The Highlands Company Blog

How to Improve Your Vocabulary

The Highlands Ability Battery vocabulary work sample measures the client’s vocabulary level by comparing it to the vocabulary level of the average graduate. Some clients can be disappointed, they want a higher score. Because vocabulary is a skill rather than an innate ability, there is scope to develop vocabulary and increase the overall level.

Vocabulary is included in the overall Highlands assessment as it is a significant factor in achieving success in many careers. Studies have shown a correlation between career and financial success and an above average vocabulary.

Vocabulary can be improved and strengthened through reading, listening, and continuing effort.

Why You Need to Improve Your Vocabulary

‘Good English, well spoken and well written, will open more doors than a college degree … Bad English will slam doors you don’t even know exist’ William Raspberry

Johnson O’Connor, whose work lead to the creation of the Highlands Ability Programme said:

‘Why do large vocabularies characterize executives and possibly outstanding men and women in other fields? The final answer seems to be that words are the instruments by means of which men and women grasp the thoughts of others and with which they do much of their own thinking. They are the tools of thought.’

The benefit of a large vocabulary is to enable you to understand other peoples’ ideas better and to be able to put across your thoughts and ideas, more effectively both in writing and when conversing.

How to Improve Your Vocabulary

It’s often recommended that we spend 15 minutes (or more) a day on activity to increase vocabulary. By setting out a plan to learn 10 new words a day, we can assure that in a year our vocabulary will have increased by over 3,000 words.

Notice the Words You Don’t Know

Many of us skip over unfamiliar words when we read. What is recommended is that you guess the word meaning from the context and then look the word up in a dictionary. There are also words that we think we know the meaning of, but that we actually misunderstand and misuse. E.g., we think that LOGICAL means true or that LUSTER means smoothness. So when we come across words we are not 100% comfortable with, it is worth taking the time to note them and look them up in a dictionary.

Read Vocabulary-Stretching Material

It’s useful to include in the books and other material we read writing which is more creative and ambitious. I find that the novels of Will Self and the New Statesman magazine include many words that I’ve needed to look up, I have added these words to my own vocabulary.

Check the dictionary

A decent dictionary is essential. A compact dictionary will not include a sufficient breadth of words. The dictionary needs to be kept close at hand so you can look up words as you come across them. As you look up each word, use a highlighter so the word stands out. Then, each evening, flick through your dictionary to review the words you have learnt. Take a moment to write a sentence using each word.

Learn New Words

In addition to looking up the meaning of words as you read, you can also be proactive in learning new words. You can use an index card system to note the words you have learnt, one card for each word or you can continue to highlight them in your dictionary. The use of index cards may be more satisfying as you can see the stack grow over the months as you add to your vocabulary. Also, you can take a number of cards each day – 20 or more – and review them aloud. There’s no better way to learn a word well enough to use it in your own speech and letters.

Enjoy developing your vocabulary – it’s really worth the effort.