How Do I Improve My College Vocabulary?

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  • Written By: Alicia Sparks
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 May 2019
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Your high school English and language arts classes will help you begin building a solid college vocabulary, but there are exercises you can practice yourself to prepare you for reading, writing, and speaking on a college level. Some of these exercises are similar to how you might have first started learning vocabulary words, such as creating flashcards, and others involve more involved vocabulary drills. You can even establish new daily habits to build and strengthen a college vocabulary.

Some of the most effective ways to improve your college vocabulary are the same tips and tricks you used when you were younger. For example, consider using a stack of index cards to create vocab flashcards. For each card, write a vocabulary word on one side and its definition on the other. Then, spend some time each day using the cards by yourself or with the help of a friend. Once you’ve mastered that set of words, create a new stack with new words.

Consider keeping a notebook of vocabulary words. You might use this notebook in your college courses to write words you don’t understand and later add their definitions. At the same time, you might encounter words in books, on television, on the radio, or in everyday conversation. Jot these words in your notebook and add their definitions. Keep the notebook with you for reference, or to glance over when you have a free minute between classes.


These days, it’s easy to find online games to help you improve your college vocabulary. Such games are designed in a variety of formats. One game might show you a set of words and their definitions, and later have you match each word to its appropriate meaning. Others might show you a word and ask you to choose the sentence it belongs in. Likewise, some vocab games will ask you if a certain word is correctly used in a particular sentence.

Educational tools and games are effective ways to help you improve your college vocabulary, but there are other everyday habits you can develop, too. For example, as you’re reading, highlight words you don’t recognize and look up their definitions. Keep a thesaurus on hand whenever you’re writing papers, whether they’re essays or creative assignments, and try to replace common or overused words with words that are new to you. Just as you would if you learned them in other ways, try to correctly use these words in other situations. You’ll want to also practice speaking these words, so your improved college vocabulary extends beyond just reading and writing.



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