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Test Prep

Build Your Vocabulary

Information adapted from Fiske Word Power and Gruber's SAT Word Master.

Get the proper tools.

A good dictionary and thesaurus are key. You can use a well-known online dictionary like Merriam-Webster or Oxford English Dictionary if you don’t want to carry around a heavy dictionary. Whenever you come across a word you don’t know, look it up.

Don’t be shy.

If someone uses a word you don’t know, ask what it means. If you don't get a good answer, look it up.

Find ways to capture those exotic new words.

Figure out how to keep track of new words. You can write them down in a small notebook or text them to yourself.

Consider the possibility of a study buddy.

If you know someone else who wants to build his or her vocabulary, consider working together.

Employ interstitial learning.

You’re expanding your vocabulary already! "Interstitial" means “between the cracks,” so in this case, study whenever you get a small bit of time.

Take vocabulary tests and quizzes.

Our vocab books in the bookstore have more tips to increase your vocabulary, as well as vocab tests and quizzes.

Play word games.

Do crosswords, or challenge your friends and family to games of Scrabble.

Listen to worthwhile things.

Listen to good radio and TV programs, and watch movies and plays.

Utilize different techniques.
  • Flashcards: Write the word on one side and the definition on the other.
  • Silly sentences: Make up sentences using your new words.
  • Story time: Make up a little story; you don’t even have to write it down. For instance, try to use new words when describing a movie you saw recently.
  • Mnemonic devices: Use memory tricks. For instance, fix ravenous (very hungry) in your head by thinking of some really hungry black birds. It doesn’t matter that “ravenous” does not come from “raven”.
  • Root words: If you learn the meaning of the root word, you will have an easier time figuring out the meanings of words associated with that root. If you have experience with foreign languages, especially Latin, French, or Spanish, you’ll have an advantage.
  • Prefixes and suffixes: Similar to knowing root words, if you know what certain prefixes and suffixes mean, you’ll be able to logically figure out what a word means by breaking it down.
  • Read: Read, read, read, and…that’s right, read. The more you read and the more words you encounter, the more you will expand your vocabulary. Make sure you look up any words whose meanings you don’t know.