When I was in elementary school, I happened to watch a TV program in which a commentator was explaining how to increase vocabulary. He recommended that every time you see a word that you don’t know, look it up in a dictionary, and write down the word and its meaning in a notebook.
At the time I was sharing a room with a brother four years older than I, and his bookshelf was filled with books that I browsed, mostly classical literature (fiction). I started writing down words that I did not understand just as the commentator had suggested—and went a step further. From the novel borrowed from my brother, I wrote down the sentence containing the word that I did not understand.
As you can imagine, I filled up many notebooks over the next few years. It was a tedious process but eventually I came to the point that rarely would I find a word that I did not know. Thanks to my older brother (and his library!) and the tips given by that TV commentator, my reading level was always several years ahead of my age.
The takeaway I got in this experience was the importance of learning vocabulary through the context of reading itself. It’s as simple as this: if you want to improve your reading comprehension in English or in any other language, read.
For those of you preparing for the TOEFL iBT and GMAT or GRE standardized tests, you may be studying word lists to improve your vocabulary. These can be helpful to accelerate the acquisition of basic vocabulary but never restrict your study of English language vocabulary to a word list. Read English language materials daily, and read when possible on-line, as your tests are administered on-line.
If you are looking for a basic English language list containing words frequently found on TOEFL tests, check out the word list below. It contains a basic set of English language vocabulary containing more than 1500 English words.
1. Over time go through the list and check off the words that you believe you know.
2. For those words, compose a sentence in which you use the word.
3. Select any word that you do not know by clicking on the word. It should open up to the website of Merriam-Webster, the English language dictionary that I have used since I was a kid.
4. For example, select the world trivial. You can select the sound icon to hear the word pronounced. Pronounce trivial out loud. If you scroll down you will also find the word defined, sentence examples using the word trivial, and its antonyms and synonyms. Read the sentence examples out loud to exercise your tongue and reinforce your memory of trivial.
5. If your file does not open up to the Merriam-Webster website, here is the URL: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/. Use the search function to locate the word you are studying.
6. Every time you use the vocabulary list, review the words you learned in the previous study session to make sure that you have not forgotten that vocabulary.
All the best,
Warren J. Devalier
English 1500+ Word List
©2011 Warren J. Devalier