How to Strengthen Your Vocabulary

دوره: GRE Test- Practice & Study Guide / فصل: GRE Verbal Reasoning- Vocabulary Skills / درس 3

GRE Test- Practice & Study Guide

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How to Strengthen Your Vocabulary

توضیح مختصر

Feeling that your personal lexicon is lacking? Or perhaps want to be able to manipulate polysyllabic lexemes with great facility? Or you just want to pass the SAT with a higher score - in any event, this lesson is for you.

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Benefits of a Larger Vocabulary

Chances are you don’t need to be reminded of the benefits of a larger vocabulary. In addition to greatly aiding everything from reading comprehension to standardized test scores, larger vocabularies make you sound smarter and give you a greater appreciation for people who are able to speak English fluently. After all, who would you trust more with any sort of intellectual task - someone who uses complex words easily, or someone who claims to ‘talk English real good.’ No matter your motivation for wanting to expand your vocabulary, this lesson will give you methods that will help expand your personal lexicon.

Read More

By far the most convenient way of learning new vocabulary is through reading. This is one of the major reasons that, from childhood, your teachers encouraged you to read any time you got the chance. So, how can reading help? On average, around 90% of the words on a given page of text are the same 2,000 words or so over and over again. Try writing a sentence without words like ‘the,’ ‘a,’ and ‘to,’ and you’ll get the idea. However, that other ten percent of words is much rarer.

This is especially true in texts that are challenging. That means not only is it important to read, but it’s important to read texts that expand your word base in a field of interest. If you are studying science, you will gain little in the way of increased vocabulary from reading advanced texts on art history. Therefore, it’s important to read relevant texts.

But what if you don’t have a specific area of interest? There aren’t many publications out there that specialize in the language of SAT or GRE prep, after all. In that case, read higher-level news pieces. Grocery store checkout tabloids and sensational cable networks of all political stripes will not fill this need. Instead, aim for publications that provide analysis and pride themselves on an educated leadership, no matter their ideological views.


That doesn’t mean that learning these new words has to be a stuffy affair. Far from it - in fact, advances in technology have made learning new vocabulary very easy, if not fun. This is because of the high levels of gamification , or turning memorization or mundane tasks into games. Many Internet sites and mobile apps offer a variety of games to help you learn vocabulary. These may not be as engaging as the newest console best-seller, but at least they’ll make the process less painful. Several of these will even permit you to upload your own lists, so you can target specific terms of interest.

Back to the Roots

Whether by reading or playing games, you’ll eventually notice that many words repeat the same letters. Look at a list of sciences and you’ll see many of them end in ‘-ology.’ This is because ‘-ology’ is a root , or fragment of a long-forgotten word that now makes up a part of the word. Many of our roots come from Greek, Latin, or French. Being able to know these roots will help expand your vocabulary. For example, if you knew that ‘anthro-‘ refers to ‘humans,’ while ‘morph’ means ‘shape,’ you could know that anthropomorphic means having a human shape. In the rare event that you ever have to describe an alien, using a term like ‘anthropomorphic’ will make you sound slightly less crazy than ‘looked like a human.’

Other Languages

If you’ve ever read much about the great minds of generations past, it seems they all had the same education. In addition to learning how to write in English, they studied some combination of French, German, Greek, and Latin. For those of us looking to expand our own vocabularies, we would do well to learn a few basic words in these languages. Around 60% of everyday English comes from French, which itself was heavily influenced by Latin. Much of the remaining 40% comes from German, while Greek makes up much of the technical language.

The examples I gave earlier for anthropomorphic both came from Greek. Later tonight, I’ll have beef for dinner, which comes from the French boeuf . The animal that beef comes from is a cow, which is koh in German. It is not through some higher-level study of these languages that much of our vocabulary comes - in fact, each of those words was chosen from the first chapter, if not the first pages, of books to study each language.

Lesson Summary

In this lesson, we look at ways that people can build their vocabularies. By far one of the most effective ways of increasing one’s word power is to read higher-level texts, especially in a field of interest. Further, through the use of gamification techniques, specific word lists can be mastered. Finally, we looked at the influence of other languages on English, whether through roots or through borrowing whole words.

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