What will you do with your vocabulary list?To gain advanced proficiency of English so that you can use English in an academic or workplace setting, you will need to build a vocabulary base of a few thousand words. First year university students begin their collegiate studies with knowledge of about 20,000 words. Only being able to recognize these words in reading passages, these students do not use these words in their writing and speaking. In fact, their “active” vocabulary base is about 3,000 words. But what does this mean to you, a non-native speaker aspiring to score high on the TOEFL iBT test? How many words do you need to know? Which words should you learn? Whose words should you study and why? This post will address answers to these questions.
Some time ago, I wanted to put together a TOEFL vocabulary list to distribute to my TOEFL students at California State University, San Bernardino. To begin building my lists, I consulted college-level textbooks from physics to linguistics–and every discipline in between. I read 26 different college textbooks representing a plethora of disciplines, and, as I read, I wrote down words that I thought important for non-native speakers who wanted to pass the TOEFL iBT. A curious thing happened after 1,700 words: I stopped finding new words and the words I had already written down started to reappear in these college textbooks. Then it dawned on me: I had finished my list at 1,700 words.
As a visitor to this blog, there is a 42% chance that you have already downloaded this list. And to this you can be sure: if you master the words on this list by memorizing them and using the newly acquired words in your writing and speaking, you will improve your ability to understand TOEFL iBT discussions, lectures, and reading passages. Additionally, you will have superior command of your TOEFL iBT speaking and writing skills. If you are really serious about getting an extraordinarily high TOEFL iBT score, I strongly encourage you to subscribe to my monthly TOEFL iBT Newsletter so you can get TOEFL iBT-specific instruction with vocabulary (Like my other TOEFL lessons, the vocabulary topics change each month. For example, in the second issue of my TOEFL iBT Newsletter, you watch an 82 minute video during which you will complete many vocabulary skill-building exercises designed to help you improve your TOEFL iBT vocabulary proficiency.
In conclusion, you may wonder, “Michael, I have the list, but what the heck do it do with it? I mean the list is 242 pages long!” Without delay, you should re-read the December 26, 2008 post titled “Are You Having Trouble Remembering the TOEFL iBT Vocabulary You Are Memorizing?” I challenge you to take my advice to heart and begin this study plan immediately.
Finally, remember the saying that may help you deal with what at first may seem like an overwhelming task: “How do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time!
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