Introduction to Vocabulary


Reading well in college depends, largely, on a strong vocabulary.

You already have what is called a “sight”—or recognition—vocabulary. Your sight vocabulary includes words whose meanings you understand when you read them even though you may not be able to define them or feel confident enough to use them yourself when you write. And contrary to what you may believe, you don’t have to go to a dictionary every time you find an unfamiliar word.

Two strategies you can use to figure out the meaning of unfamiliar words and to develop your reading vocabulary are word analysis and context clues.

With word analysis, you break words into parts in order to determine definitions. By memorizing a few common word parts, you’ll be able to figure out the meanings of literally hundreds of new words without looking them up.

When you use context clues, you look at the words and phrases immediately surrounding unfamiliar word to determine its meaning.


This video suggests ways of improving your vocabulary. It demonstrates word analysis and context clues as methods of defining words as you read.

Download transcript.


The study pages include practice activities with short passages. The study pages cover the methods for building your vocabulary.

Also, be sure to review these lists:

As read you through the study pages and practice with LearningCurve before taking the post-test, keep a vocabulary log to help you improve your ability to figure out what words mean and to remember the words you have learned.

Don’t forget to work smartly!