Millions of students take SAT, GRE, GMAT and other exams every year to enroll American universities. These exams have varied structures, but all of them contain some kind of a lexical test to ensure students’ level of English. It should be nearly perfect, so this is suddenly a real challenge for foreign students because these exams are the same for English native speakers too. Thus, much wider vocabulary is required to pass them as compared to such exams for ESL students as TOEFL or IELTS.
It appears to be a really important problem and it seems to be solvable, so, why it is not solved effectively yet? We suggest that it is mainly about focusing on a specific.
There are thousands of English learning solutions, but most of them try to be universal or focus on beginners. They could be good enough to learn a few hundred words that people start to use from the moment they learned them. In contrast, sophisticated words are rarely used in a regular life, So, they are forgotten in a few days or weeks. But while they are not really needed for conversations with friends or colleagues, they are needed to pass exams and they help to achieve a professional level of English!
There are two problems especially important for sophisticated words learning. First is the possibility to understand the word, not simply “memorise” it. When you memorize some basic words like “table” you will anyway imagine the table and a couple of pictures with it. So, in this case memorising is equal to understanding. But the situation differs dramatically when memorising such kind of words as “abhor”, “languish” or “thwart”. They are relied on emotion shades and “memorising” in this case doesn’t mean “understanding” and “possibility to use”. Students should see these words in the different contexts in different media formats. Only in this case they will start “feeling” the words,
The second problem is “long term memorising”. As students cannot see or hear the words anywhere during several months, they could forget most of them. So, we should think about it and help students to accost these words from time to time. It means that we should think not only about learning content but also about learning style, in general. It should become more “social” and move away from thinking about learning only.
All these ideas formed the basis of the VocWord project (http://www.vocword.com). It is focused on sophisticated words learning and provides the environment with a huge amount of content including stories, collages, videos, audios, quizzes, and riddles. Every day new content appears and students receive notifications about it on their phones. It is organized in a specific way, so students will meet learned words many times during some period of time. Moreover, students are able to create content themselves. It is easy: for example, they can find some article on the Internet and post a link to it with a comment containing some of the learned words. As all other students learn the same words these days, such comments are interesting for them, they may set their “likes”, add other comments and all this involve them into the interactive learning process.
This project is on the early stage now, but it has a chance to make a revolution in the process of preparing to such exams as SAT, GRE and GMAT for foreign students.