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guessing meaning from context

Guessing meaning from context in the IELTS exam is an important technique that will improve your reading skills and the speed with which you can read.

Obviously you do not have a dictionary in the exam so there are likely to be a lot of words from the reading text that you do not understand and you cannot check.

If you come across a word you do not understand, then you cannot spend a lot of time working out its meaning because you only have 20 minutes for each reading.

Therefore, guessing meaning from context is necessary.

This means work out what it means (or have a good guess at least) from the words that are around it and from the topic of the paragraph.

Take a look at this example:

It had been raining hard through the night so the ground was saturated.

What does ‘saturated’ mean?

You may already know, but if you do not, you should be able to have a good guess from the rest of the sentence.

It had been raining which means the ground must be wet. It was raining ‘hard’ so this means the ground is probably very wet.

saturated = completely wet

By doing this you are guessing meaning from context and you should try and use this technique for words you do not know.

It may not always be clear from the actual sentence and you may have to look at other sentences around the word.

However, only do this for words that seem important for an understanding of the text. If it looks like they are not, then leave it and move on with the reading. You probably won’t have time to do it with every word, especially if you are at a lower reading level.

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