TOEFL Vocabulary

7 Tips for Improving Vocabulary

TOEFL tests a test-taker's ability to use and comprehend the English-language in the academic environment. In the academic environment, English is formal and sophisticated. It means that you can't speak or expect your teachers to speak using slang.

The new TOEFL does not test your vocabulary objectively. In other words, you don't have to write meanings, antonyms or synonyms. Your goal then is to build vocabulary in such a way that it would help you to comfortably understand the text passages, extracts, and lectures that are taken from the academic sources. You should also aim to learn to use words effectively for presenting your arguments and opinions. If you have worked hard in high school and college days to build your TOEFL vocabulary, certainly it will be useful for TOEFL. Don't get disappointed if you haven't done so; we will give you some tips to enrich your TOEFL vocabulary.

  • Tip 1: Read

    Read newspapers and magazines and observe the word usages there for improving your TOEFL vocabulary. Consult a dictionary if you don't know the meaning of a word. Choose those newspapers and magazines that are read by the educated public. Refer to the encyclopedias such as Britannica to get basic information in English about the topics in which you are interested. In encyclopedias, read about those writers, scientists, and thinkers who have changed or are changing and have influenced or are influencing our world. Gather information about texts that are prescribed in colleges and read them. Spend your time in understanding contemporary issues, disputes, and other topics of general interest even though your interest is not in them.

  • Tip 2: Listen

    Listening and reading should be combined together to develop TOEFL vocabulary. Don't use listening as an alternative for reading text. This is because in colleges and universities you are required to complete reading-based writing projects. Especially, listen to the lectures. You can record your teacher's lectures and listen to them. Search the internet for good lectures and speeches and listen to them. Listen to the audio on the voice of America, National Public Radio, BBC and other well-known audio broadcasts of your choice. Notice how words are used carefully and skillfully. Don't use video content if your attention is distracted by the shown pictures. You have to focus on learning new words and how to use words correctly.

  • Tip 3: Check your progress

    Keep checking your progress of TOEFL vocabulary development every week. Keep a record of your confidence level and compare it. By comparing, you will learn whether your confidence level has dropped or increased. Try to find out the answers to the following questions:

    • Which words you have learned?

    • Which of those words have helped you to understand the text and audio materials?

    • Which words appeared in the listening and reading materials again and again?

    • Were you able to use some of those words in your own sentences?

    • Your answers to these questions decide your confidence level.

  • Tip 4: Read prep materials

    Many books and internet resources claim to help you in developing TOEFL vocabulary. Practically speaking, these are not useful because the TOEFL tests your grasping and writing skills. Those resources merely provide the meanings of words and usage examples. However, you can use them for your practice; don't memorize the words.

  • Tip5: Learn word parts

    Learning Latin and Greek roots and suffixes and prefixes is an accepted way of building vocabulary. Most of the times, you can guess the meaning of an unknown word by using this sort of knowledge.

  • Tip 6: Use dictionaries and thesauruses

    Use those dictionaries and thesauruses that are exclusively designed for the high school and college students. Don't memorize the words; learn to use them in your own sentences.

  • Tip 7: Flashcards and note-taking

    If you have prepared word lists, use flashcards to remember them. Again, just memorizing will not help. Try to use them in your own sentences and write them in your note-book. Show sentences to your friends, parents or teachers and ask them to review. Use your note-book to record the words used by your teachers and friends in the academic environment. Learn using those words.

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