7 Effective Ways to Excel in English Academic Vocabulary

The Essential Vocabulary Building Techniques

vocabulary_practiceIn a recent post explaining why you should avoid word lists in your attempt to build vocabulary effectively, we hinted on some alternatives that are worth mastering. Since at the end of the day, you do want an honorable Verbal score in your GMAT, GRE, SAT, IELTS or TOEFL, right? There is no doubt in the fact that word lists are the most popular way employed by people from all walks of life in their quest to add in those extra words to the mental repository in order to retain the edge over communication and related spheres.

In this exclusive post, we will highlight some useful and effective techniques to build your vocabulary and retain it for the long-term. Read on after the jump to explore how you can benefit from flashcards, mnemonics, etymology, active usage, vocabulary games and much more!

Seven Ways to Build and Master Your English Academic Vocabulary Skills

enlgish vocabularyBefore we elaborate on Word Lists alternatives, let’s recap on the main conclusion points or issues with relying on typical Word Lists for improving vocabulary:

  1.   The Positioning Effect
  2.   The Non-Randomization Effect
  3.   False Sense Of Mastery

Now, let’s discover the most effective techniques in our vocabulary building initiative. Note that we recommend using all of these techniques in synchronization instead of relying on only one of these:

Use Flash Cards To Improve Academic Vocabulary

The biggest advantage of using flash cards is how it overcomes the non-randomization effect (common while using Word Lists) by allowing you to shuffle the flash cards in deck. This way your brain will always be sharp and on the edge since you will have no way of predicting the next word in the deck. Without relying on patterns and sequences of words, you can now effectively learn words and revise them much more effectively.

Furthermore, it is also important to have synonyms, meanings, pronunciation and example sentences on the flash cards in order to ingest words properly. Special emphasis must be placed on pronunciation of the words as well, since there are numerous words that have the same pronunciation and may cause confusion on the exam day (if that’s what you’re aiming for).

Use Word Roots To Boost English Vocabulary

Word Roots refer to the prefixes and suffixes in words that carry the same meaning. For example, ‘ambi’ means ‘both’, ‘anti’ means ‘opposite of’, ‘dur’ means ‘harden’ or ‘lasting’ and ‘endo’ means ‘within’. Can you relate these with the meanings of ambidextrous, ambiguous, durable, antiseptic, antisocial, endothermic and endogamy? Here is a website that will help you understand and remember word roots (how about noting links to word roots while revising flash cards?).

Use Mnemonics To Enhance Vocabulary

academic vocabularyThe most fun way to learn and sustain vocabulary (reference to new words, of course) is to employ mnemonics. Remembering word roots often becomes a challenge while they aren’t valid in application in every case (yes, there are instances where even after identifying a word root in a word, is of little help!). It is in those times (as well as the rest), where mnemonics give you the extra mile.

What are mnemonics, you may wonder (or may have already Google-d it)? Well, these are clever stories you can make up in order to remember words more easily. You can do so by either breaking the word down to chunks that can relate to a story you can make and retain. For example, contrite may be thought of as count right, or repudiate can be thought of as composed of ‘re’, ‘pudding’ and ‘ate’.

There are high chances that you’ll now be scratching your head and may be frowning at this, right? Makes no sense, you may think. How about looking each of these words in the Mnemonics Dictionary and you’ll get the hang of the stories they’ve made up. It is important to note that the best mnemonics are those that are thought of by no other than you since at the end of the day, you will remember ridiculous stories authored by no other than you (and yes, that is a complement, the more ridiculous or silly the story, the higher are your chances of remembering it!).

Using Etymology To Conquer Vocabulary

Another way of retaining words in your long term memory is to actually explore the very origins of each word. Now, every word may not boast its own history and association with languages like Greek and Latin but those that do, can make their impact on your memory. We recommend using mnemonics, word roots and etymology hand in hand for effective vocabulary build up. When used together, all three of these techniques, can help solidify the reservoir of words in your brain while allowing you to recall them instantly as and when needed.

A common issue faced by test-takers with regards to the verbal section is the lack of retention of vocabulary, the persistence and effort put into learning new words wither away when not applied in daily life and thus, soon after your exam results are out, you’ll be back to square one. Etymology of words is both interesting (since it relates history to the word) and sticky (in terms of retention) and therefore, is worth the initiative. EtymOnline and WordNik are some pretty good resources as far as etymology (and learning new words) is concerned.

Use Active Usage To Improve Your Vocabulary Skills

Instead of thinking of new words as huge chunks of vocabulary to be taken every day, employ active usage to let each settle in a comfortable spot in your memory bank. To be more specific, try and use as many words (new ones, of course) in daily routine like talking to your family, friends or even colleagues so that you can actually show off and establish each word in your mind. Another way is to revisit words you’ve learnt after 90 minutes and revise them. In addition, how about putting up vocabulary rich statuses on Facebook, the more you repeat word occurrences in your daily life, the higher will be the chances of retention. Next time, replace those simple words you use to communicate with the newer words you’ve learnt and you’ll feel the difference! The reactions you’ll get from others will also make your journey fun-filled and exciting!

If you are interested in joining online creative writing courses, Here’s a list of best online creative writing schools and certification programs.

Use In-Context Reading to Strengthen English Vocabulary

enlgish vocabulary words, learn english vocaubalryThe most obvious, natural and most effective way of learning new words is through reading well-written pieces of writing. Yes, the rate at which you will learn new words using this technique will be far lower than the rest but how about relying on some rich and well-written sources for your daily information dose. The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, The New Yorker and The Scientific American are some really good sources that can help you read in context.

You can also look up words on The New York Times Search bar and see its occurrences in news items dating back to the 1800s, you will definitely find a meaningful association and application with the word. In any case, highlight or note down the words you don’t know while reading and then focus on learning them, accordingly.

Have a look at the importance of developing good academic writing skills for college students.

Word Game Your Way to Build Academic Vocabulary

On a concluding note, you can also play vocabulary games to add in a thrilling element to the seemingly dull and boring vocabulary building journey. This will totally eliminate the non-randomization effect and ensure that you are up for the challenge. Here are some vocabulary games for your perusal:

  1. Dictionary.com’s Word Dynamo
  2. Cross Words, Spell Bound, and Post Puzzler
  3. Online Quizlet Flashcards (play them like cards and score the game)
  4. British Council’s Learn English Vocabulary Games
  5. Word Search, Vocabulary Quiz and many more!

Happy Learning and Good Luck! Feel free to share your verbose experiences in the comments section, below. Cheers!