent habit in all your English reading. If you do, it will help you learn and remember new words, it will increase your reading skills and grammar, and, it will give you an important tool that you can use on the IELTS Reading Test to quickly guess hte meaning of difficult words.

But remember: it is very important to practice this until it becomes easy and natural, and it is very important to do it in the correct order! Do you remember?

guessing new words from context steps

Step 1: See if the word has any prefixes or suffixes. They can often help you guess more difficult words.

  • Our next lesson is about affixes, and will help you with this step!

Step 2: Look at the sentence and the grammar around the word. Is the word a noun, a verb, an adjective or something else? If it is a noun, is it the subject of the sentence, or is it part of the object? If it is a verb, what’s the subject?

Step 3: Think about the overall meaning of the paragraph and article. Does the word seem important? Is it positive, or negative? Is it a scientific word, part of some research?

Step 4: [if you are practicing at home] Check a dictionary to see how close you were. Again, it is not important to guess exactly correctly! Sometimes your guesses will be wrong, and that’s fine; a bad guess STILL helps you to remember the correct definition of a word.

Practice your new habit whenever you get the chance! Whether you're reading books, magazines, websites or texts, this habit is going to help enhance your vocabulary and make you a better reader.

Why don't we get some practice with it right now? Let's go.


Let’s Get Some Practice!

Read the following paragraph, and identify any words or expressions that you don't know. Then, answer the questions below the paragraph to try guessing new words from their context. Make sure you look for affixes first, then grammar/the sentence, then think about the overall meaning.


IQ Tests Still Used, Despite Growing Evidence

Even though many companies still use the IQ test to assess cognitive aptitude, most experts now agree that it doesn’t give the full picture of a person’s intelligence. Intelligence is made up of more than just academic skills and logic; it consists of an array of different abilities, such as musical ability, spatial recognition, physical abilities, emotional intelligence, and social skills as well. Consequently, some people who score very well on an IQ test may not actually excel in other areas of their life. Nevertheless, IQ tests continue to be used to determine intelligence of job applicants.

So that's it. Remember, if you practice this habit a lot, it will help you remember new vocabulary better, and it will steadily improve your reading skills. But you have to practice it!

Check out Guessing New Words from Context part 2: Affixes to learn about prefixes and suffixes and increase your skills even more.


Have a great day.