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Learning Outcomes

By the end of VOCABULARY LEVEL 3 you should be able to
✔ study vocabulary independently
✔ use different strategies to expand and record vocabulary

Introduction to Independent Learning

Independent learning gives you more choice about what, when and how fast to study. It also prepares you to learn after university.

In order to study independently you need to be able to set your own aims, choose how you want to study and reflect on the usefulness of studying that you do and on your overall progress.

Since you have chosen to study VOCABULARY LEVEL 3, we can assume that you want to learn more about how to expand and remember words more effectively. This course provides you with some example activities for studying these skills. For most of these exercises, we have suggested an aim. We hope this can guide you in choosing aims for yourself later.

Try these activities and then reflect on their effectiveness in helping you to develop and improve your reading skills. If they are helpful, do some similar exercises later. If they are not successful, you may try different exercises.


Learning vocabulary is an essential part of learning a language. The more words you know, the more you will be able to understand what you hear and read and the better you will be able to express yourself when speaking or writing. Besides coping with the vast number and rich variety of words in the English language, the main problems for students are deciding which words to learn and how to recall them.

In this package, we shall look at vocabulary recording strategies which will:

  • help you to decide which academic words to record (and which not to)
  • show you how to record new and existing academic vocabulary
  • expand your academic vocabulary to a more advanced and sophisticated level

After all, according to Bergen Evans,

many studies have established the fact that there is a high correlation between vocabulary and intelligence and that the ability to increase one's vocabulary throughout life is a sure reflection of intellectual progress.

But as Bergen was an American lexicographer, a Rhodes Scholar, a Harvard graduate and a Northwestern University> professor of English, this statement is probably not very surprising.
Activity 1 Activity 2 Rating Form

Package 3 - Grouping strategies 2 – Grouping new and useful known vocabulary

In the previous package we discovered that it is easier to recall words if they are grouped together according to some meaningful criteria.

Activity 1

In this activity, you will be given the opportunity to practice grouping words together. Look at the words in the box below. If there are any words that you don’t know, check the definition using


Then drag and drop them into the table under the headings provided. Be careful because some of the words might belong to more than one category and others do not belong to any category.

Grouping strategies

There are a variety of ways in which we can group words together. If we take Activity 1 one step further, we can see how vocabulary can be grouped and recorded in different ways.

Activity 2

Read through the list of recording strategies and and note the different methods presented. This will prepare you for the activities in Package 4.


Mind maps – this is an effective method for recording new vocabulary as it is visual. However, some people prefer to use columns with headings and sub-headings or tables.



Definitions and Translations – this is an obvious and common method for recording new words and expressions but, be careful as there are frequently words in English that do not have an exact match in a foreign language and vice versa.


Example sentences – this is, again, a very common method for showing an item of vocabulary in context.


Synonyms / Antonyms / Similar meaning – these can easily be recorded in a structured table or a more flexible diagrammatic form.


Word Synonym Similar or Related Word Antonym Similar or Related Word
rich wealthy well-off poor badly-off


Clines – this is another visual recording strategy whereby words are placed on a scale.



Word families – recording words as families is another effective method. This can also be combined with example sentences to show how the words can be used in context. You can also  label the wrds with their part of speech.


                                               ad                           (abbreviated noun)
                                               advert                     (short form noun)
                                               advertisement         (noun)
                                               advertise                 (verb)
                                               advertising agent    (adj / compound noun)


 Pronunciation and Word stress – when recording new words and word families, it is often useful to annotate the word stress to help with pronunciation.


                                                X    x

                                                x    X    x    x

Prefixes / Suffixes – words can also be recorded according to prefixes and suffixes.


Prefix ‘re’ meaning ‘again’ or ‘once more’              Suffix ‘cide’ meaning ‘kill’ or ‘to cause death’
                            retreat                                                   homicide
                            review                                                   suicide
                            return                                                    genocide


Collocation tables - one of the most difficult areas to master in English is collocations. This is defined as a sequence or pattern of words or terms which are frequently used together. For example, we usually say that we are ‘under pressure’ as opposed to beneath or below pressure. This is a collocation. Collocations can be recorded using tables which identify which patterns work and which do not.


Phrasal verbs & Prepositional combinations – as students often have problems with prepositions, tables can also be used to clarify prepositional combinations.



Pictures – sometimes it is easier to draw a picture to represent a word than to write a complicated definition. For example, how would you write a definition of the word ‘circle’ or ‘maple leaf’?
   maple leaf


Connotation – as we have already discovered, it is a good idea to record whether a word has a positive or negative connotation. Do these words have a positive or a negative connotation?

                                        strong-willed                            stubborn

Formality tables

More formal word

Less formal word

flexible / relaxed

easy-going / laid back


Word class – this is another way of recording words which have similar or overlapping meanings.


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