Tips to build Vocabulary for English Proficiency Exams

Read this article to know how to build a good vocabulary for English proficiency exams. Know the simple but multiple steps you need to take to prepare yourself for any sort of English proficiency exam, how much effort you need to put in and which section you should focus on.

English has come to become the universal language of communication. The students are required to take certain examinations in order to prove their competencies in the English language to get admission into prestigious Colleges and Universities. English proficiency tests such as GRE, TOEFL etc evaluate the individual's command over the English language in terms of listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills.

Vocabulary is an essential tool to have sound communication skills. Being a master of a rich vocabulary helps one in becoming a fluent speaker and a charming professional.

A great vocabulary is undoubtedly a sure shot way to scale your overall score by a good number of notches. Now, the question arises as to how could one develop a strong vocabulary? The reality stays grounded that learning vocabulary is a slow process. It requires meticulous approach towards learning thousands of words. To put it simply, there is really no shortcut to mastering vocabulary. So, what's the way out? Scroll down:

Become a Reading-Worm

Develop a habit of reading. From The New York Times to The Economist to Shakespeare to the reputable technical journals, read everything. Make sure that you read more of nonfiction as it helps to broaden your vocab-sphere. Also, be an active reader. Try to understand the usage of words in the given context and then look for their meanings. This exercise will help you to tackle any new word the examiner might throw at you in examinations. A diverse reading would spawn the best results out of you.

Listen to English

How about learning through an activity you enjoy? Listen to the English audios, podcasts, and videos to come across new words and understand their pronunciation. Watch English movies and watch them with the subtitles if you face difficulty in the initial stages. It is a proven fact that listening helps in retaining new information. So, go for this exercise to improve your fluency and intonation.

Carry a Dictionary

If you are eyeing to become a master in vocabulary, you need to start loving your dictionary. Any new word and you must be quick to look up for its meaning. Not just this, you should also have a habit of looking out for the related words, idioms, etc to get a broader view of a single word.

Write it Down

We know that writing helps in memorizing. Therefore, maintain a journal where you daily enter all the new words you learn. Maintaining a repository of the words would help you immensely for a quick revision. Don't just list down the words but employ novel strategies to keep your exclusive diary of words. For example, you may make associations of the words and write them all together.

Learn Mnemonics

Mnemonics is a secret trick devised by the memory experts to enrich their vocabulary. It helps with learning and remembering new words efficiently. You connect a word you are learning to a silly image in your head and this fun activity would surprisingly help you in memorizing words. Make mnemonics sillier, personal and ridiculous to derive the best results out of them.

Get Back to the Roots

It is often preached that one must not forget one's roots. Guess what, start growing your vocabulary by learning root words. In this manner, you could learn 20-30 words by learning just a single root word. For example: 'struct' means build. Add a suffix 'con' and you get the verb that means 'to build.' Further, add the suffix 'ion' to it to obtain the noun meaning 'the process of building something.'

Exploit Internet

In today's world, nearly all of us have the luxury of owning a smartphone. We could easily use it to learn vocabulary through several apps such as Magoosh. The comfort with this is that we can look for words anytime and anywhere. In this way, you stay connected to your vocabulary.


You learn new words through several means but due to our volatile memory, it is not easy to retain all that we absorb. Hence, it is very important to revise whatever we learn periodically without any fail. One can make use of flashcards, cue-cards, sticky notes, etc to keep referring to the new words. Flashcards are again an effective tool to learn vocabulary. You list down a few words on one side and their meanings on the flipside. Carry them around to keep revising and learning.

English Language Courses

You can enrol in one of the ESL programs offered by several Universities to improve your English skills. Most Universities will offer admission to academic programs if you complete their ESL programs.

Also, try to bring your learning to practice by slipping in a new word into a conversation and using it regularly. Think in English and play fun board games. Solve the word puzzle to assimilate the information. Go ahead experimenting and devise new methods to make learning enjoyable.


Author: Umesh15 Oct 2019 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 12

A good article encouraging the candidates to adopt various methods to build a robust English vocabulary. Building vocabulary is not a one day job. It is a sustained process. One has to go on adding the new vocabulary. At the same time, there is no point in learning some of the most difficult words which are not in use. If one does that then that is only for the academic purposes.

I remember in my college days, there was nothing available practically to increase our vocabulary except an English dictionary. There was no internet and no books to guide us. Then our teacher told us that if someone wants to increase the vocabulary then there is nothing better than reading an English newspaper. We did not have a newspaper at our house. So the only option left was to go to our favourite place in the evening that is the district library where we could read all sort of magazines and newspaper. So we started reading the English newspaper and came to know how poor our English was that after ever 1-2 sentences we used to find a new word. With great difficulty, we slowly got the meaning of those words and after consulting the dictionary we got more clarity about it. It took about 3-4 years for us to come to a comfortable level of vocabulary but unfortunately, we were only knowing the meaning of these words and were not using them. We told our teacher about this bottleneck and he advised us to talk in English with each other. We felt shy doing that and only one out of my friends agreed to do that. To avoid the people and society we used to go to the isolated lanes and roads and talk in English and though it was a bit tough, we both were benefited and could start talking in English albeit in a primitive form only.

So the point which I want to emphasise is that facilities might or might not be there, what is most important is a strong will to achieve that milestone and if we have that urge to learn then the sky is the only limit. So the candidates going for the English proficiency test can work in their own ways to improve their vocabulary. What matters is concentration and focus.

Author: Varghese16 Oct 2019 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 4

A well-covered article for everyone who is looking to clear the IELTS to go abroad for further studies or for work. The author has covered all the important aspects of learning new words and building one's vocabulary for English Proficiency Exams.

The points that the author has covered is new and I liked about using Mnemonics, the secret trick devised to learn new words. Earlier everyone used to buy a Dictionary to learn and understand new words in our prose or subject. Nowadays, everything is available on the net and with the added advantage of the way it is pronounced correctly.

We all can try the tips given by the author and keep learning new words and build our vocabulary stronger by not only just learning but also using it at times and even here in ISC that will enrich not only us but many who read our threads or posts.

Author: Sheo Shankar Jha19 Oct 2019 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 5

The author has nicely dealt with the tricks to raise vocabulary with different approaches. However, much would depend upon the attitude and willingness of a candidate. The task becomes easier with a consistent approach. Trying to master at least ten new words each day and practising its right usage in course of both writing and speaking will help. Confidence cannot be achieved unless we are fully familiar with the appropriate usage of such words.
The simple formulae would be to go through the leading English News Papers daily and reading the columns as fast as possible and reread the same for thorough grasping of the texts. This would require regular practice with total devotion. Internet sources can also be referred to from time to time for the up-gradation of new words.
TOFEL or GRE examination would need meticulous preparation in the correct usage of the words so as to have a precise presentation of the facts one wants to highlight. The flow of writing would be easy with the practice of abundant stock of the words.

Author: Venkiteswaran27 Apr 2020 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 4

One method we were using in our student days was to mutually discuss among our friends the new word we read or learned latest. That would cement it in our memory and will also help others to learn a new word. We had cultivated this practice on the advice of an elder scholar who told us to underline at least one or two new words we see in the daily newspaper or magazine. Then we had to note that word in our small pocket notebook(specific for that purpose) then and there and search the word in the dictionary and learn more using Thesaurus too. We used to practise this even in the public library.

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