TOEFL Preparation: Lesson 39 - Entertainment

Target Words

1. amateurish

2. cast

3. charismatic

4. gala

5. hilarious

6. improvisation

7. incompetent

8. medium

9. skit

10. zeal


Definitions and Samples


1. amateurish adj. Not good enough to be the work of professionals

Whoever painted this room did an amateurish job, with all sorts of uneven edges.

Parts of speech amateur n, amateurishly adv


2. cast n. The group of actors in a play, movie, television show, etc.

Some viewers mistakenly start thinking that a TV show’s cast members are really the characters they play.

Usage tips In U.S. English, cast is singular. In some other varieties of English it is plural. Parts of speech cast v


3. charismatic adj. Extremely attractive and charming

Because of the sparkle in his eye and his confident style, John F. Kennedy was a charismatic leader.

Parts of speech charisma n, charismatically adv


4. gala adj. Expensive, elaborately arranged, and full of celebration

A college graduation party should be a gala affair, not a backyard barbecue.

Usage tips Gala is somewhat old-fashioned, far more common in print than in speech.

Parts of speech gala n


5. hilarious adj. Very funny

In my opinion, the most hilarious character on television was Basil Fawlty.

Parts of speech hilarity n


6. improvisation n. Inventing a solution to an unexpected problem

Boy Scouts take pride in their improvisation when faced with trouble during a camping trip. Parts of speech improvise v, improvisational adj


7. incompetent adj. Unskilled; lacking the ability to perform a task

Because we hired an incompetent builder to replace our roof, we now have leaks everywhere.

Usage tips Usually, incompetent implies that someone tries to do something but fails.

Parts of speech incompetence n, incompetently adv


8. medium n. A channel or way for a meaning to be expressed

Watercolor art is often considered childish, but some artists have achieved great things working in that medium.

Usage tips The plural of medium is media.


9. skit n. A short, informal play

Marnie and Chris spent a long time practicing their skit for the school show.


10. zeal n. Enthusiasm; a deep determination to do well

Unfortunately, Tom’s zeal to become a rock star distracted him from his studies.

Usage tips Zeal is often followed by to plus a verb or by a for phrase.

Parts of speech zealot n, zealous adj


TOEFL Prep I

Chose the word or phrase that is closest in meaning to each word in the left-hand column.


1. amateurish (a) group of people in a movie

2. cast (b) very funny

3. hilarious (c) unable to perform a task

4. incompetent (d) enthusiasm

5. zeal (e) not like professionals


TOEFL Prep II

Complete each sentence by filling in the blank with the best word from the list. Change the form of the word if necessary. Use each word only once.


charismatic gala improvisation medium skit


1. The sixth-grade class put on a little __________ about Thanksgiving Day.

2. The year ended with a __________ celebration featuring a professional orchestra.

3. Gena’s skills at __________ saved the play when she forgot her real lines.

4. Television is a passive __________ because it demands no input from the viewer.

5. Movie stars that are especially __________ often take advantage of their charm to go into politics.


TOEFL Success

Read the passage to review the vocabulary you have learned. Answer the questions that follow.


When the artistic medium of theater falls into the hands of college students, the results can be unpredictable. At one college, we saw Shakespeare’s Hamlet done as musical theater. The idea was bad to start out with, and the actual play was amateurish, bordering on incompetent. The cast did not understand the tragic power of the play. Their improvisation when they forgot their lines was silly and inappropriate. The costumes and set design looked homemade, like something from an elementary-school skit. Three months later, however, this same group of students did a great job with the comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Surprisingly enough, the actors were charismatic, played their parts with zeal, and achieved a hilarious result. It was no gala event, but we still felt that it was one of the best performances we had seen.

Bonus Structure— However indicates a change in focus.


1. What word best describes the author’s opinion of the student performance of Hamlet?

a. incompetent

b. charismatic

c. hilarious

d. full of zeal


2. What is the author’s opinion of student performances in general?

a. Students should not perform Shakespeare’s plays.

b. Sometimes student productions are good, and other times they are not.

c. All student shows are amateurish.

d. Student performances should be gala events.

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