SAT CRITICAL READING
BUILDING YOUR VOCABULARY
Tips on Building Your Vocabulary
Create Your Own Unique Flash Cards
Here’s how to make memorable, masterable flash cards. Be brief, but include all the information you need. On one side write the word. On the other side write concise definitions—two or three words at most—for each major meaning of the word you want to learn. Include an antonym, if you can; the synonym–antonym associations can help you remember both words. To fix the word in your mind, use it in a short phrase. Then write down that phrase.
Sample Flash Card:
You can pack an enormous amount of information onto a flash card in only a few words. Use symbols and simple sketches; you may discover you remember pictures better than phrases.
Consider This Flash Card:
The skull-and-crossbones symbol means poison all around the world.
Consider This Card as Well:
Anyone can draw a dollar sign. What makes the dollar sign useful on this card is that it’s something you added personally. You didn’t just copy down definitions straight off the list—you translated the word insolvent into symbols with which you’re comfortable.
Work up your own personal set of symbols and abbreviations. You can use simple plus and minus signs to clarify a word’s connotations. The word thrifty, for example, has positive connotations; it’s good to be a thrifty person, a person who has sense enough to save. Thrifty, + . The word parsimonious, however, has negative connotations. Though saving money is good, it’s bad to carry thrift to an extreme; when old Scrooge wouldn’t let his shivering clerk light a fire on the coldest day in winter, he showed just how stingy and parsimonious he was. Parsimonious, –.
Visual cues can reinforce your sense of what a word means. Consider the word disjointed. You can take it apart.
You can also write words at odd angles.
Or you can write them in odd shapes. If you personalize your flash cards, you’ll create something uniquely memorable, something that will stick in your mind because you thought it up yourself. That’s the sort of flash card that will be most valuable to you.