How to Improve Your Vocabulary Effectively

Having an extensive vocabulary is important. It improves literacy and strengthens language development, comprehension, and expression of ideas. Overall, a rich vocabulary is essential to better communication.

A robust vocabulary plays a big role when taking oral and written exams. Whether you’re taking GMAT for MBA admission or must pass the IELTS or TOEFL exams, you need an extensive vocabulary to show your competency and proficiency in the English language. Further, you need to pass these exams to ensure admission. Here are tips on how to improve your vocabulary effectively.

1 – Read Extensively

To improve your vocabulary, you must read regularly. It’s easy to learn new words from reading books and related materials because you’re learning them contextually, helping you remember them later. 

It’s important that you read books appropriate to your reading level, so you can better understand the grammar rules and improve your writing skills as well. Make it a habit to also mark the words that you don’t know, so you can look them up in the dictionary. 

Reading to learn new words can be a more worthwhile experience if you read books about things that interest you. For example, if you like fantasy, you can start with the Harry Potter series. If you want crime and suspense, you can read works by Agatha Christie. You can even read illustrated children’s books for some light reading. 

Additionally, it’s also wise to check out books focused on improving your vocabulary, such as 504 Absolutely Essential Words, Word Power Made Easy, or The Vocabulary Builder Workbook

While it’s important to read often to build your vocabulary, remember to take time to assimilate the new words you learn and take a break. Set a daily reading schedule, but set some limits and boundaries so that you don’t get overwhelmed.

2 – Watch Movies and TV Shows

Watching movies and TV shows can add a new dimension to picking up new words as you’re exposed to conversational English. When watching a show, have a pen and paper or any note-taking device with you. Write down the unfamiliar words and phrases you hear. If you can, note the context in which the word was used. This will help you next time you will use the words yourself. Practice the words you learn from your shows.

You can watch news programs, cartoons, and sitcoms to improve your language skills. For example, Korean superstar Kim Nam-joon who has spoken at the United Nations General Assembly shared that he learned how to speak English with the help of the popular American sitcom FRIENDS.

3- Listen to Audiobooks and Podcasts

Aside from physical books, TV shows, and movies, audiobooks, and podcasts can also help you improve your vocabulary. Through active listening, you will learn new words, the context where they are used, and how they are actually pronounced. 

If you are busy, listening to audiobooks or podcasts can be especially helpful since you can do them while performing other routine tasks, like washing dishes, commuting, folding the laundry, or exercising. 

When choosing what to listen to, start listening with short materials first to get used to the medium. Then, move on to something longer when you are ready. If you are stuck with what to listen to, you can choose popular narrators or podcasts online. Once you found your favorites, you can explore their works. 

There are also podcasts that specifically help you widen your vocabulary such as 6 Minute Vocabulary and Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day.

4 – Play Word Games

Many people enjoy playing word games like  Scrabble, word search, and crossword puzzles. These games help boost your vocabulary, improve your spelling skills, help you concentrate, and enhance your cognitive skills.

Online apps like Words with Friends allow you to learn many new words and challenge your friends to learn, compete, and have fun all at the same time. You can also try apps like Magoosh Vocabulary Builder designed for people who are preparing for exams like the GRE, SAT, and TOEFL. The game gives players daily quizzes and audio pronunciation tutorials.

5 – Use New Vocabulary in Conversations

People with limited vocabulary are sometimes hesitant to engage in conversations because they tend to be shy or embarrassed. However, conversing with other people can help you improve your vocabulary effectively. It is essential that you use newly-learned words in conversations so that you get more familiar with them and be more comfortable with using them.

You can write sample sentences using your newly-acquired words. Choose a friend or a family member to converse with. You can also use apps that allow you to chat with native speakers or fellow learners. You don’t need to use the words in elaborate sentences. Start with something short and simple.

For example, if you just learned the word delectable, you can start off by using it in a simple sentence like The food I ate is delectable. Such a sentence is easy to incorporate naturally in actual conversations when you usually have to ask how you are or what’s going on with your life.

Learn, Practice, and Flourish

There are many ways to improve your vocabulary. Reading helps you pick up new words to add to your vocabulary stack while writing these words and looking up their meanings will make you remember them better. You can also widen your vocabulary and improve your pronunciation by listening to recorded materials. Additionally, practicing the words you learn through games and actual conversations makes it easy for you to retain them and be comfortable in actually using them. Improving your vocabulary can be challenging, but there are ways to make it fun, engaging, and most especially, effective.