The Ecphorizer

The Vocabulary Gradient Test
Ed van Vleck

Issue #03 (November 1981)


This test is based on well known principles of vocabulary development. It allows you to estimate the number of "words" (in the sense of distinct dictionary entries) that you know, and to compare your vocabulary score with the general population.

[quoteleft'/>It begins at approximately the 6,000 word level and increases steadily in difficulty to well over the 400,000 word level. (It is not known how many words there are in the English language, but it is probably over a million.)

To determine your score, count the number right "R" and the number wrong "W" and compute your "adjusted percentage score"

A = 2xR - 1/2xW

If an item is unfamiliar it may be to your advantage to guess whenever at least one alternative choice can be ruled cut.

An adjusted score of about 30% corresponds to the population median (i.e. 50% score above, and 50% score below 30%). The test is "tapered" in such a way that each item is (approximately) 10% rarer (harder) than its predecessor: thus, the difficulty builds up at a "compound" (exponential) rate. A typical pattern for a testee is to get every item correct up to, say #25, and then to miss nearly every word beyond that point.

The highest adjusted score so far recorded was 83.2%, for a vocabulary of over 200,000 words. An interesting aspect of vocabulary tests is that a dictionary can be "tested': the scores on the Vocabulary Gradient Test of some popular dictionaries have been included in the score interpretation chart to help you interpret your score. Many of those tested were surprised to discover that they know more words than are in the fabled Oxford English Dictionary. (Of course, that does not mean they would know every word in it!)

Although the vocabulary size estimates are believed to be quite reliable, the population percentile chart has been derived by testing only 55 subjects (30 above 132 I.Q. and 25 above 148 I.Q.) and by accepting published literature on the population mean and median; therefore, it should only be considered an approximation.

How many words does one reed to know? Kocera and Francis performed an heroic computer analysis of English text ("Corpus") whose results we may use to make some estimates. If one reads at the speed of the average high school graduate (350 words per minute) one will read one million words in 47.6 hours of reading. In a million words of (widely varied) reading one will have encountered 50,406 different words! Since a fairly "literate" person might read a billion words in a lifetime it would clearly be convenient to have a recognition vocabulary of more than 50,000 words -- perhaps 75,000 or 100,000. (As a matter of interest, note that our literate man would encounter the word "the" 70 million times, "he" 9.4 million times, and "she" 2.8 million times; the words the, of, and, to, a, in, that, is, was, and he together actually account for 25% of all running words in English.)

1. GRIEF is an extreme form of
(a) horror (b) sadness (c) joy (d) anger (e) injury

2. A CAWING noise is made by a
(a) meadowlark (b) crow (c) katydid (d) hummingbird (e) elephant

3. There was a RUMBLE.
(a) buzzing noise (b) clear, piping note (c) deep rolling noise
(d) harsh, clattering noise (e) soft, gurgling noise

4. A TRIAL is
(a) a pathway (b) a legal procedure (c) difficulty with parents (d) a jury
(e) a criminal conviction

5. He believed in ACUPUNCTURE treatment. It uses
(a) blood letting (b) scalpels (c) hot cups applied to the back (d) leeches
(e) needles

6. He DISAPPROVED the proposal. That is, he
(a) accepted it (b) delayed it (c) turned it down (d) sponsored it (e) ignored it

7. He MOORED the boat. (a) secured it (b) got it stuck in mud (c) freed it from entanglements (d) started up the motor (e) cleaned the keel

8. He was RESPECTFUL of his father. That is, he
(a) loved him (b) carefully considered his wishes (c) berated him (d) ignored him
(e) talked down to him

9. The cab was for HIRE.
(a) for sale (b) available for rental (c) for private use (d) inexpensive
(e) for station transfers only

10. They said he was EFFEMINATE. That is, he was
(a) hypermale (b) homosexual (c) foolish acting (d) unmanly (e) old fashioned

11. A form of EXTRASENSORY PERCEPTION. (a) reminiscence (b) clairvoyance (c) dreaming (d) hypnosis (e) hyperactivity

12. He UNDERVALUED her.
(a) underbid her (b) esteemed her too low (c) cheated her
(d) dealt with her under the table (e) despised her

