Traps to Look Out For on the Synonym Section of the ISEE/SSAT Tests

The synonym section of the ISEE/SSAT tests is very challenging due to the difficult vocabulary, as well as the traps that the test-makers include to confuse you. The first trap to look out for is the Secondary Part of Speech Trap. Sometimes the word has a secondary meaning when it is used in a different part of speech. For example, words can be both a noun and a verb, and have different meanings depending on their part of speech. 



  1. Receive Support
  2. Raise Money
  3. Win a Prize
  4. Get a Promotion

“Benefit” as a noun is a big party to raise money for a cause, or it could also mean something that you win, like a perk. But you can see that all the answer choices are verbs, and they are trying to trick you with an answer choice like “Raise Money,” when the answer choice should actually be “Receive Support” when this word is in its verb form. 

Let’s try another one: 



  1. Make Something
  2. Take Away
  3. Speak Loudly
  4. Repair Something

You may have first thought of “project” as the noun form of the word, which would be something you create. But look again and you’ll see that all of the answer choices are verbs. The verb form of “project” can still have multiple meanings, but only answer choice “Speak Loudly” relates to the verb form of the word. Answer choice “Make Something” is there to trap you because it relates to the wrong part of speech (the noun meaning of the word). Don’t get caught in these part of speech traps. 

Homophone Traps

Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation but different spellings, and most importantly, different meanings. This is a common trap. 



  1. Moral
  2. Leader
  3. Chief
  4. Respect

They are hoping that you will confuse the word “principle” with “principal,” and choose either “chief” or “leader.”

Related Word Traps

Common wrong answer choices are words that relate to the stem word, but are not actually synonyms of it. The test-makers hope that you will rush through the section and pick words that your brain associates with the stem word, but on further reflection, you can see they are not acceptable answer choices. 



  1. Marry
  2. Promise
  3. Desire
  4. Capture

Why do you think they include “marry” as an answer choice, when the correct answer is “promise?” Most students will think of wedding vows when they see the stem word, so that answer choice is there to trap you. 

In summary, it is very important to be aware of traps. Be on the lookout for Secondary Part of Speech, Homophone, and Related Word traps. Our ISEE and SSAT test prep program is customized to address each child’s individual strengths and weaknesses, and we will develop a customized preparation plan to arm your child with powerful and up-to-date strategies for all sections of the test. 

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