One part of the English exam feared by most LETers must be the vocabulary test. Success at this test often boils down to your knowledge of words and their meanings. You either know it or you have no idea what it means.
But fear not, LETers, vocabulary tests are not impossible to ace! You don’t need to memorize portions of the dictionary to increase your vocabulary, you only need to know your way around words and develop the following habits.
1. Read every day
Select a material that you like, it could be a magazine, a pocketbook or a blog, and spend at least half an hour reading it every day. After a certain period, upgrade your reading sessions from reading easy-breezy materials to more formal and complex texts such as in-depth reports or journal articles to mine sophisticated words out of your reading time.
2. Look it up
If you come across unfamiliar words in your LET reviewer or any reading material, list them down and look up their meaning in reliable references. You can even download a mobile dictionary or thesaurus app to look up definitions anytime anywhere.
3. Use the rule of three
You won’t master the new words you know until you’ve used them in a sentence. Construct three different sentences containing your word or words for the day to own the additions to your vocabulary.
4. Know your words, part by part
Words have anatomies, too! A word has a root or the base where the whole word derives its meaning from. A word can also have appendages or what we call prefixes and suffixes, a group of letters attached to a root that changes the meaning of a word.
As the root provides the source of the meaning, it is important to locate the root to have an idea of what the word is about.
For example, the word acquiescent is derived from the English word acquiesce. Acquiesce came from the Latin word acquiescere, whose base would be ‘quies’ or quiet. Each prefix and suffix add a different meaning to a word. The suffix –ent transforms a word into an adjective (e.g., diligent, sufficient).
We now know that acquiescent is an adjective that means something related to being quiet or calm. According to Merriam Webster, we’re not that far off: Acquiescent (adj) that means “tending to allow what other people want or demand.”
Think of Step Four as a dissection technique. Once you develop an eye for root words and memorize the meanings of suffixes and prefixes, your vocabulary arsenal will increase ten-fold.
5. Do some dictionary drills
Why build your vocabulary alone when you can do it with co-LETers? Dictionary drills take the tedium out of vocabulary-building and are fun to do for group study sessions. You only need a dictionary for each LETer-player, a list of difficult words, and a competitive spirit. In a dictionary drill, LETers race each other in looking up the definition of each difficult word. To get bonus points, players must write at least three sentences using the new word.
A competent English vocabulary will not only give you extra points in the LET, it will also boost your overall test-taking capacity. Knowing more English words means you can understand questions better and faster (given that most parts of the LET such as Math, Science are in English) and may even give you clues when analyzing tricky questions. Follow these five easy steps to expanding your vocabulary and realize the power of words!
Ace the LET! is a MindGym blog segment that features easy and practical steps in preparing, studying, and taking the LET. This segment will also compile tips from your MindGym coaches, and useful materials that you can use to achieve your LET goals, and ultimately, to finish at the top!