Academic English & TOEFL Prep How NOT TO STUDY Academic Vocabulary

How NOT TO STUDY Academic Vocabulary


If you have ever tried to study Academic Vocabulary by yourself, I’m willing to bet you, you haven’t had much success.

I’m also pretty sure many fellow students, as well as professional teachers, have  tried to tell you how to study Academic Vocabulary.

Trouble is, nobody ever told you WHAT NOT TO DO

Have no fear, that’s why I’m here. (The rhyme is just a bonus.)

First of all, there is no “quick fix”; it’s important to understand that no vocabulary can be learned over night. It takes time, repetition  and application to acquire new vocabulary. Unfortunately, this is not likely to happen  if you rely on memorizing vocabulary lists or use resources that don’t provide in-depth understanding of the Academic Vocabulary. The same goes for the lack of practice in applying the newly acquired vocabulary to your speaking and writing.

Here, in no particular order, are a few pieces of advice:

1. Do not memorize Academic Vocabulary lists

The biggest problem with the Vocabulary lists is that they only give you the most common definition of the word. That, unfortunately, usually works in only one context. In addition, they do not go any deeper. In other words, they fail to address different meanings and other aspects of vocabulary. As a result, you might understand the meaning in one context, but not be able to even  recognize it in another, especially if it’s used in a different form.

2. Do not waste money on the ready-made Academic Vocabulary cards

Yes, they might be nice and shiny, laminated/paper or digital, but  you are not going to learn much if you don’t “play’ with them. It is much more efficient to create your own vocabulary cards. They might not look as good, but you are bound to learn a lot in the process of  creation. Let me emphasize the word “process”, because creating vocabulary cards, just like the learning process itself, takes time.

3. Do not use English-to-your language dictionary

The mere fact that you are trying to compare two completely different languages should be enough of a reason. It’s impossible to find an exact equivalent in another language, for every single word in English.

Of course you have to rely on an English-to-your language dictionary when you are just starting. However, as soon as you have a decent command of the General English Vocabulary List, you should switch to an English-to-English dictionary. In this day and age, there are many good online English-to-English dictionaries. Their main advantage over the paper dictionaries is that most of them are updated on regular basis, so you’ll never get stuck with the type of English that was spoken in the year your dictionary was published (and trust me, languages evolve almost as fast as technology does)

P.S.: Google Translate is fine for a quick reference, but shouldn’t be your go-to tool for serious vocabulary study. If you don’t believe me, pick , for example a Facebook post written in your language and check out the English version, translated by Google.

So, what is a person to do?

I cannot  stress this enough – learning vocabulary, especially Academic Vocabulary, is a long process that requires a SYSTEMATIC approach, and that is something that a learner can do only with proper guidance.  In other words, enlisting help from a qualified ESL teacher or tutor, will save you a lot of time, not to mention the frustration.

If you are ready to try something that has worked for other TOEFL  students, consider  signing up for our Private Academic English Lessons, or the Academic Vocabulary Workshop. 


CLICK HERE to join us and keep informed

When You choose to join us, you choose to keep informed on the changes in our services and resources, before they become public knowledge. You also choose to become a member of a small group of highly motivated International Professionals. This “membership” often comes with some ‘perks’ – links to free education and special discounts on our services and resources.

Our Blog Topics

1. #AcademicEnglish

2. #TOEFLReading

3. #TOEFLSpeaking

4. #TOEFLPrep

My Services & Resources Available Services & Resources
Sign In

Sign In Details

Forgot Password