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The purpose of this article is to provide some insights into how students can approach standard language exam preparation with greater efficacy. When dealing with IELTS, TOEFL, GMAT or GRE vocabulary, it is advisable that one bear in mind several important guidelines that can help boost the score. The rules of vocabulary preparation for the reading part are universal and easy to follow. However, vocabulary for each exam does differ in terms of difficulty.

Tip #1 - study the roots, prefixes and suffixes of words because these lexical bricks are much more manageable on their own than full words. In our experience, we have seen dozens of students at a loss and unable to “crack” the etymology of fairly understandable words. For instance, the word “replenish” often baffles students, but if only they tried to break it down into smaller chunks, the meaning would become more than apparent. “Re” – again/over, “plen” – plentiful/abundant and the suffix “ish” is there to indicate that it is a verb. Hence, the meaning of “to replenish” is to make plentiful again/to restock. Examples of such nature are numerous, and even such tough nuts to crack as “unfathomable, indefatigable, or indelible” can become easier once you break them down.

It is always wise to study roots, prefixes and suffixes because they greatly enrich your vocabulary not by just one word but its many derivatives. For instance, the root “cred” – (belief) can be found in: incredible, incredulously, creed, credo, credentials, credit, to discredit, accreditation, and many others. In the same vein, the root “dorm” - (sleep) can help you unlock such words as dormitory, dormant, and dormancy.

Tip #2 - another important tip is to study synonyms and antonyms, and this is particularly true for the TOEFL and GRE because these tests abound with such types of questions. If you are learning, for example, the word “compulsory”, then it is a very good idea to brush up on its synonyms “obligatory”, “mandatory” and “binding” because chances are good that test makers will try to catch you off guard with such synonyms/antonyms. Think about a simple word “healthy” and try to remember as many synonyms as you can before you read any further. Well, the basic list could go something like this: robust, wholesome, vigorous, potent, and lusty. The more antonyms and synonyms you know, the better.

Tip #3 - another strategy is to study different forms of words – nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives as these can be subtle and tricky to differentiate. To illustrate, the noun form “stench” differs strongly from its verb form “to stink” (to give off a foul smell), or the word “depth” is not easily recognizable at first glance from the word “deep”. Nearly the same goes for the word “heiress”, as the noun form is distinctly different from its root verb form “to inherit”. Word forms and derivatives are common for the aforementioned tests and again it is a good strategy to cover them

Some more food for thought. Who does not know such basic words as minute, fast, sound, arm, spell, fashion or decorated? Even beginners would have little difficulty, if any, understanding them perfectly, but upon closer inspection, there is more to these words than may seem. The trick, though, with these words is that test makers often use second or even third meanings of words making them confusing. So, the word “minute” can mean extremely small, the word “sound” can mean healthy, “spell” – a long dry period without rain. With this in mind, do not rush in, but rather think about possible pitfalls that await you. And, because the first meanings of these words are so easy, many students take them for granted and become fooled by them. To illustrate further, an “exhaustive” research is not the one that makes you exhausted but rather a thorough one, the verb “to construe” (to understand) has nothing to do with constructing, and “histrionics”(emotional behavior) is not of the same origin as history. ”Husbandry” is not “being a husband” but “agriculture”, nor is “copious” (abundant) related to making copies. Just like “ignorant” (lacking knowledge) only sounds connected to the word “ignore” and “affectation” only appears to stem from to affect.

Tip #4 - The last piece of sound advice is to study well in advance as mastering vocabulary takes time, patience and diligence. Did you notice the less usual connotation of the word “sound” in the previous sentence? If yes, then you are definitely on the right track.

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