Vocabulary does play as big a part in TOEFL, as it does in other tests like the SAT & GRE.
However, most TOEFL winners are familiar with the majority of standard words that appear on the TOEFL.
A good vocabulary is inextricably linked to a good memory. To have a deep and wide vocabulary, a student needs a very good memory.
So how do TOEFL Winners go about developing a good memory?
THE FALLACY OF MOST MEMORY SYSTEMS
The commonly accepted idea that more memorizing makes memorizing easier is false, and that there is no truth in the popular figure of speech that likens the memory to a muscle that grows stronger with use.
However, practice may result in an unconscious improvement in the Winning methods of memorizing.
By practice a student comes to unconsciously discover and employ new associative methods in recording of facts, making them easier to recall, but we can certainly add nothing to the actual scope and power of retention.
Yet many books on memory-training seek to develop the general ability to remember by incessant practice in memorizing particular words, just as one would develop a muscle by exercise.
The real cause of a poor memory is Not the loss of retentiveness, but the loss of an intensity of interest. It is the failure to form sufficiently large groups and complexes of related ideas, emotions and muscular movements associated with the particular fact to be remembered.
Developing a Winning Memory
We recall things by their associations. When you set your mind to remember any particular fact, your conscious effort should not be to vaguely will that it shall be impressed and retained, but analytically and deliberately to connect it with one or more other facts already in your mind.
The student who “crams” for an examination makes no permanent addition to his knowledge. There can be no recall without association, and “cramming” allows no time to form associations.
If you find it difficult to remember a fact or a word, do not waste your energies in “willing” it to return. Try to recall some other fact or name associated with it.
If your memory is good in most respects, but poor in a particular line, it is because you do not interest yourself in that line, and therefore have no material for association.
To improve your memory you must increase the number and variety of your mental associations.
Many ingenious methods, scientifically correct, have been devised to aid in the remembering of particular facts. These methods are based wholly on the principle that that is most easily recalled which is associated in our minds with the most complex and elaborate groupings of related ideas.
Make systematic use of your senses.
Do you find it difficult to remember names? It is because you do not link them in your mind with enough associations. Every time a man is introduced to you, look about you. Who is present? Take note of as many and as great a variety of surrounding facts and circumstances as possible. Think of the man’s name, and take another look at his face, his dress, his physique. Think of his name, and at the same time his voice and manner. Think of his name, and mark the place where you are now for the first time meeting him.
Think of his name in conjunction with the name and personality of the friend who presented him.
Memory is not a distinct faculty of mind in the sense that one student is generously endowed in that respect while another is deficient. Memory is wholly a question oftrained habits of mental operation, and can be improved.
Your memory is just as good as mine or any other student’s. It is your indifference to what you would call “irrelevant facts” that is at fault.
Therefore, cultivate habits of observation. Fortify the observed facts you wish to recall with a multitude of outside associations. Never rest with a mere halfway knowledge of things.
However, that does not imply that you have to be a Walking Dictionary.
Strategies for Building a Winning Vocabulary using Mental Associations
Many TOEFL winners have successfully used one or more of the strategies below to remember 1000 word wordlists in just a few days.
– OUT OF PROPORTION – In all your images, try to distort size and shape. You can imagine things much larger than their normal size or conversely, microscopically small.
– SUBSTITUTION – You could visualise footballers kicking a television around a football pitch instead of a football, or pens growing on a tree instead of leaves. Substituting an out of place item in an image increases the probability of recall.
–EXAGGERATION – Try to picture vast quantities in your images.
–MOVEMENT – Any movement or action is always easy to remember. For example, see yourself cutting into a sausage and gallons of ink squirting out and hitting you in the face.
e.g. the word ricochet means to bounce or skip off. This word can easily be linked with Rick, you might be a person you know. Imagine your friend jumping on to a wall head on and then bouncing off from it. Think of his dazed face when he skips off the wall, imagine the vivid color of the wall.
–HUMOUR – The funnier, more absurd and zany you can make your images, the more memorable they will be.
e.g. the word torpid means slow. Torpid can easily be linked to Torpedo. Imagine a Torpedo chasing away a tortoise. Imagine the tortoise trying to get away from teh torpedo and the torpedo unable to keep up with the speed of the tortoise. Imagine it happening in a small path in teh Jungle. Imagine the torpedo making a hissing sound. Make the picture as vivid as possible.
You will never forget the meaning of torpid again.
Applying any combination of these five principles when forming your images will help make your mental associations truly outstanding and memorable.
At first you may find that you need to consciously apply one or more of the five principles in order to make your pictures sufficiently ludicrous. After a little practice however, you should find that applying the principles becomes an automatic and natural process
– When you learn new words, make sure you learn them in a context. It is much easier to picture a sentence rather than a word in isolation.
-Since a lot of English words are derived from Greek & Latin roots, it makes sense to be aware of these and the suffixes and prefixes commonly used.
– Pay attention to the tone of the words, whether soft or hard, harsh or mind, negative or positive. This could help you guess when in doubt, especially in the Sentence Completion section.
– Play games like scrabble & crosswords. This will make building vocabulary fun and you will not get put off after sometime.
– Perhaps the Best way to increase your vocabulary is to read, read and read. There is absolutely no substitute for that! Reading helps you learn new words from the context in which they are used, thereby making it easy to remember the new words and more importantly, how and when it is used.
The following 1200 words are the most common words appearing in the MCAT and account for more than 95% of the difficult words that you are likely to encounter.
To make it easy for you to remember new words, each word below is illustrated by a sentence.