13. He used a MICROPIPETTE it helped him to
(a) air cool his dentist's drill (b) simulate bird calls (c) smoke small quantities of hashish (d) measure minute volumes of liquids (e) measure small voltages inside biological cells

14. He kept the data in a RING BINDER.
(a) account took (b) accordion folder (c) jewelry box (d) spiral note took (e) loose leaf note book

15. He appeared to call for EXTREMISM.
(a) communism (b) radicalism (c) final rites (d) progressiveness (e) violence

16. He obtained a LANYARD.
(a) whistle (b) gold ornament (c) recommendation (d) furlough (e) rope

17. A MOUSER got rid of the mice.
(a) rat poison (b) cat (c) exterminator (d) mouse plague (e) patented trap

18. She was a DO-GOODER.
(a) radical liberal (b) charitable alms-giver (c) rich philanthropist (d) Pollyanna
(e) rather impractical humanitarian

19. He held his SHAKO. (a) hat (b) pistol (c) sword (d) mixed drink
(e) dance position

20. He created a SPECTACLE. (a) a successful party (b) a telescope's objective lens (c) an embarassing public display (d) a commotion (c) a fireworks exhibition

21. He began to have FLESHLY ideas. Ca) greedy (b) carnivorous
(c) well thought out (d) vivid (e) sensual

22. A palm FROND.
(a) nut (b) leaf (c) thatch (d) oil (e) trunk

23. He worked as a PENNER. That is, he
(a) guarded a prison (b) counterfeited money (c) fountain pens
(d) put animals in pens (e) wrote jokes

24. He was dominated by his PURISM.
(a) fear of contamination (b) pride in his racial heritage (c) abhorrence of food additives (d) voluntary sexual abstinence (e) exactness in the use of words

25. The sea displayed its LUMINESCENCE.
(a) rainbow reflections (b) green and blue hues (c) albedo (d) cold light
(e) colorful flying fishes

26. He searched for BONITO. (a) shark (b) tuna (c) mackerel (d) mahi-mahi
(e) salmon

27. She watched them BRACHIATE. (a) mate (b) pick lice
(c) swing from limb to limb (d) walk upright (e) protect their territory

28. The garment was BOUCLE.
(a) of looped yarn (b) of musk ox hair (c) buttoned in front
(d) a "book and key" design motif (e) of angora

29. A CRETACEOUS rock
(a) was formed during the last ice age (b) is found principally in Crete (c) is usually of a chalky consistency (d) usually contains crab and lobster fossils
(e) was formed by gradual concretion of sand particles

30. HELIOGABALUS was
(a) Alexander's horse (b) a Phoenician lawgiver (c) the Greek god of medicine
(d) the temple of Egypt's sun god Aton (e) a profligate Roman emperor

31. Which of the following is GEOCARPIC?
(a) peanut (b) pea (c) pomegranate (d) strawberry (e) bean

32. He bought a GRAVICEMBALO.
(a) an escritoire (b) a sculpted silver salt cellar (c) an antique ladderback chair
(d) a harpsichord (e) an ornate bookstand

33. He believed in METEMPSYCHOSIS.
(a) faith healing (b) transmigration of souls (c) homeopathic medicine
(d) psychoanalysis (e) immortality of the soul

34. He particularly liked MINESTRA.
(a) well-aged wine (b) rich vegetable soup (c)medieval church music
(d) Sicilian folk songs (e) Italy's Mediterranean shore

35. The term CLASSICAL ECONOMICS includes the works of all but
(a) Adam Smith (b) Robert Owen (c) Jeremy Bentham (d) Thomas Malthus
(e) David Ricardo

36. He used a BIROTA.
(a) a concealable revolver (b) a soft, jaunty bat (c) an ornate dagger
(d) a Roman mule cart (e) a harsh pronunciation of "r"

