From Teresa’s Making Light comes this arcane and daedal test consisting of 200 pairs of words that must be marked as either (approximately) the same in meaning or (approximately) opposite. (They don’t mark off for wrong answers, they just tell you the number you got right and list the ones you got wrong, so you can go back and review them; I urge you to take advantage of their “wild guess” column to mark the ones you’re not sure of, so that you can find out which of your guesses were lucky ones.) It takes a while and is humbling—I have a damn good vocabulary, but I had to guess more often than I was at all comfortable with—but it will increase your word power (if you follow it up with the use of a good dictionary to remedy your blank spots). One caveat: I strongly disagree with item 159, based on the fact that I know perfectly well what each term means but got it wrong anyway; it’s simply too ambiguous to be a useful item. (Also, if you have the same problem I did reading one of the words in 169, use View Source.) But never mind that; for anyone who loves vocabulary, it’s a blast!


  1. So (she holds her hand over her test results) what did you get?

  2. Er… 193. But I did have some lucky guesses.

  3. !

    170, also with some lucky guesses.

  4. 188… but two of the answers I missed were from me checking the wrong collumn by mistake. I hate long tests! (Of course some of my RIGHT answers could also be mistakes…)

    I got 159 wrong as well (it’s all a matter of perspective!), and there were some other questions with similar problems. This is frequently the case on tests like this one.

  5. 170–great fun!
    Especially felicitous pairing in which I can define both words:
    stentorian and murmurous
    Especially felicitous pairing in which I can define neither:
    aporia and dubiety
    (I’m not sure I want to know what they mean–they have such delightful definitions in my head.)

  6. Huge fun! 181, and feeling very chuffed until I realised 22 were wild guesses of which 14 just happened to be correct, meaning 11 which I thought I knew I got wrong. So the score should really be 167. Very chastening indeed to be thoroughly thrased by a 14-year-old so I’ve decided to believe his entry was faked!

  7. qb: Yeah, I’ve been wondering about that too. When I took the test, I thought “no way anybody could possibly get 200; if for no other reason, anyone who would know the contango- backwardation pair probably wouldn’t know the more literary words. Then I saw the “winners” list, with several 200s, and I thought “well, I guess there are those people who just memorize the dictionary the way Scrabble pros memorize word lists, and it makes sense that one of them is a (doubtless terminally geeky) 14-year-old.” But then I thought “Well, it’s on the honor system, and I’m sure there are people who would lie about it just to be on top.” So now I don’t know what to think.

    As for your score, no, it should be just what it is. The rules are the rules. It’s like the SAT; one way people get high scores is by guessing when they can eliminate an answer they know is wrong, because then the odds are in their favor. And look, we probably all hit the wrong button at least once and got one “wrong” when we knew the answer perfectly well. So your score is your score and your vocabulary is your vocabulary, and the relationship is strong but not direct. As it were. Anyway, congrats, 181 is very good indeed!

  8. I got 179, doing it fairly rapidly. It’s very humbling to realize you don’t know what “contumely” means, despite having seen the word before. I still don’t know what it means! I guess I’m just too darned backwardly.

  9. I came to the party late, but appreciated the chance to join the fun. I got 180, with my share of lucky wild guesses, and agree with LH that #159 was poorly framed. But I was surprised when I went to the results page and read the percentile rankings calculated from the first 150 respondents. Surprised at the tiny range of scores separating the 75th percentile (175) from the 25th (161), and also surprised that the median score was 169. That must reflect the self-selected population of people who took the test; I find it hard to believe that the median score for the general population would be so high, or the range so tight.

  10. 180. I’m amazed at the number of names in the top 100 that are not native speakers of English. That’s an acomplishment. I guess we need to make the spelling even harder…

  11. excellent

  12. it’s marvelous

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