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Tricky Words in TOEFL (Video)

Tricky Words in TOEFL (Video)


English is full of words that look like other words, and so can be confusing. In this video, Lucas Fink, the TOEFL guy at Magoosh, focuses on four words that may perplex test-takers.


(to) mushroom

This verb takes its meaning from the way mushrooms grow: quickly. Some large mushrooms appear in just one night! When someone says that something mushroomed, he or she means that it became very large or common very quickly.

Here’s an example:

Since the invention of the smartphone, internet access across the world has mushroomed.

In other words, many people had internet access very suddenly. The number of people grew quickly!

(to be) minute

This word is interesting because even the pronunciation is different from the more common noun (the short period of time). This adjective is pronounced “my newt”, not “minit”.

If an object or detail is minute, it is extremely small, possibly unnoticeable. Here is an example:

Unfortunately for her students, the professor noticed even the most minute mistakes in essays that she graded.

Check out: 11 Tips to Score High on Language Tests

(a) medium

Although this looks like the word to describe middle size, its meaning is completely different. A medium is a method or way of expressing something. That is pretty general, so let’s start with a specific usage that is pretty common:

The artist used finger paint as his medium to remind the viewer of childhood. In that sentence, “finger paint” (using your fingers instead of a brush) is the method that the painter uses to create his art.

(to be) novel

Once again, this word is unrelated to the word that it looks like—it’s not a book that tells a story. Instead, it is much closer to the Latin root word, which means “new.”

Usually, when we say something is “novel”, we mean that it’s not only new, but interesting and creative. Here is an example:

The scientist devoted her career to discovering novel uses for the plastic that people threw away.

As you see, there are many tricky words that could confuse you if you are not prepared. The best solution is, of course, to practise and expand your vocabulary.


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