13 TOEIC Vocabulary Tips and Exercises to Make Words Stick
Do you have trouble remembering new words?
I know I do.
If you try to remember something the regular way, it will usually stick in your head for an hour or a day.
But if you have to remember it the next week… well, I never can.
So we need a new way to remember words. Below are several ideas and exercises to help you remember new vocabulary for the TOEIC. Let’s start with your surroundings while learning.
How to Make a Fun Learning Environment for TOEIC Vocabulary
If something is fun or easy to do, then you are more likely to do it. Writing out new vocabulary words 50 times is one way to learn a new word, but there are many other options that are more enjoyable and more effective.
Add new words in your world
When you are trying to remember new vocabulary, surround yourself with your new words. This means to put words in places where you’ll see them.
Use sticky notes or paper in places that you often see in your home or at work (if you can). Post a list on your fridge or the bathroom mirror, for example. This way, you will see your new words many times every day.
One fantastic option to get you started are Vocabulary Stickers. These English stickers can be used to label over 130 key items in your home and office. Every time you see these objects with Vocabulary Stickers on them, you’ll improve your memory of the English words.
Keep adding new words as your vocabulary improves. If you have trouble remembering a word, write the meaning of the word (definition) in English to help. You can also include a picture or a drawing to show the meaning of the word. The picture will help you remember and learn the meaning.
Make learning part of your life
While you are trying to learn new words, write them into sentences that are about you or things you know. This will help you build strong connections with the words in your brain (associations). Make it meaningful to you rather than something plain and boring (generic). The more meaningful the sentence, the stronger the association—meaning you’ll remember it better.
For example, let’s say you are learning words to describe appearance, such as “bald.” Write the word into sentences that relate to you or something that you know, such as, “My grandpa is bald” or “I don’t want to be bald when I get older.” These both talk about something relating to you, making them easier to remember.
A plain (generic) sentence, on the other hand, would be, “Many old men are bald because they lose their hair.” Do not write these types of sentences because they are hard to remember, since they’re not personal.
Have fun with it
Just reading and trying to remember vocabulary for the TOEIC through textbook exercises can get incredibly boring. Have fun with your vocabulary learning time. The more fun that you have, the more often you will practice and learn from it.
These days there are many different learning apps for tablets and smart phones. There are also a huge number of vocabulary learning games online. Search the internet and find something that is fun for you.
If you prefer to play offline, then you can make yourself some flashcards or even board games. Play them with friend or other learners to study.
Make a vocabulary journal to involve your eyes
When you are studying new vocabulary for the TOEIC, it’s a good idea to create a vocabulary journal or notebook. That way you have a record of all the words you have studied in one place. Plus, if you’re a visual learner (learn best by seeing something), seeing the words in the journal will help you remember them.
Write out new words, their definitions and if it’s helpful, include a picture to go with them. Write as much as you need to lock the words in your memory.
You can also create phrases, sentences, conversations or short stories with your new words. If you want to challenge yourself, try to include a set number of new words or the same word multiple times in one story. Draw a picture to go with the story that uses the words you are studying.
Get excited about words
Until you have a word for something, it doesn’t exist for you. Having a good vocabulary will make a large difference on the TOEIC. This could also determine your future job or whether you get a promotion (a better job in the same company).
Learn to say what you mean and find the joy of being able to say what you want to say through writing. Your future can depend on how deep your vocabulary is. So if you don’t know a word, get excited and go look it up.
How to Create Associations to Better Remember Words
When we try to memorize something, it’s natural for us to create an association (connection) to something else we know. While you are trying to learn and memorize new vocabulary, use the following exercises and create your own associations.
Create words associations
If you are studying new vocabulary for the TOEIC, word associations are helpful. If you find a new word that is like a word in your own language, create a picture in your mind to associate the native word with the new one.
For example, the German word “Blume,” or flower, sounds like the English word “bloom.” So you might make the link of a flower in bloom to help you remember. When creating these associations, review them in your head often so the association will stick in your memory. The more vividly (colorful and lively) you can picture the image in your mind, the stronger the association will be.
