Archive for July 2012

Use word-image pairings to remember definitions

I have tutored students for the SAT and I have also taught English as a second language. The question that I got all the time from my students was:

“How on earth will I ever remember all of these new vocabulary words?”

My answer? With a little creativity!

One thing I find helpful is to associate a new word with an image. So for example:

Word-Image Pairing Strategy

The first time I learned the word pompous, I immediately thought, "That's my guidance counselor!"

He thought he knew everything there was to know about the college application process even though his info was about 20 years out of date. And he wouldn't ever let us forget it, pontificating endlessly about all the things he thought we were doing wrong but that we were actually doing right, because hello? It was the 21st century!

Thank goodness I switched guidance counselors because I would never have gotten into the college I did had I listened to him. But I guess, I have him to thank for always remembering the definition of the word pompous.

Here are some other word-image pairings that have worked for me:

Commonly Confused Words: Artful vs. Artless


If there were ever two words that you wouldn't want to mix up, these two would be it.

Both are adjectives that start with art, but that's where the similarity ends.

So how do you remember which is which? Easy!

People who are artFUL are FULL of crap. And unfortunately, the world is FULL of these people.

People who are artLESS are, also unfortunately, much LESS common in this world because it's a much LESS common trait.

You'll never mix them up again!

Commonly Confused Words: Flaunt vs. Flout


Both of these words are not-so-nice verbs that you probably wouldn't want to be accused of doing.

But how do you remember which is which? Just remember my advice:

If you want to flaunt your stellar SAT/ACT score, don't flout test day rules and risk having your test score rescinded for misconduct!

This happened to a girl that I know. And believe me, it's not worth the pain. Not to mention the embarrassment of having to explain what happened to everyone you know.

So remember, if you want to flaunt your score, follow the rules, don't flout them. Have a good weekend!

Looking for more?

Taking it word by word

ProfessorWord can identify more than 5,000 SAT/ACT vocabulary words and all of their related words - i.e., vindicate, vindicated, vindication, etc.

That is a lot of words.

And it's easy to get overwhelmed just thinking about how you're going to learn all of them. Especially if you don't have a lot of time left before test day. Or heck, maybe you have a year to go, but how are you going to learn thousands of words?!


Before you freak out, just remember these magic words:

Just take it word by word.

I know you're probably rolling your eyes thinking - that's it? That's your advice?!

Yes, it is.

Because at the end of the day, every new word you learn is one more tool in your toolkit, one more arrow in your quiver, one more weapon in your arsenal (whichever metaphor you prefer!). And you never know if that's the word that will come in handy on test day.

In fact, this advice transcends cultures and languages:

Commonly Confused Words: Discrete vs. Discreet

Homophones make any language difficult to learn. English is no exception. Here's a good example.


These two words sound exactly the same. They have exactly the same letters. And yet, their definitions couldn't be any more different.

So how do you keep them straight?

Just remember where the T is!

In discrete, the T separates the Es, ergo discrete means detached or separate.

In discreet, the T appears at the end and draws less attention to itself, ergo discreet means unobtrusive and restrained.

I know this is a little hokey, but it really does help me keep them straight in my head. I hope that it helps you too!