Tips for Learning New Vocabulary Words

5 Tricks to Help You Remember Things Better

 

When studying new vocabulary words, the biggest hurdle to cross is remembering all that you've learned. For any given test, you could be asked to memorize hundreds of terms. In the end, how do you keep them all straight? How can you remember better? The following are five memory tricks to help you do just that.

1. Create context. With mnemonics, or memory tricks, the underlying tenet is that context helps us remember the unfamiliar or abstract more easily. For instance, the acronym Roy G. Biv is a well-known mnemonic used to name the colors in a spectrum or rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet. For vocabulary, tricks range from a short story to a song tune, a keyword to a drawing. In each, what is constant is the fact that context is created for the new word. Through context, we're able to more easily retain, remember, and later recall the "new."

2. Vocalize new words. A multi-sensory approach to memorization will likely increase the chances of recall, given that your brain will be able to form more associations. For instance, with keyword mnemonics, the "keyword" is a known word/words that sound similar to the new one: fjord and Ford. By saying this word link out loud, along with the sentence that's thought up for it (e.g. "The Ford trucks got stuck in the mud of the fjord."), your brain will have a solid auditory reference to go along with the visual one.

3. Use flashcards. From early on in our education, flashcards have been used to test our memory. When learning new words, this technique can prove effective, as it requires you to recall information quickly, triggered simply by seeing a word. By design, flashcards help reinforce the link between word and definition in our brains. What's more, flashcards are go-anywhere study aids that can be used alone or with a study partner.

4. Study before going to sleep. If you study a batch of vocabulary words before going to bed, the information will stay "fresh" in your mind during rest and the odds are good that you'll retain much of it the next day. Test yourself in the morning to see what you remember. At worst, you will have a fine start on the current day's lesson, since the words have already been introduced.

5. Don't overload with words. While we'd love to learn all the new vocabulary words we need to in one sitting, to do so is unrealistic. Some prep lists can be 1,000 words or more. The best approach is to study words in manageable batches like 25 or so. It'll give you an attainable goal for an hour or two of work.

By contrast, if you do decide to take on hundreds of words at once, not only will you be unable to form the necessary associations for each term, but your task will seem never-ending, leading to frustration. Instead, stick with the batches of 25 or 30 words and reward yourself with a meaningful break between sessions. A point of reference? When you take summer school, the class sessions are longer, but the breaks in between are as well. As important as it is to exercise your brain, it's just as important to give it a respite every once in a while.