Vocabulary Builder
Flashcard Benefits
Flashcards have many benefits. First, they can be shuffled, which not only rids you of the false context of order but also allows you to create piles of words that are related in some way. Learning words in groups tends to increase your chances of remembering them. Some suggestions for grouping: positive words, negative words, words relating to bodies, words of criticism, words of praise, words about abstract ideas, and so forth. Deciding what groups to use is less important than coming up with the groups, reshuffling your piles accordingly, and constantly shifting among the groupings.
Second, the very act of creating flashcards will help you remember words. When you write, you use a different part of your brain than when you read. So, if you both read and write, you have a better shot at memorizing. Furthermore, you can add other meanings to a card. Say you’ve discovered a second or even third meaning for a particular word, such as list. You knew it meant “a written series of items,” but you now discover that it can also mean “a deviation from the vertical” or “a tilt.”
Third, you can always add to your stock of cards. It might take a while to get all 92 of these words down on cards, but adding, say, twenty a week until test day can be quite manageable. Likewise, these cards will last a long time.
What should your flashcards look like? Here’s a model:
Front:
In general, you don’t want any other information on the front; be sure not to include anything that might tip you off to the word’s meaning.
Back:
The back is where you want the part of speech, a good definition, and a sample sentence. If you force yourself to use the word correctly in a sentence, or even if you copy down a brief, correct use of the word from elsewhere, you will be reinforcing memorization. Always start writing at the top; you may want to add to this card later.
Also, if you want to list groupings, do so on the back. For example, you could label this card “words of presence/absence.” Another useful addition is other forms of the word—what we refer to as the “word group” in the list above. Of course, if the form is different enough in meaning, you should create a separate card for that form. Self and selfishness should not be on the same card; ubiquity and ubiquitous certainly can be, as you can see on the card above.
Use 57 index cards. They’re still very portable but leave enough space for additions.
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