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The Tricks to Mastering Vocabulary Lists

The Tricks to Mastering Vocabulary Lists

A patriarchal friendAcquiscental. Hombolyph. Trinomianist. Notice a pattern? All of these words look like they could be on your next vocabulary list in your English/History/Advanced Vocabulary Skills/Super Advanced Vocabulary Skills class.

Coincidentally, none of these words are actually words. They just look like it. Which, in my opinion, is similar to any vocab list your teacher gives you. I mean, patriarchal? I bet the teachers just made up the definition on the spot.

This brings me to the first “trick:” run your vocabulary words through a dictionary. If they’re not in the dictionary, then write them on a piece of paper. At the end of the year, mail your teacher this paper along with a bunch of the assignment sheets you were given, highlighting the portion that says ‘DOUBLE CHECK ALL SPELLING AND GRAMMAR!’

But, let’s say, for instance, that you do have a few real words on your vocab list. The next trick is to look for obvious meanings. For example, let’s humor our teachers and pretend that patriarchal is a word. Just looking at, it seems like it means pa three arch al. Then, using a skill you learned in math, cancel out the a’s and reorder the letters, giving you three arch pal, or a friend who has a triple-jointed back.

Easy, isn’t it? Sort of. You see, that’s not what patriarchal actually means (that is, assuming it is a word). If it were this easy, it wouldn’t be on the vocab list. However, since you now know one of the things that patriarchal isn’t, your chances of guessing the correct answer have improved (albeit by a minimal amount. And by minimal, I mean smaller than the chances of your next math test being multiple choice multiplied by the probability that you wake up tomorrow before 3:00 PM).

Another trick to mastering vocab is to come up with an acrostic poem for the word. If you can use things that you like/are familiar to you, while also recalling the meaning, this is super helpful:

Awesome puppies
Rabid tarantulas
Awesome puppies
Rabid Iguanas
Hey, how genius was Iguanas? How many animals do you know that start with I?
Awesome Me
Literally, Patriarchal means: Patriarchal

See? There’s no way you’ll forget the meaning. Plus, it’s really easy. Assuming your vocab list has at least 10 words, each one averaging seven letters, then you only have to memorize 70 things. Less, really, if you make every ‘A’ awesome something.

But, suppose you don’t have my skill (it comes with practice) at this. What should you do? Yet another trick is to burn the definitions into your eyeballs.

While I’ve never actually had to resort to this (acrostic all the way, baby!), it is both simple in concept and in science. Remember when your parents told you not to look at the sun? Well, after you looked at the sun, the image, as you probably remember, would still be there after you blinked.

Although your vocab list is slightly less bright, it still reflects light. Therefore, if you can unblinkingly stare at your list of vocab for sixty hours straight right before the test, the definitions will still be visible for the first five seconds during the test.

These are all handy tools for mastering vocab lists. Unlike tools, though, these tricks are not useful for hammering nails, or screwing in screws, or bashing your alarm clock to bits. Honestly, these tricks might not even be helpful for memorizing vocab. However, they are helpful in procrastinating, which is a vital step to learning any vocab list.

Last year, we brought you “The Point of Marking Up a Book,” which deals with everything about marking up a book. Yes, everything, including how to judge people based on the way they mark up their books with sticky notes. Plus, it’s illustrated, with 4 pictures.

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  1. My AP English teacher gave us a stapeled packet of SAT words. There are twelve groups. Each group has twenty-five words in it. And on each Monday and Friday we test on what ever group were on. If we don’t pass, we continue to take that same group over and over. If we pass then we continue on to the next group. I’ve been doing this since January. I have passed all twelve groups! Now to tackle the Parts of Speech…

    • Well, then, I regret to inform you that the SAT is not limited to only 300 words; they’ve got about a billion real ones to pick from, plus a trillion made-up words they like to throw on the test just to mess with us all (that’s why there’s the whole part about ‘not discussing specific questions’ afterwards). But nice job.

      • I am quite aware that the words I have been studying will more than likely NOT appear on my SAT next weekend but I am proud of the fact that I had a good memory and being the only girl that stayed at the top of the leader-board.

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