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CAT 2008: Tips to boost your vocab
Pooja Sachdeva,
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September 05, 2008

Have you ever tried to assess your vocabulary? You may have come across such words as 'anarchy', 'autarchy', 'hierarchy', 'matriarchy', 'monarchy', and 'oligarchy'.

And now there's "kindergarchy".


Let's analyse. Does it sound similar to "kindergarten? Yes, it does. The first half of the given word is related to children and the second half is related to 'rule' or 'govern'. So, kindergarchy as a whole means 'rule of children'; that is, the needs and desires of children getting precedence over those of their parents or elders.

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Do you feel outdated when it comes to such new words?
Language keeps assimilating, evolving and modifying words as per the needs of its users. With the furtherance of technology in modern day life, needs of language users change frequently and so does the language, albeit imperceptibly. We need clear and exact expressions to express our feelings. So we mould language accordingly.

Is expressing your ideas a daunting task?
Do you sometimes get speechless when it comes to the commencement or continuation of a discussion? If yes, you need to have a good vocabulary in order to get the right word in at the right time. It is seen that the level of vocabulary, in a sense, projects your overall level of highbrow functioning.

All about Words
Think of certain newfangled words that can really surprise you. Many newspapers like The Washington Times, The Australian, and The New York Times are using such words like 'Baraknophobia' (remember arachnophobia!). It relates to skeptical and negative feelings about the US presidential candidate, Barak Obama. Another example can be of 'burqini' which is commonly used nowadays. It has evolved from two words -- 'burqa + bikini' -- which means a swimsuit which veils the full body. There are a lot of such words -- 'cyborg', 'glocalisation', 'murketing' etc -- that you won't be able to locate in a dictionary. I am sure you will be very keen to know the meanings of these words.

Ascertaining meanings
The question is where do we find such words if they are not present in dictionaries? The answer is not as unfamiliar as the words are. To learn vocabulary which is currently in vogue, you have to read anything you can lay your hands upon, like recent novels, editorial sections of newspapers, journals etc. Learned authors often use such vocabulary. Remember, the more you are exposed to reading, the more new words you will learn. And never forget to frequently test your vocabulary.

Learning techniques
Now, grasping new vocabulary and retaining it are not such easy tasks. It is all about the right technique. There should be a system or modus operandi to learn such words as we cannot mug them up.

1. Being a voluntary reader
If you are a voluntary reader, mastering new vocabulary won't be a problem for you. As the same words are likely to figure again and again in your reading, you will get well acquainted with them.

2. Source citing
Another possible and interesting way out can be the method of source citing. Go to sites like It is an online dictionary, frequently updated. Here you can easily find out the source from which the word has originated. This creates a background, and learning words becomes easy.

3. Learning prefixes, suffixes, roots
This method is also very effective. If we know some roots, prefixes and suffixes, we can easily anticipate the meanings of words using those roots, prefixes or suffixes. Take for example, '-pathy' which means feeling. So, it becomes easy to comprehend meaning of a new word with this suffix. Like, 'sympathy' -- 'similar feeling', 'apathy' -- 'no feelings', antipathy' -- 'negative feelings' and so on. It's quite simple, isn't it? Think of certain roots and test yourself.

4. Associating
If you associate or relate a certain word with something or someone, like any of your companions, chums or relatives, the process becomes simple. For instance, the word 'irascible' is used for a person who is very 'irritable' and 'impatient'. Now, one of your acquaintances can be of this nature. Associate this word with this person. Whenever s/he comes before your eyes, this word will come to your mind and vice versa. So, the word won't go to the dark depths of forgetfulness.

5. Swapping
This is a technique to diversify your learning. You can learn in both ways, paradigmatic (by context) as well as syntagmatic (by meaning). Swap the word you have done, with the ones having the same meaning. Like, we can swap the word 'irascible' with words like cranky, grouchy, grumpy, petulant, peevish etc.

6. Flash cards
Learning certain difficult words amusingly is both a challenge as well as fun. You can make flash cards and use them for the twin purpose of building up your vocabulary and of playing cards. Writing the word on one side of the card and the meaning or hint on the other will do.

7. Creating stories
Another entertaining method of learning new words is by creating stories while learning. It's an easy method. Take a word, 'assiduous'. It means 'to work diligently'. Now create a story. 'Ass' is donkey. Take it as 'dhobi ka gadha' which works day in and day out. So, a person who works diligently is 'assiduous'.

8. Effective speech
Everyone wants to be a good orator. To become one, learning words is not enough. You have to use these words in your speech to make it rhetorical and impressive. So, keep learning, keep swapping, keep creating and keep using. The world will listen to you.

Top Careers & You has been preparing national and international candidates for high-end tests viz CAT, XAT, JMET, SNAP, CET, FMS, IIFT and GMAT since 1998. Visit for FREE access to thousands for these tests.

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