Sometimes, reading exams have a section which focuses on vocabulary. These tips will help you get good marks in this section.

Possible questions could include:

  • Find the word in the text that means ... (You are given a definition)
  • Choose the correct definition of the word X. (You are given some definitions to choose from)
  • What does X mean? (You write your own definition)

These suggestions will help you get the questions right: 

  • Read the whole sentence with the word and the sentences before and after. Use the context to understand the meaning of the word.
  • What is the topic of the text? Is the word related to the subject of the text?
  • What part of speech is the word? Noun? Verb? Adjective? Adverb?
  • Does it have a prefix? e.g. the prefixes un- , in- or dis- make a word negative, the prefix re- means ‘again’, etc.
  • Does it have a suffix? The suffixes -tion, -sion or -ment are used in nouns, -ive, -able or -ful are used in adjectives, etc.
  • Is the word similar to another word you know? e.g. birth is similar to birthday.
  • Is the word similar to a word in your language? Circuit is similar to circuito in Spanish.
  • Is there another word in the text that means the same? We often use synonyms in a text so we don't repeat words.
  • Check that your definition or answer is the same part of speech as the original word.
  • When you learn a new word, write down other words in the same family, e.g. possible: possibility (n), impossible (prefix), possibly (adv).


Do you have any top tips to help others learn vocabulary outside the classroom? How do you remember new words? Do you keep a vocabulary diary?