5 Steps to Building your Active Vocabulary

Students always tell me how hard it is to remember new English words and to actually use these new words when they talk or write. This kind of vocabulary is called active vocabulary – words that you produce when you speak or write – versus passive vocabulary – where you can understand the meaning of words you read or hear.

So how can you increase your active vocabulary, especially in writing?

It takes some effort and consistency. Here’s what you do:

  1. Read a news or magazine article that interests you – either news or entertainment, business or academic,
  2. Identify up to TEN new vocabulary words. Why 10? Any more you’d be cramming too much at one time. You want to make sure these are words that you’ll end up using.
  3. Write them down in a notebook. But don’t stop there. I’ve seen a lot of students have pages and pages of lists of words with their translations next to them but in no logical order. You can write the definition as well as other forms of the word (i.e. noun/verb/adverb/adjective forms)
  4. Look at how the word is used in the article you are reading. Then write your OWN sentence using the new word in your sentence(s). Write a few sentences if you feel you need to make sure the meaning is understood well.
  5. Review your words regularly and actively try to use your list of 10 new words in a conversation you may have. Or practice a “dialog” or “presentation” where you use these words. One way would be to summarize or talk about the article you got the new words from.

I'm an English teacher specializing in IELTS preparation - especially writing and reading. If you have any questions, please ask! You can also sign up for weekly tips and lessons for IELTS and English!

Posted in IELTS Writing, Vocabulary Tagged with: ,
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  1. […] Also remember, if you don’t use it, you lose it!  This means, you have to be active in using these words either in your writing or when you speak so that you naturally retain (keep in your memory) your new vocabulary words.  See here for 5 Steps to Building Your Active Vocabulary. […]

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