Guest post by John LaCarna, author of Build Your Vocabulary Skills! A Quick and Easy Method.
The word “mnemonic” refers to a device that assists in the acquisition and retention of subject matter to be memorized. Mnemonics work by associating easy-to-remember constructs— words, phrases, verses—with the items to be recalled.
An example of a mnemonic we all use is the verse that begins “Thirty days hath September…” to memorize the number of days in the months.
“Spring forward, fall back” is another common example of a mnemonic device.
The keyword, or linkword method is a well-known mnemonic technique for associating one item with another.
Research has demonstrated it’s effectiveness in learning English and foreign-language vocabulary. The student associates the word to be learned with a “key” word or phrase, and uses a “link” sentence to associate the key with the meaning.
For example, to remember that the word EXPIATE means “to make amends for,” the student might use EXPECT ATE as the key, and link the key to the meaning by the sentence “I EXPECT since you ATE your sister’s share, you will MAKE AMENDS by giving her yours.
Studies utilizing the technique to improve English vocabulary have established it as not only an efficient method of learning word definitions, but also of increasing reading comprehension.
Use of the keyword method can improve scores on the GRE, the SAT, the ACT, or any test in which vocabulary is a significant factor.
In the book’s appendix addressed to researchers, I point out that vocabulary skills constitute an important part of standard I.Q. tests such as the WAIS and the Stanford-Binet, and suggest that a major improvement in vocabulary, such as can be facilitated by this method, might be expected to increase I.Q. scores.
As an increase in vocabulary through the keyword method has been demonstrated to result in improved reading comprehension, the enhanced ability can be considered to extend beyond just the test-taking situation itself—the student could be said to have become “smarter.”
More research is needed to determine the degree that I.Q scores can be boosted, and the meaning of such heightened test scores. This would be an extremely interesting area for educators and psychologists to study.
My book, Build Your Vocabulary Skills! A Quick and Easy Method, presents 1413 GRE and SAT words, each with pronunciation, definition, key and link.