Friday, December 6, 2013

Tips to Improve Vocabulary in TOEFL Exam

TOEFLHello everyone! And welcome back! So, after my soapbox from last post (and I do hope you looked that word up), this puts me in mind of one problem TOEFL students have and that is the every disturbing and troubling area of....VOCABULARY. Yes, you heard me, I said vocabulary. This is one problem every TOEFL student faces. Now, I've touched on some issues which are associated with having difficulty in vocabulary. These include not being able to clearly and accurately express your thoughts or meanings you wish to convey because you do not know the words to use or how to use them. Or you could have difficulty describing people, places or objects again, because you do not know the words to use. I think it all boils down to the fact that most TOEFL students do not know enough words in their vocabulary to express themselves fully. I often hear from a number of my students say "sir, I just don't know how to say it (express it properly, put it into words, etc and ad nauseum)." So, what is lacking is vocabulary and this post is what you can do about it. So, let's begin. Vocabulary, how do you build your vocabulary into a muscle-laden force which you can express yourself clearly, succinctly and elegantly using a wide range of words and phrases to convey your ideas, opinions and descriptions? It's not a hard thing to do. It just takes a lot of exercise and that means practice and this practice involves many different methods. The ways to build your vocabulary is diverse. Many think that it is grabbing a dictionary and studying it or looking up new words in the dictionary as you come across them. Well, you can do this, BUT, this only goes so far. When people use words, they are not always (and in most cases) not used in a way in which the dictionary explains or describes. Often they are used in a slightly different way and in a way that will convey a different, but similar meaning. Another thing is that words often have more than one meaning and usually have several meanings and you need to understand these meanings in the context in which the word is used. Now, I'm going to suggest you do something drastic and this is to throw out that dictionary! Tips for TOEFLDon't study a dictionary to learn new words. Learn from how they are used in sentences. When you come across a new word in your listening or reading, try to infer the meaning as it is used.There are usually clues, particularly in reading, which can help you with this. One thing you can do, is to replace the word with a word you already know and if that word fits, then you have a good idea of the meaning of the new word. Also, look at how words at associated with other words, this would take it their etymological source. Let's look at the following words; suspend, depend, pendant, append, appendage, independence....what is the root in all these words? It's "pend". Now, what is the meaning of "pend"? It means to "hang down'. So, suspend means to hang from some place; depend means to hang on to someone or something; pendant is an object which hangs from the neck; append means to add to or set something hanging on something; appendage means a part which hangs off a central body such as an arm or leg; independence means to not hang on to someone or something. Now, are you getting the picture. All these things have a root with the same meaning, but the words each have different meaning unto themselves. Now, when I said to throw away the dictionary, I don't mean that literally. What I really mean is to not rely on it. Everything I said about words being used and meaning differently than what their dictionary meanings is true. Try to get to know a word by how it is used. That way you will know it better. Use the dictionary only as a last resort. The best way you are going to learn about new vocabulary is by reading and through listening. That's when you will come across new words. The best way to learn how they are used is by actually using these words. Whenever you come across a new word, use it. Speak it and write it. The more you use it, the more you will retain it and the better you will understand it. These methods, I'm sure are not the only methods to learn vocabulary. I'm sure there are others out there, but for me, these seem to be the most obvious. One way to learn is to go over to the English tests and practice the vocabulary and sentence completion tests we offer here at When learning TOEFL, you need to use everything at your disposal and here at, we offer you a wide range of material you can use and it doesn't need to be related to TOEFL. You can use material from all the tests and by practicing a wide variety you will greatly enhance your skills and vocabulary. Well, that's it for now. If you have any suggestions on how to build vocabulary or strategies for TOEFL, I would love to hear them. Perhaps, I may even feature them in a blog post. You may write me at Remember, we here at are committed to your success. Thank you! Hmmmm....I've just read this and I think I stood up on a soapbox once again. Have you figured out what that means yet?

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