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Vocabulary Building Resources

Updated on January 9, 2018

The beauty of the English language lies within its richness and its complexity. No matter what you wish to convey, the English language has a unique term that is well suited to capture the meaning and emotion you wish to express. Enhancing your vocabulary will allow you harness the language’s power in order to communicate with precision.

Below are resources to help you expand your internal lexicon written by guest writer Susan Bates:


Reading is one of the best approaches for vocabulary expansion. When we come across an unfamiliar term in the context of a story, we gain a deeper understanding of that word than if we were to learn it in isolation because we see exactly how it is used. The more often we come across that word in other books, the better we are able to understand the nuances of meaning that distinguish it from similar terms.

Classic literature is often considered the best reading material for acquiring new vocabulary. Great writers of the past not only tended to have a mastery of the English language but they also choose words that are no longer in common use today. Therefore, readers of classic literature absorb many new words into their internal lexicon. However, all reading, from classic books to comic books, has the potential for introducing new terminology.


Listening to others talk can be a great way to pick up new words. Whether you are listening to a friend, watching television, or attending a lecture there is always a potential to hear new words. Just make sure you are paying attention. It is easier to miss new words in spoken language than it is in written language.


Playing word-related games is a fun way to help you develop your vocabulary. Whether you are playing Scrabble with friends, completing a crossword puzzle, or playing a game on your phone, you are enhancing your verbal skills.

Word of the Day

If you make it your goal to learn one new word each day, you will have learned 365 new words at the end of the year! To find a new word each day, you can use products such as word-of-the-day calendars or books that provide a word to learn for each day. You can also subscribe to websites, such as Wordsmith or Merriam-Webster’s, which will email you a new word every day. Many dictionary sites will also tweet a new word on Twitter daily.

Exam Prep Books

If the reason you wish to improve your vocabulary is because you want to do well on a particular standardized test, consider using an exam prep book geared toward the test you will be taking. Often, exam prep books will provide a list of challenging words you are likely to encounter on that test. Also, exam prep books typically provide readers additional information that can help you succeed on the test you will be taking.

Vocabulary Books

If you just want to learn as many new words as possible, consider vocabulary books. Books designed for vocabulary building such as Barron’s 1100 Words You Really Need to Know. These types of books provide readers with an extensive list of challenging words and their definitions. They may also provide vocabulary building tips or games to make the process fun.


Creating flash cards to learn terms that you wish to memorize can be very helpful. Write the word on one side and the definition on the flipside. You can test yourself with these cards any time you have a few minutes.

If you prefer not to create your own cards, you can purchase predesigned vocabulary flashcards or use a vocabulary flashcard app on your phone.


The words we select have a great impact on how well we communicate. While two words may have similar meanings, there is something unique about each one. Subtle shades of meaning have the power to alter the information we convey. Therefore, the better our vocabulary, the better we are able to ensure that we truly express what we mean. Using resources such as the ones described above can enhance your communication dexterity and improve your understanding of others.

Resource List

Below are some of the tools that I have reviewed:

Bromberg, M. & Gordon, M. (2013) 1100 words you really need to know. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.

Brownstein, S. C. (1984). Barron’s vocabulary builder [9th ed.]. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.

Garg, A. & Garg, S. (2002) A word a day: A romp through some of the most unusual and intriguing words in English. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley

GRE exam: advanced verbal. (2009). New York, NY: Kaplan Publishing

GRE exam: vocabulary prep. (2008). New York, NY: Kaplan Publishing

GRE flashcards + app (4th ed.). (2014). New York, NY: Kaplan Publishing

LaCarna, J. (2017). Build your vocabulary skills! A quick and easy method. [Kindle version] (n.p.): Author.

Robinson, A. & Katzman, J. (2014). Cracking the SAT (premium 2015 ed.). Natick, MA: The Princeton Review, Inc.

Rockowitz, M. et. al. (2004). How to prepare for the GED high school equivalency Exam (13th edition). Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.

Word of the Day

Wordsmith: The magic of words

WP Games


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