How Do I Improve My TOEFL® Vocabulary?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

Reading might be one of the best ways to help you improve your Test of English as a Foreign Language® (TOEFL®) vocabulary. You can gain exposure to an abundance of new words by reading various types of books, magazines, and newspapers. Even online reading can prove helpful. Searching for new words in a dictionary and thesaurus also may be helpful. Additionally, taking every opportunity to listen to native English speakers and engage in conversations with them may help as well.

One of the most effective ways to boost your TOEFL® vocabulary is by reading. You may do well to choose a range of reading materials for this purpose. For example, you can read both fiction and non-fiction books written in English. You might also find it beneficial to read various types of magazines and newspapers, both in print and online.

While you are reading English books and other materials, it is likely that you will notice many words with which you are not familiar. Instead of skipping these words or assuming you’ve interpreted them correctly, you may do well to review the sentence in which each of these words is found as well as the sentences before and after the one that contains the unfamiliar word. Based on the context of your reading, you can then write what you think the unfamiliar word means on a piece of paper. With this paper handy, you can look up the word in a dictionary and compare its meaning to your interpretation of it. Whether or not your interpretation is correct, this exercise might help you boost both your TOEFL® vocabulary skills as well as your reading comprehension abilities.

Once you understand the meaning of an unfamiliar word, you may do well to learn other words that have a similar meaning. For example, you can boost your TOEFL® vocabulary by writing each of the new words you learn on a piece of paper and then searching for the same word in a thesaurus. As you review an entry, you will likely find at least a couple of unfamiliar words that have a similar meaning. Looking up these words in a dictionary may prove helpful as well, as many words have more than one meaning.

Listening to English as it is spoken by native speakers may also help you improve your TOEFL® vocabulary. You can do this by making friends and taking every opportunity to engage in conversations with them. You can also attend lectures given by native English speakers for this purpose. Watching movies and plays in English might also be helpful, as it can provide an opportunity to judge unfamiliar words based on the speaker's tone and body language. Additionally, you'll have the opportunity to gain exposure to commonly used words and phrase that you may not readily see in formal writing.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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    • Woman standing behind a stack of books
      Woman standing behind a stack of books