3 Things to Help Broaden Your Vocabulary

Taking an SAT prep course in high school was one of the best decisions that I made in high school. Going in, I thought that we would be homing in on specific math and literacy skills to better prepare for the exam.

While the class did help me be prepared for specific questions, I was surprised by how much time we spent on learning new words and their definitions. Oftentimes the creators of the SAT place unfamiliar words into the questions which makes it harder for us to understand the meaning and to use context clues to answer a question.

By broadening my vocabulary, I found that it helped me to not only be better prepared for the exam, but in other areas of my academics as well.

Having a wide range of vocabulary can have substantial benefits such as having a faster processing speed and greater success in the workplace. Oftentimes workers with an expansive vocabulary perform better than those without.

Having a comprehensive vocabulary can also improve one’s understanding of current events. Therefore, it helps the reader to be more well-versed in their citizenry.

1. Read challenging material.

An effective way to broaden your vocabulary is to read challenging novels or nonfiction literature. While it may be tempting to reread your favorite childhood novel or a simple summer read, reading more demanding material is sure to strengthen your word choice.

By using context clues within the sentence, your brain will begin to pick up the definition of each word. Since language is constantly changing, reading books from a variety of time periods can provide a new perspective. For example, Shakespeare’s Hamlet can give you an idea of how language was used in the 17th century.

2. Learn prefixes and suffixes.

In my SAT prep course, we frequently spent time learning prefixes and suffixes. A prefix is an element placed before the stem of a word to alter its meaning. A suffix serves the same purpose but is placed at the end of the word.

By becoming familiar with prefixes and suffixes it will be easier to decipher the meaning of a word. For example, the prefix mal- means the bad and therefore, the word ‘maladjusted’ would mean failing to or unable to adjust.

3. Engage in conversation with a variety of people.

Another way to expand your vocabulary is to engage in conversation with people that may have a different profession or hobbies than you. By majoring in journalism, I have interviewed and talked to many people that I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to speak to.

Every profession and hobby have their own set of jargon and they can be a great resource for learning unfamiliar language. Just be sure to ask for the definition if you’re unclear on what a term means and how it relates to their occupation or recreation.


There are many benefits to having a broad vocabulary and you can begin to make large improvements in your daily life by making small adjustments. It’s important to use the words you learn so that you can memorize them and keep your vocabulary diversified. Large, complicated words have their time and place and should be used in the proper manner.


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