Three Ways to Build Good Vocab Habits for Standardized Tests

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By Abhi


When taking standardized tests, especially the SAT or GRE, people often struggle with memorizing enough words for the (often tricky) vocabulary sections. When it comes to vocabulary, unlike other parts of the test, you either know the word or you don’t. So how can you ensure you improve your vocabulary memory for the test? It’s all about building good habits!

Play Games!

Fortunately, in 2018, there’s an app for everything. In fact, there are multiple for building vocabulary! By using apps on your phone that turn vocabulary into a game, it’s easy to play a round each day and constantly work on your skills. More importantly, since it’s a game, you’ll be more motivated to circle back and look up words that resulted in lower scores or wrong answers (you might even have fun). To get started, try out the Magoosh Vocabulary Builder, the Word of the Day app, and Elevate. Play a vocab game every day to build this good habit!

Read, Read, Read

One of the surefire ways to build vocabulary is to read more! Whether you’re reading fiction, nonfiction, or textbooks, you’re bound to learn new words, along with a context that helps you remember them. Often, the words we don’t expect or recognize on tests have been taken from classic books that use a different lexicon than what we’re used to today. Or, they are taken from writers that just tend to use more sophisticated words. Try reading older books that appeal to you, such as the Great Gatsby, or authors with advanced vocabulary, such as James Joyce or Charles Johnson. Check out these articles to start building this good habit!

Practice “Mental Vocab”

When I was preparing for management consulting interviews, I knew that I needed strong mental math skills, so I started doing math everywhere I went. Wherever I saw multiple numbers together, whether it was restaurant bills, street signs, phone numbers, etc., I started putting them together. Eventually, I was able to ace the mental math tests on my interviews without stress because I was so used to adding and multiplying numbers all the time in my head. When it came time for the GRE, I did the same thing with vocabulary. Wherever I noticed words and had free time, I would start doing “mental vocab”. I would ask myself what words work as synonyms for simple words like “large” or “mean”, and try to come up with some that I had seen on the GRE. I ended up with a perfect score on the GRE Verbal! This was an easy way to build a habit of using advanced words, without having to use them in conversation. Start building this habit right now: what words did you see in this blog that could’ve been replaced by a more advanced word that you know?

I hope this was helpful for your vocabulary practice! What practices do you have for building vocab that I didn’t mention? Any other tips/tricks/ etc. that you want to share? Comment below!

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