37. Don't IMPIGNORATE your house.
(a) paint (b) rent (c) fix up (d) mortgage (e) sell

38. He MACERATED the leaves.
(a) mashed (b) buried (c) incinerated (d) steeped (e) raked

39. In the Volsunga saga, GRIMIHILD was
(a) Wotan' s mother (b) a sorceress, and mother of two (c) queen of the Valkyries (d) Sigurd's bride (e) Niobe's only daughter

40. A CHEVAL VAPEUR is
(a) a horse-drawn streetcar (b) a horse power (c) a professional groom
(d) a race between a horse and a steam engine or car (e) a hard-driving jockey

41. The stream was PRETERLABENT.
(a) safe for drinking (b) extremely turbulent (c) beautifully moonlit
(d) smoothly flowing by (e) nearly dried up

42. One of the following is an example of DIPLASIASMUS.
(a) innoculate (b) apreciate (c) direktor (d) recieve (e) coop

43. He broke her DAEDALID vase.
(a) Attic, 7th century B.C. (b) Chinese, 2nd century A.D. (c) Roman, 3rd century A.D. (d) Etruscan, no date, preRoman (e) Minoan, 10th century B.C.

44. REFOCILLIATION was clearly needed. (a) refreshment (b) reorientation (c) redefinition (d) additional funding (e) starting over anew

45. He blessed the ANTIDORON. (a) elder (b) baptismal water (c) infant (d) bread (e) wine

46. His MYCTERISM was excessive. (a) superstitious mumbo-jumbo (b) carping and complaining (c) hyperactivity (d) caution (e) jeering

47. He collected a fine specimen of LEPIDOMELANE. (a) the bacillus of leprosy (b) a large, black migratory butterfly (c) a rare black orchid (d) a mica-like rock containing much iron (e) a jungle bird noted for the gorgeous, iridescent, metallic colors of its plumage

48. The species is EDAPHIC. Ca) becoming extinct (b) localized (c) selfpollinating (d) widely dispersed geographically (e) adapting to present conditions

49. He found ASARABACCA. (a) aromatic birthwort (b) Arabic headdresses (c) a genus of the tobacco family (d) remote trading post near the Atlas mountains

50. ISOALLOXAZINE is used to make (a) tranquillizers (b) niacin (c) cholesterol (d) DDT (e) riboflavin


Adj. Score %

TNS Sample %ile

HIQ Sample %ile


Words (000)

Gen. Pop. %ile



Comments

30

2.5

1

27

43

• Triple Nine Society (TNS) Low Score 30.8

32

3.5

1.4

29.5

48

 

34

4.5

2.1

31.6

53

 

36

6

3

34.5

57

 

38

8

3.6

37.5

62

• Mensa 1978 Low Score 37.6

40

11

5

40

68

• Mensa 1979 Low Score 40.0

42

12

6.5

44

72

• Intl Soc for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) Low Score 42.4

44

13

7.1

47.5

78

 

46

16

8.5

51

85

 

48

20

10

55

88

 

50

30

13

60

92

 

52

40

19

65

95

 

54

42

24

70

96.5

• Webster's New Collegiate

56

52

40

76

98.2

• TNS Median 55.4

58

62

44

83

98.9

• Mensa 1978 Median Score 56.8

60

68

61

90

99.4

• Mensa 1979 Median Score 60.4

62

80

69

98

99.85

• Oxford English dictionary

64

82

78

105

99.95

• ISPE Median Score 64

66

83

84

115

99.985

 

68

86

89

123

99.992

• Mensa High Score

70

88

92

132

99.999

 

72

90

93

145

 

74

91

93.5

157

• ISPE High Score and Random House Unabridged Dictionary

76

94

96.5

170

 

78

99

99

200

 

80

99

99

200

• TNS High Score 

 

Contributor Profile

Ed Van Vleck

Ed Van Vleck was a rather unique person: A scientist at NASA-Ames, a talented singer, cartoonist, real estate investor, and writer. He was well-known within San Francisco Mensa in the 70s for his hosting of "Rotunda" events*, investment seminars, and other adventures. He is now hiding in the wilds of Utah devoid of a decent (or even an indecent) Internet conenction. *As newsletter editor in those days I once inadvertantly misspelled the "Rotunda" on the monthly calendar as "Rotund."




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