Alexis Avila of Prepped & Polished, talks about how students can master ISEE synonyms.

One of the trickiest sections on the Independent School Entrance Examination, the ISEE test, especially for non-native English speakers, is the synonym section. But with a bit of help, learning tricks, and strategies, you can easily make the ISEE synonyms section your most improved section.

The first thing that you want to do is you want to come up with the definition of the word before you look at the distracting answer choices. So it’s okay if you don’t know the exact dictionary definition of each synonym; as long as you can get the general essence of the word, you’ll be in great shape. So, you do that by looking at the word’s roots.


In the word excavate, there are two roots in this word; ex means exit, and cav, the root of cav, means hull. Now, if you don’t know the roots of a word, you can still get the question right; try this approach. You might know that excavate is not a positive word, like happy, and it’s not a negative word like terror; it’s actually a neutral charge word, so if you know that, put a neutral, a plus, and minus, in parenthesis right next to the word, and when you go to your answer choices, you’re going to eliminate any word that is not a neutral word.

Okay, so now that you came up with some roots of the word and you figured out that excavate is a neutral charge word, let’s eliminate some choices. Now we can eliminate, infect, choice A, which is a negative word, and we can eliminate C, pardon, which is a positively charged word, leaving us with display and uncover. We will go with choice D because uncover closely mirrors the word excavate.

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