Vocabulary is vital!

If you’ve failed the LANTITE literacy test, it may be that your vocabulary has let you down, rather than your poor grammar or punctuation. Unfortunately, one of the ‘problem areas’ that LANTITE students often fail to address is, how to improve their vocabulary. This is a big mistake!

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Vocabulary is a crucial component in improving and acquiring reading comprehension skills. Why? Simply because students who lack knowledge of the meaning of words, may find understanding the reading texts in the LANTITE test difficult, if not impossible. For students whose first language is not English, the problem is even more challenging. There is a considerable difference between spoken and written English, and it is conversational English which tends to be acquired first. Unfortunately, this often masks the deficit in their vocabulary.

One of the best ways to expand and enrich your vocabulary is, of course, to read. Knowing the LANTITE test is constructed within an academic framework, means that students should pay special attention to the sort of formal, academic vocabulary that is likely to be used in the Test and read both informal and academic texts in order to prepare. Do you know your paradigms from your paradoxes? No? Then you’d better look them up! What’s more, reading enables you to read a word in context. As you hopefully already know, the meaning of a word might change, depending on the context in which it is used.

When one first learns a word, as well as learning the spelling, it is important to look up the definition. After this first step, it is important to also read information which shows how the word is employed in changeable contexts. In order to really get to grips with a new word, you need to see it used in multiple contexts, and practise using it yourself. Look also at synonyms (and antonyms, and homophones) and other words that might be used in its place to improve your understanding of how that new word might be used.

There are some great website and apps to help improve your vocabulary, but be aware that many of them are American, and there are significant differences in many spellings between American English and Australian English (the same can be said for grammar and punctuation). A few of the ones I’ve found useful are:


Quizzitive – an app from Merriam-Webster

Wordnik https://www.wordnik.com

Knoword – website and app https://playknoword.com

English Oxford Living Dictionaries

Vocabulary tips:

  • Start your own glossary/dictionary of words : Research has shown that students have to see, read and interact with a word 5 – 7 times before they are likely to add it to their long term memory. When you discover a new word, look it up and check the spelling (make sure it is British/Australian), write it down (preferably handwritten), also write down its meaning, and most importantly revisit and use it! Look at it again later the same day, the next day, the next week etc. Try to incorporate it into your writing. It’s a bit like interval training for your vocabulary!
  • Make sure you are aware of some of the basic difference between American and Australian English spellings, for example: words ending ‘-er’ in American (meter, liter, theater, caliber) often have an ‘-re’ ending in Australia (metre, litre, theatre, calibre); words ending ‘-or’ in American, often end ‘-our’ in Australian English (flavour, candour, labour, endeavour); the way in which practise and practice is used in America, compared to Australia is also different; as are many words ending ‘ize/-ise’ (both are often acceptable but the Australian presence is the ‘-ise’ ending (criticise, emphasise). There are many more examples, so check you have the appropriate spelling.
  • Familiarise yourself with academic vocabulary lists. You can find them online. Here is a useful one: https://www.victoria.ac.nz/lals/resources/academicwordlist/publications/awlsublists1.pdf
  • Use word games, vocabulary websites and apps to help improve and expand your vocabulary. The more fun you have, the less arduous it will seem.
  • Learn the meanings of common prefixes, roots, and suffixes.
  • Learn to use context clues to determine the meanings of words.
  • Make improving your vocabulary a daily habit!

Vocabulary plays a vital role in the reading process and is critical to reading comprehension – so avoid it at your peril. A reader cannot understand a text without knowing what most of the words mean. The more you read, the more new words you’ll see, and the more you’ll improve your vocabulary knowledge. This can be quite a long-term process, so get started as soon as possible.

The bottom line is, the better your vocabulary, the better you are likely to perform in the LANTITE test. Forewarned is forearmed!

Best wishes and good luck!


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