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Learning words

This website contains a large number of vocabulary quizzes of different types. In most cases the quizzes contain up to 20 words which are all related to a particular topic: e.g. money or health and injury. If you return to the same topic two or three times and answer the quiz questions, you should learn the new words quite quickly.

But this way of doing things is a little passive. To learn words more quickly, it's best to do something with them. Once you have chosen which ones are important for you to learn to use yourself (not just to understand), you could write them down and add your own definition or a translation of the word in your own language. If you have an electronic dictionary, you can hear how the word is pronounced and then practise saying it yourself.

You could also find extra grammatical information about the word in your dictionary. For example, if the word is a verb, you could find out if it is regular or not; if the word is a noun, you could determine if it is a count or uncount noun. It is a very good idea to try to learn the word in a typical expression. For example, instead of just learning that to beg means to ask very strongly, you could learn the expression She begged me not to tell anyone. Learning that recently means in the last few days or weeks is good, but learning it in the expression Have you seen any good films recently? is better! For this reason, in some of the quiz modes you can read an example sentence which contains the word in a typical expression.

Of course, if you try to use the words in your own speaking and writing, you will remember them all the more quickly. An excellent way to actively learn the new words you find in the computer files is to make vocabulary cards.

Advice for advanced learners: Some of the quizzes (type 1) are organized into semantic groups of the same part of speech (For example, the Ways of saying quiz contains 20 verbs.) Other quizzes (type 2), such as Illness and injury contain words related to the topic but of varying parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.). Still other quizzes (type 3) contain words that have no semantic or thematic connection.

Research suggests that it is easier to learn words from quiz types 2 and 3 than from quiz type 1. My advice, therefore, is this: Instead of trying to learn all the words in a type 1 quiz at the same time, learn 4 or 5 from that quiz and a similar number from a couple of other quizzes. Then return to the same quizzes and learn different words. Repeat this until all the words have been learned.

Of course, it is for you to choose the words you want to learn and the methods by which to do so. Nevertheless, it is helpful to know what research into learning vocabulary teaches us about the most effective practices. [More information and a reference to the research can be found on the Teachers page.]

More general advice on learning vocabulary.

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