Use mnemonic devices (patterns)
Mnemonic devices are patterns of ideas, letters or connections that help you remember something better. Just like word association, we can use mnemonic devices to help you remember words easier. This requires a little more creativity but can be a powerful way to remember vocabulary.
For example, let’s take the word “obeisance,” which means to bow or show respect. You can break it down into two parts with a similar sound “obey”+”stance.” You might then picture yourself bowing your head to obey someone. Now when you see the word “obeisance” again, you should be reminded of the two separate words, and then see the picture in your mind of yourself bowing.
After seeing this word many times in different ways, soon you’ll know that it means to bow or show respect without going through the steps of dividing it into two words and remembering your image. That means you’ve really learned the word!
Improve your context skills
A large majority of words we learn are from context. Context is the situation or facts that come with words when they’re used in a particular way. For example, the word “sweltering” alone has no context, which makes it hard to understand.
But if you see the word with context, like a picture of a hot summer day with people sweating, plus the sentence “The sweltering heat makes us uncomfortably hot,” we know a lot more about the word—just through context! We know that “sweltering” means very hot, so hot that you can be uncomfortable.
It is important to improve your context skills and pay attention to how a new word is used. When you are learning a new piece of vocabulary, find or create several different sentences with the word used in different ways. This can also help when you forget the meaning of a word, but are then able to figure out its meaning from how it is used.
If something is boring, we tend not to think about it too much. It is much easier to remember strange or bizarre things than it is to remember normal ones. So try and make your associations and patterns as interesting as you can.
When you create these connections they only have to work for you. If somebody gives you a mnemonic device or association that doesn’t work for you, then be creative and come up with your own. You will find that those you create for yourself are much more helpful than ones you get from other people/sources.
Practice the TOEIC Vocabulary to Remember More
When you are trying to learn new vocabulary for the TOEIC, it won’t help if you forget the word or its meaning right away. You need to repeat a word 10 to 20 times to make a word part of your vocabulary. So try using some of these exercises to practice and remember new words.
Do what works best
Everyone’s way of learning is different. You may need to try out a lot of different techniques and exercise to find the ones that are best for you. But even then, it’s a good idea to try and use many different learning style exercises to help keep new vocabulary in your mind.
Use learning aids
One of the oldest, easiest and most powerful exercise for vocabulary practice is the good old flashcard. Simply write down the new word that you want to learn on one side of the card and a definition on the back. Go through the flashcards a couple of times a day trying to remember the definition before looking at the back.
There is one problem with flashcards, and it’s that they are somewhat difficult to keep organized and carry around. But there are many apps available now that let you create flashcards that are even more portable (easy to carry) and usable. These apps even let you review the flashcards at set time periods to help you move the vocabulary into your long-term memory.
When you are trying to learn new vocabulary for the TOEIC, try giving yourself vocabulary tests often. This will help you find and work on words that are difficult for you.
This can be as simple as using your flashcards or creating your own paper tests. You can even use websites or apps to create your own online tests. However you choose to do it, it’s important to take some action with the words that you get incorrect in order to learn them.
Use what you have learned
When you learn a new word, try to use it in real life. Look for a chance to use it in daily conversation, in your writing or at any other opportunity that you have. The more you use new words, the better you will understand their uses and remember them.
Read as much as you can
The more words you see and learn, the better vocabulary you will have. While you are improving your vocabulary for the TOEIC, it’s important to read as much as possible. Read challenging materials so that you will see a lot of new words.
While you read, pay close attention to words that you haven’t seen before. Most vocabulary we learn comes from context. You should try and figure out their meaning from the context where you first see the words. Finally, look up new words and make sure you understand them completely.
There are many different types of learners, so use the exercises that work best for you. Some of these exercises will surely make studying vocabulary for the TOEIC easier and more enjoyable for you.
This, of course, means you’ll remember more words! Good luck!