Published on 10 Mar 2015 | about 1 year ago

The secret to a rich vocabulary is to remember words and not just recognize them. I'll teach you a practical, easy way to increase your active vocabulary. Understand the difference between your productive and receptive skills. Find out why multiple-choice questions are easier than fill-in-the blank questions. Use these tips to boost your vocabulary for everyday life and get higher grades on the IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC, SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, and other exams.


Hi. This is Rebecca. Let me start this lesson by asking you a question. Which of these two exercises is easier for you? Let me go through them with you.

"Chaos means __________."
Something. Fill in the blank. Okay? In other words, they're asking you here: the word "chaos" means what?

Or second question:
"Chaos means
a) sadness
b) disorder
c) illness".

Okay? Think about that for a second. So, which of these two questions was easier for you? Okay? If you're like most students, you will probably say that this question was easier for you, because you had a choice of something. And here, you actually had to think of the answer. All right?

So, let me explain why that is the case. Here, in the fill in the blank question, you were asked to remember the answer. When you're trying to remember a word, you're using your active vocabulary. In English, like any other language, you have two kinds of skills. We have productive skills and receptive skills. Productive skills are what we use when we are speaking and writing, because when we speak and write, we have to remember words in order to do that. Right? And receptive skills are what you use when you're reading or listening, because when you do either of these activities, you just have to recognize the word, so you have to recall what they mean, but you don't have to think of them by yourself. You just have to recognize them.

So the vocabulary that's involved here on this side is your passive vocabulary of being able to recognize things. The vocabulary that's demanded here for speaking and writing is your active vocabulary, which you need when you're doing these activities and which you needed here in the fill in the blank answer. Okay? So, this is true not only in English. It's true in every language. You have a productive... You have productive skills and receptive skills. You have an active vocabulary and a passive vocabulary. And, in all languages, people's passive vocabulary is always much, much larger than their active vocabulary. That's why you can read hundreds of books and understand thousands and thousands of words, but you may not actually use those words yourself, even in your own language and certainly in English. So, next, I'll explain to you how to develop this active vocabulary.

So there are many ways to improve your active vocabulary. Today I'm going to show you one way. All right? So, what I've done is written a lot of vocabulary on the board, and what I'd like you to do is to take a theme, a vocabulary theme. What do I mean by a vocabulary theme? I mean an area, such as here, I've taken education, here I've taken religion, and here I've taken business or work. All right? And then you divide it. Let's say you have a piece of paper or you could do it, you know, on... You could do it written or you could do it in your mind, and you divide it into categories, such as: in the field of education, you want to think of people, you want to think of places, and you want to think of actions which are the verbs. Right?

So you could start by just doing it in a simple way and see if you can come up with at least three examples. All right? Three examples of people in education: "teacher", "student", "principal"; places: "school", "college", "university"; actions: "study", "teach", "learn". Okay? In the area of religion, if we're talking about different kinds of people, people of different religions: "Muslims", "Christians", "Hindus"; places in the area of religion: "mosque", "church", "temple"; actions could be: "pray", "bless", "believe". Obviously, these are not the only examples; I'm just showing you how to do it. In the field of business, for people you might put: "manager", "employee", "supervisor"; for places: "office", "factory", "department"; and for actions, things like: "work", or "recruit", or "promote". Okay?

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