Has studying vocabulary words for the SAT got you down? Memorizing an exorbitant list of words can definitely be a daunting task. Tactics such as “repeat, review, review” can be tedious, but memorizing vocabulary doesn’t have to be so monotonous. Think back to a recent time you were in the car. What do you remember? You probably don’t remember the usual blue, black, or silver cars that passed you by on the street, but what about an ostentatious pink Punch Buggy with a stenciled floral pattern on the trunk? You would probably remember a car like that because it is out of the ordinary. It is something different, perhaps even funny, that stands out in your mind from the other cars on the road each day. What if vocabulary words were atypical and humorous? They would be easier to remember too. Here are some strategies to help make your vocabulary words as conspicuous as a flowered pink Punch Buggy driving down the street.
- Break it Down: Use your imagination to break a word down into a little story. Let’s take the word conspicuous as an example. The definition of conspicuous is: standing out. When you break down the word you see “consPICKuous” so you can always remember, if something is conspicuous you can pick it out of a crowd.
- Make it Rhyme: How is it that we can remember hundreds of song lyrics but we can’t remember a phone number or a few vocabulary words? Rhyming is one of the reasons that lyrics, poems, and nursery rhymes are easier to recall. So why not do that with our vocabulary? When learning words, see if you can make the definition or sentence rhyme with the word. For example?, if you don’t have tact you are going to get smacked!
- Think Characters: Label names are not a myth. Authors, playwrights, and screenwriters choose names for their characters that have meaning; many times these names are linked to words in the English language. Think about the final movie in the Batman trilogy, “The Dark Knight Rises”. It is not coincidental that the villain’s name is Bane and the definition of the word bane is extremely harmful or bad.
- Think Foreign: Have you studied a foreign language? Ever see similarities between certain words and their English definition? English, German, Spanish, Italian, French as well as many other languages are all derived from Latin. Spotting similar roots, prefixes and endings can be extremely helpful for memorizing vocabulary. Look at the English word amiable. Noticing the French word for friend, ami, in that word can help one to remember that amiable means friendly.
- Use Alliteration: Just like rhyming, when phrases begin with the same letter or sound they are easier to recall. Maybe your friend, Peter, is pernicious or your friend Gabby is gregarious. Be a poet and use alliteration when you are studying vocabulary.
- Make it Personal: Making personal associations with a word will make remembering it much easier. Think about the way that you remember certain memories better when a specific song comes on the radio. Creating associations strengthens our recall. For example, if your older brother always bosses you around, you can remember that he is officious.
Memorizing vocabulary doesn’t have to be a vapid and monotonous task. It can be creative, imaginative and, admit it, fun! Use these association techniques next time you pick up your flash cards and you’ll learn more and more words in no time. Watch out SAT!
Danielle Kipnis is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in Miami. She is a native New Yorker who then majored in England and Dance at Northwestern University. At Northwestern, she founded the dance company Steam Heat. She now continues to dance, choreograph, and satiate her love for teaching through SAT prep.