At any stage of English, impressing an examiner generally includes having some very fancy words at your disposal.  Reading is a good way to boost general vocabulary, but it tends to give a vague overall improvement.  If your exams are coming soon and you need a quick, focused vocabulary boost, then vocabulary lists are the way forward.

Sample Vocabulary Bank


How to build a great vocabulary list

1. Usability

Include words that are user-friendly.  There are a lot of very impressive words that are nevertheless synonyms for quite simple ideas.  'Antediluvian' sounds impressive, but you can just use it whenever you want to say 'really old'.

2. Digest the word

Spend time thinking about the word, defining it yourself, and using it in sentences.  When building a vocabulary list, I make students write in the word and its definition.  Once two words have been written down, students must write a sentence containing both words.  This is obviously trickier than just using one word in a sentence and leads to some great phrases.

3. Don't get greedy

Don't include too many words.  For most purposes, what you want is 30-50 really impressive words that are memorable and easy to use.  It's no use having 20 sprawling pages of vocabulary when you remember none of it, so be selective.

Extra Credit

  • This flash game quizzes you on vocabulary.  The good news is that it's quite fun to play - you draw soap bubbles to capture fish.  The bad news is that it's nearly impossible to remember any of the great words you learned because they flash by so quickly.  However, it's a decent tool to use as long as you write down the words and add the worthiest ones to your vocab bank.
  • The Gail Carriger finishing school series is a great choice for bright 11+ students or above.  It combines a silly, entertaining plot with a truly prodigious vocabulary.
  • Write a free-flow story where you need to include a vocabulary bank word in every sentence. Explained in detail here.

Please comment below if you have a particularly great word that you think is worthy of vocabulary bank status!

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