Standardized tests are designed to measure how much a student has learned in an objective manner. These tests can help assess a student’s skill level and also identify problem areas. For teachers, the test score can help determine the gaps in their curriculum. Depending on the exam that you are to take, the results could move you closer towards your academic goals or hold you back. It’s no wonder why so much time and effort are invested in preparing for these tests.

Standardized tests cover a lot of ground. With so much to study for, why should a student spend extra energy learning vocabulary?

Why is vocabulary important?

Vocabulary is the very foundation of knowledge. Without words and their meanings, how can one convey information? Vocabulary words are the building blocks that you use to build other important skills like reading comprehension, listening, and writing.

An extensive vocabulary is also considered to be one of the key indicators of a student’s success not just in tests, but in their schooling as whole, and even later on, in life. This is because, like we explained earlier, one’s knowledge of any particular topic is rooted in its vocabulary. The more words you understand that’s related to the subject, the better you can grasp the larger concepts.

So naturally, if you are going to be tested for any subject matter, it’s important to learn the relevant vocabulary in order to successfully display your mastery of it. Moreover, learning vocabulary words for a test will allow you to understand what information is being asked from you precisely.

How much do standardized exams test for vocabulary knowledge?

Different exams test for vocabulary in varying ways. In IELTS (International English Language Testing System), the Speaking, Academic Writing, and General Writing tests are assessed in part by lexical resources or the range of vocabulary used and the accuracy of the terms in relation to the tasks. It also needs to be emphasized that the mastery of words is needed to score well in the Listening and Reading sections.

In another English language test, the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), 25% of the score for the Speaking test relies on Language Use which encompasses the proper grammar and vocabulary usage. In the Listening test, the test take is scored for his or her basic comprehension and pragmatic understanding, both of which a wide vocabulary knowledge is the foundation. Word choice and idiomaticity, or use of functional expressions native to a language, is a requirement to earn the highest score.

The recently redesigned SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) is more forgiving than its past iterations which tested for hundreds of obscure words in the form of sentence completion and multiple choice. The new SAT, which was first used in 2016, removed these types of questions and replaced them with vocabulary questions that are passage-based, meaning you have to understand a word or phrase within a reading passage or specific context. This could be difficult than the earlier pattern as now you don’t just need to know the primary meaning but also multiple other meanings, usage style and tone in different contexts.

The GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, also tests for vocabulary skills in a myriad of ways. For the verbal score alone, a student will be tested on Sentence Equivalence, Text Completion, and Reading Comprehension, all of which requires extensive vocabulary knowledge. Most resources recommend a test taker to learn a list of thousands of words.

How to improve your vocabulary in preparation for a test

Memorizing thousands of words is a tall order for anyone. But there are many ways to make this goal easier to achieve. First of which is to turn reading and vocabulary building into a habit. Here are some vocabulary exercises to help you get started.

Sign Up For Word Of The Day

Receiving daily emails about a new word is a fantastic way to grow your vocabulary. A wealth of options exists for this particular activity. Word Genius is a fantastic place to start — their Word of the Day emails range from archaic words that are fun to know to practical terms used in daily conversations. If you’re a heavy user of social media, you can also follow Vibrant Publishers on Instagram where they post one new word daily.

Use Flashcards

There’s a reason why flashcards have remained popular as a test prep tool through the years. Because they work. Flashcards are versatile because you will be using the same set of cards to learn the words and later to test your mastery. Testing your knowledge using flashcards with a friend’s or tutor’s help can even be fun.

Take Practice Tests

After learning new words, the next best thing to do to prepare you for an exam is to take a practice test. Practice tests often reflect what the actual test would be like. This TOEFL test prep is timed, allowing you to get used to some of the time pressure that comes with important exams.

Focus On Word Roots

Learning thousands of words can feel insurmountable but grouping vocabulary words by roots can make studying more streamlined, organized, and effective. If you are preparing for GRE, this might be the best technique for you. For TOEFL, the best course of action is learning words by family. In fact, this is a great strategy for anyone who’s building their English vocabulary.

Study Multiple Meaning Words

The meaning of words can shift depending on the context. Learn the meaning of words in varying contexts in order to prepare yourself for passage-based vocabulary tests like the ones in the new SAT. Remember that there are layers to understanding a word as Cronbach (1942) explains in his paper, Measuring knowledge of precise word meaning:

Generalization – Defining a word

Application – Using the word correctly

Breadth – Understanding the multiple meanings of a word

Precision – Using the word correctly in various contexts

Availability – Being able to use the word in a practical manner

Important vocabulary words to remember before taking an exam

In the beginning of this article, we explained how mastery of certain words for a test will allow you to score better by understanding what exact information is being asked from you. Irrespective of the standardized test(s) you are preparing for, the following 50 words are essential for your test-prep!

Food Alimentary
People Chivalrous
Science And Technology Automaton
Arts Graphic
Environment Clime
Education Conversant
Business And Commerce Emeezzlement
Law And Order Absolve
Society Authoritarian
Communication Agenda

Vocabulary Building For Standardized Tests

The importance of learning vocabulary for standardized tests is well documented. Moreover, an extensive vocabulary knowledge paves the way not only for academic success but also for bigger career wins later on.

Don’t feel overwhelmed by the lists and recommended words to learn that we shared! If you are an avid reader and have had good studying habits for years, chances are, you already know many of these words. It will just be a matter of going over them, finding the gaps, and preparing for the tests.

Our advice is to start early. If you know you will be taking one of these tests in the future, then incorporate studying for them into your schedule even when it is months away. Bring out your flashcards and invite a friend for a low-pressure but helpful study session every week. Take practice tests in your free time. And always, read voraciously.



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