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Want to improve your ACT score or get ahead at work?
Improve your vocabulary


"Read to your kids," I said.

It turns out I was right.  At that time, I didn't realize just how impactful vocabulary would be for these children later in life.  I feel as though my career has come full circle as I find myself again talking to parents and adults about the benefits of improved vocabulary,  As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I frequently promoted literacy and language skills in preschoolers.  I urged parents to talk to and read to their children to improve language skills and give them an academic advantage.  Those early language and reading  experiences are so important for school success.  You need to increase your vocabulary to improve your ACT score and to have academic and career success.

Now I am working with high school students,  When I assess their vocabulary levels, I find myself once again encouraging them to read!

The vocabulary portion of the Highlands Ability Battery (the aptitude assessment used at True Compass) is actually not an aptitude.  It is a skill.  It is the one portion of the assessment that can change over time, and that means you have the power to improve it.  Because vocabulary is so vital to a person's academic and career achievement, most aptitude assessments include it.  This information is used to help determine careers that might be a good fit.  Not surprisingly, the higher your score, the higher you are likely to climb on the ladder in any given field.  One study from the Johnson O'Connor Institutes demonstrated that top executives scored the highest on vocabulary measures (236), middle managers scored in the mid-range (140), and lower level managers scored in the low range (89).  

Can I still improve my ACT score and vocabulary?

The good news is that it's not too late. You can improve your vocabulary no matter your age. 

Why is it so important? 

There are a few reasons:

  1. Improve your scores (ACT, SAT, PSAT) Your score will improve as your vocabulary increases.  This does not only apply to the English and Reading sections of these tests.  A greater vocabulary will help you understand the science and math questions and answer them more quickly.
  2. Faster processing speed.  The more words you know, the faster you can read, listen, process it and respond.
  3. Improve communication skills.  When you can easily choose the word that expresses what you're thinking, you communicate more clearly and effectively.  A larger vocabulary at your disposal allows you to choose your words more precisely in writing or speaking.
  4. Improve abstract thinking. Thoughts shape the words we use, but words also shape our thoughts.  Each new word we learn opens a new ideas or expands our understanding of ideas or other points of view.   Johnson O'Connor, whose work led to the creation of the Highlands Ability Battery, said:

    "Why do large vocabularies characterize executives and outstanding men and women in other fields? The final answer seems to be that words are the instruments by means of which men and women grasp the thoughts of other and with which they do much of their own thinking.  They are the tools of thought."

  5. Get ahead in your career. Several studies have revealed that the vocabularies of those at top of their fields score higher on vocabulary tests than those in middle management or below.  (Think CEO's, business executives, professors, physicians) It is not likely that you will lead others with a higher vocabulary than you, so a low vocabulary may limit your rise up the ladder.

How do you improve your vocabulary?

  1. Read, read, read -  Literature or classics will typically have more new words and improve your vocabulary more quickly.  But reading anything of interest will have benefits.  Make it a daily habit.  Written language contains a more formal sentence structure and vocabulary than we find in daily conversation or videos (like YouTube or Ted talks)
  2. Play word games such as Words with Friends, Wordscapes or interactive games such as Taboo, Password or Scrabble
  3. Use vocabulary apps or websites such as Magoosh (app), Word of the Day (app),  or
  4. Look up words you don't know. Reading an ebook makes this easy because you can click on a word and get the definition.  Kindle now has a Vocabulary Builder feature that stores all of the words you look up and can create flashcards to help you learn them.  If you don't have a Kindle...use your notes app to keep track of new words.

The bottom line is that there is a direct correlation between your vocabulary and success in many fields.  It will also improve your ability to communicate effectively which will have benefits in your personal life.  The main way to improve your vocabulary is to read.  So it turns out, your mom was right (and so was I)  Read more!