memory brain learning new vocabulary


memory brain learning new vocabulary

          Erudite vocabulary is an essential part of the standardized testing experience. Entering a competitive undergraduate or high school program requires that you showcase familiarity with a variety of topics. As you prepare for standardized tests such as the SAT or TOEFL, you will come across a multitude of words that are unfamiliar to you. What is the best way to remember all this new vocabulary? Trying to force definitions into your brain sounds like a painful challenge. Luckily, there are a variety of ways to retain new vocabulary that don’t necessitate repeating boring definitions over and over.

          Let’s review 5 of the best vocabulary memorization strategies that will prepare you for test day.


           Physically interacting with your study material is a proven way to help you remember new information. Put on your favorite study music, grab some flashcards or cut up paper, and start writing. Creating your own set of flashcards can be a fun activity that breaks up the monotony of studying. Once you have a deck of new words, carry them with you everywhere. Try to get in the habit of taking out your flashcards and reviewing the words whenever you have downtime, such as waiting for the train. The more ways that you interact with your vocabulary words, the more likely you are to recall their meaning later on.


           For each new vocabulary word, design your own sentence that helps explain the meaning. Take inspiration from the definition (there will usually be an example sentence if you are using an internet dictionary) and create your own version of the sentence. You might even find the word in a real-life situation, like a book you are reading or text you are studying. Write down the sentence that you found. Having a clear example of how the word is used in real-life will increase your chances of recognizing the new word when you see it on a test.


           Aside from definitions and sentences, find words with similar meanings to your new vocabulary. You can use a thesaurus to find synonyms and list these on your flashcards. Certain tests, like the SSAT, will require you to identify the synonyms of advanced academic words. Other tests, like the SAT or English proficiency exams, will ask you to identify the meaning of a vocabulary word in context and will provide a list of synonyms as the answer choices. You can make a word association cloud to combine words with similar meanings.


          The English language derives a large part of its vocabulary from Greek and Latin sources. A large portion of English words contain root or stem portions that give a clue to their meaning. There are likely many root words that you already know – for example, any word that ends with “phobia” refers to a fear. You may also use number roots such as bi, tri, and quad to refer to two, three, and four. When you study new vocabulary, try to find the root word that is associated with the English word. This will give you a clue to other words in the same family. Here are some common root words and the English words derived from them:


         Vocabulary games are another fantastic way to increase familiarity with new words. There are numerous websites and even phone apps that will allow you to create your own vocabulary list, or study a pre-made list. Games aid our brains in studying because we are very actively participating in our own development. You can find matching games, racing games, trivia games, and others easily on the web. Some of our favorite websites for vocabulary games are: 

25 thoughts on “How to remember new words and vocabulary”

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