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TOEFL Preparation: Lesson 5 - Time Efficiency

Updated: Aug 1, 2022

Target Words

  1. adjust

  2. arbitrary

  3. denominator

  4. exponentially

  5. infinitesimal

  6. maximize

  7. parallel

  8. proportion

  9. rate

  10. sequence

Definitions and Samples

1. adjust v. To change; to get accustomed to something

Travellers are advised to adjust their watches before arriving in the new time zone.

Parts of speech: adjustment n, adjustable adj

2. arbitrary adj. Chosen simply by whim or chance, not for any specific reason

The decision to build a school in Blackberry Township was arbitrary, without any thought to future housing patterns.

Parts of speech: arbitrate v, arbitrator n, arbitrarily adv

3. denominator n. The number written below the line in a fraction

In the fraction 1⁄2, the number 2 is the denominator.

Usage tips: The phrase lowest common denominator means “the most basic and unsophisticated things that most people share.”

Parts of speech: denominate v, denomination n, denominational adj

4. exponentially adv. At a very fast rate

In Turkey, the value of the Lira has decreased exponentially in the last several decades.

Usage tips: Exponentially is taken from mathematics, where an exponent is a number indicating how many times something is multiplied by itself.

For example, 4(3) contains the exponent “3,” indicating 4 × 4 × 4.

Parts of speech: exponent n, exponential adj

5. infinitesimal adj. Immeasurably small

The number of contaminants in the water was infinitesimal, so the water was safe to drink.

Parts of speech: infinitesimally adv

6. maximize v. To increase or make as great as possible

A coach helps each athlete maximize his or her potential.

Parts of speech: maximum n, maximum adj

7. parallel adj. Being an equal distance apart everywhere

The street where I live runs parallel to the main road through town.

Usage tips: Parallel is often followed by to.

Parts of speech: parallel n, parallel adv

8. proportion n. A part in relation to the whole

The average employee spends a large proportion of each workday answering e-mails.

Usage tips: Proportion is often followed by of.

Parts of speech: proportionate adj, proportionally adv

9. rate n. The cost per unit of a good or service; the motion or change that happens in a certain time.

Postal rates in Japan are among the highest in the world.

Some grasses grow at the rate of one inch per day.

Parts of speech: rate v, rating n

10. sequence v. To organize or arrange in succession

Volunteers have been asked to sequence the files and organize the boxes.

Parts of speech: sequence n, sequentially adv


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:

adjust arbitrary denominator infinitesimal rate

1. Students felt that the exam was unfair and the grading system was rather __________.

2. The __________ of increase in prices made it difficult for people to afford basic goods.

3. Politicians promised great changes in the coming year, but any improvement in people’s lives was __________.

4. She quickly overcame her culture shock and found it easy to __________ to the new country.

5. You can add two fractions that have the same __________.


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

Write the letter in the blank.

1. arbitrary (a) mix up

2. maximize (b) intersecting

3. sequence (c) minimize

4. infinitesimal (d) huge

5. parallel (e) planned out

TOEFL Success

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

Time is, as we all know, money. Such valuation of time leads people to extreme efforts to maximize their use of time. Some people obsess over knowing the exact time. They buy clocks and watches that automatically adjust themselves over the Internet or by radio waves. These measurements allow them infinitesimal accuracy in dealing with time.

Regardless of how one tracks time, most people share a common goal: They want to use time effectively. Since about 1982, this efficiency has increased exponentially each year, thanks to computers and their ability to multitask.

In multitasking, a computer executes several different tasks in parallel. Rather than being set arbitrarily, each task is given a priority in the computer’s operating system, and time is spent in proportion to the priority of the task. The computer executes different sequences of tasks at different clock cycles, thereby increasing the rate of output from a process.

1. Why does the author mention computer multitasking in this article?

a. because it is new

b. because it measures time better than any clock

c. because it helps people to arrange their activities sequentially

d. because it is a good example of the efficient use of time

2. The word sequences in the passage is closest in meaning to:

a. styles

b. lengths

c. orderings

d. difficulty levels

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