How to REALLY Learn New Words: Tips for Improving Vocabulary

With test prep season in full swing, many students are in the midst of trying to add hundreds of new words to their vocabularies before their test dates. Whether you are working towards the SSAT or the SAT, having a vast vocabulary will help to improve your score. However, not everyone is able to memorize words and definitions with the old-fashioned cue card method. What do you do if that’s not your style?


•Learn words through personal reading. Choose novels or other texts that are at a challenging level and write down any new words you come across as well as what they meant in those contexts.

•Learn a word’s many sides. Some words can be used as a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb depending on the context or suffix. When beginning to understand a word’s use, look up the many different ways it may be used.

•Write it in a sentence. Being able to use a new word appropriately in a sentence is a good indicator of your understanding of its meaning. Ask a teacher or parent to make sure your sentence is logical.

•Learn words in context. If you are trying to understand how a word is used, research how others have used it. Typing your word + Globe and Mail into a search engine will likely find an article using that word in a headline, allowing you to read an article that provides context to its meaning.

•Review, review, review. If you learn the meaning of a new word, but you don’t read that word for two months, you will likely confuse its meaning. Keep track of your expanding vocabulary, and have family members test your memory.

Although mastering an understanding of all the unknown words in a review book may seem daunting, it’s possible. Chipping away a little each day and making sure you have a thorough understanding of all new vocab is far more effective than cramming, so get started!


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