How to Study for a Vocabulary Quiz

Students Taking Test

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Every time you have a new unit in class, your teacher gives you a list of vocabulary words to learn. Until now, though, you haven't found a great way to study for a vocabulary quiz, so you never seem to get them all quite right. You need a strategy!

Your first step is to ask your teacher what type of vocabulary quiz you'll be getting. It could be matching, fill-in-the-blank, multiple choice, or even a straight "write the definition" kind of quiz.

Each type of quiz will require a different level of knowledge, so before you go home to study, ask your teacher which quiz type he or she will be using. Then, you'll know how to best prepare for your vocabulary quiz!

The Matching/Multiple Choice Vocabulary Quiz

  • Skill Tested: Recognition of a definition

If you get a matching quiz, where all the words are lined up on one side, and the definitions are listed on the other or a multiple choice quiz, where you’re given the vocabulary word with 4-5 definitions below it, then you have just received the easiest vocabulary quiz around. The only thing you're genuinely being tested on is whether or not you can identify the definition of a word when compared to others.

  • Study Method: Association

Studying for a matching quiz is pretty simple. You'll need to remember one or two keywords or phrases from the definition to associate with the vocabulary word. (Kind of like remembering that the thief had a scar on his cheek and a tattoo on his neck.)

Let's say one of your vocabulary words and definitions is this:

  • Modicum (noun): a small, modest or meager amount. A little bit.

To remember it, all you'll need to do is associate the "mod" in modicum with the "mod" in moderate: "Modicum is a moderate amount." If you need to, draw a picture of a tiny modicum at the bottom of a cup to illustrate the phrase. During the vocabulary quiz, look for your associated word in the definition list, and you're done!

The Fill-In-The-Blank Vocabulary Quiz

  • Skill Tested: Comprehension of the word's part of speech and definition

The fill-in-the-blank vocabulary quiz is quite a bit more complicated than the matching quiz. Here, you'll be given a set of sentences and will need to input the vocabulary word into the sentences appropriately. To do that, you'll have to understand the word's part of speech (noun, verb, adjective, etc.) along with the word's definition.

  • Study Method: Synonyms and Sentences

Let's say you have these two vocabulary words and definitions:

  • Modicum (noun): a small, modest or meager amount. A little bit.
  • Paltry (adj.): measly, inconsequential, trivial.

They're both similar, but only one will fit correctly into this sentence:

“She gathered a __________ sum of self-respect after falling during her routine, bowed, and left the stage with the other dancers.”

If you disregard the definitions altogether (since they’re similar), the correct choice is “paltry” since the word here needs to be an adjective to describe the noun, “sum.” “Modicum” won’t work because it is a noun and nouns don’t describe other nouns.

If you’re not a grammar master, then this could be tough to do without a strategy. Here’s a great way to remember how the vocabulary words function in a sentence: find 2-3 familiar synonyms or synonymous phrases for each word (thesaurus.com works well!) and write sentences with your vocabulary word and the synonyms.

For instance, "modicum” is synonymous with “little bit” or “smidge,” and paltry is synonymous with “tiny” or “eensie.” Check to make sure the words you’ve chosen have the same part of speech (paltry, tiny and eensie are all adjectives). Write the same sentence three times using your vocab words and the synonyms:

“He gave me a tiny scoop of ice cream. He gave me an eensie scoop of ice cream. He gave me a paltry scoop of ice cream.” On vocabulary quiz day, you’ll be able to remember how to use those words in a sentence correctly.

The Written Vocabulary Quiz

  • Skill Tested: Memory.

If your teacher speaks the vocabulary word aloud and has you write the word and the definition, then you’re not being tested on vocabulary; you’re being tested on whether or not you can memorize things. This is tough for students who like to wait until the day of the test to study because it’s difficult to memorize something in just a few hours.

  • Study Method: Flashcards and Repetition.

For this kind of vocabulary quiz, you’ll need to create vocabulary flashcards and find a study partner to quiz you every night until quiz day. It’s best to create the flashcards as soon as you’re given the list because the more repetition you can manage, the better you’ll remember.