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Put The Definition in Your Own Words

The first technique for learning new words is to put the definition in your own words. It is best to try to condense the definition to only one or two words; this will make it easier to remember. You will find simple one or two word definitions provided for you in the list of 4000 essential words in this book. You may be even more likely to remember these, however, if you put the definitions in your own words.
For example, take the word


The definition of heinous is “abominable, vile.” However, you may find it much easier to remember by the word


Often the dictionary definition of a word can be simplified by condensing the definition into one word.
Take, for example, the word



The dictionary definition is “to put an end to; to extinguish guilt, to make amends for.” This definition may be summed up by one word



Putting definitions in your own words makes them more familiar and therefore easier to remember.

Write Down The Words

Many people are visual learners and do not fully benefit from a mere review of words and their definitions as they appear in a dictionary or in the list in this book. For these learners, writing the words and their definitions may well make a dramatic difference in retaining the words and their meanings. For many, it may take several times of writing the word down along with its definition to make it all “sink in.” If you think this method is best for you, get a notebook to write your words in.

Use Flashcards

If you decide to write down the new words you are learning, you might also consider accomplishing two jobs at once by creating your own set of flashcards. Cut heavyweight paper into a size that you feel is manageable. Then, when you are practicing your words by writing them down, simply write the words on one side of a flashcard and write the definition on the other side. You will then have a wonderful tool with which to learn words on your own or to use with a partner in quizzing each other.

Create a Word Picture

Creating mental word pictures is another visual technique that you can apply to many words. You may remember in grade school learning the difference between the word principal and the word principle. Your teacher probably told you that principal refers to “the leader of an educational institution” and the word ends with “pal.” Your school principal wants to be your “pal,” so this is easy to remember (after all, you always wanted to be best friends with your principal, right?). Your teacher gave you a mental word picture.
Let’s take another word: sovereign. Sovereign means “monarch.” The word itself contains the word reign. What do you think of when you think of reign? You probably think of a king—or a monarch. So, picture a king when you are trying to recall the meaning of sovereign, and it should be easy to remember.
How about pestilence. Pestilence means “disease.” The word pest is in the word. Pests are common in a garden, and, unfortunately, they often cause diseases among the plants in a garden. So when you see this word, picture a garden and then picture all of the pests that bring diseases to your garden. Then you will remember the meaning of pestilence.
If you have created flashcards, it may help to draw a small reminder on the flashcard of your mental word picture to further ingrain the word in your memory.
For example, for sovereign, you might draw a small crown; for pestilence, you could pencil in a pesty bug.
Creating mental word pictures helps you retain the meanings of new words and clarifies your thinking when you get to the test.

Set Goals

Whatever technique works best for you, it is necessary to set goals if you plan to learn the “Ubiquitous 400” as well as the top 4000 words that are listed in this study guide. To do so, first look ahead to your intended test date. Next, determine how many days you have before this test date. Finally, divide the list so you have a preset goal each day of how many words you will learn. This makes the task much less formidable because you will be able to measure your accomplishments each day rather than trying to attack in one sitting what seems to be an insurmountable task.

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