Hello readers, we meet again.

As we have discussed in my earlier articles regarding some facts and features of GRE/GMAT/SAT/other psychometric tests, also in the end, I have mentioned that I was going to write about the “functional vocabulary and how to achieve them”. So, here I am, writing about it, for your sake of knowledge.

Before I proceed any further, let me shed some light on the definition of vocabulary and “functional vocabulary” and what makes a normal stack of vocabulary into a “functional” vocabulary. This article, may be a little bit more verbose than my other ones, but if you want to do well in VERBAL part of GRE/GMAT, take your patience and read the full article thoroughly to learn about what’s what and what’s not.

By the word “vocabulary”, it means the stock of word known to someone (instant vocabulary) or which is inside a diary of some person that barely gets opened (non-functional vocabulary). The instant vocabulary that one person can always use and apply in every scenario (including tests like GRE/GMAT etc) of his life can be termed as functional vocabulary. Here, the term “functional” gives it away. Anything functional means readily usable and instantly (as well as consistently) available. So, etymologically speaking, “functional vocabulary” simply refers to those vocabularies which is readily available to someone, ready to be used under any circumstance and the meaning of which can be appropriately comprehensible by the user. Simply put, those vocabularies are functional vocabularies which we are not going to forget when we need them the most, i.e., during the test.

A big misconception:

There is a buzz-word in the world of standardized tests, on the basis of which many “businesses” have been established and voluminous profits being made. That buzz-word is “vocabulary”. Every GRE/GMAT candidate is running in pursuit of vocabulary without knowing the true meaning of it, let alone how to properly implement it. Everyone thinks that “if I don’t memorize 5000 words, I am never going to be able to sit for GRE/GMAT” or “We must make flash-cards and move around with those all day all night long for the rest of my life to do good in these tests”; simply wrong!

Memorizing words does not enrich your stock of vocabulary, it rather provides you an “illusion” of knowledge of those memorized words for a short span of time. I took the liberty to explain it with a case scenario mentioned below (extracted from a webinar of a very prestigious GMAT tutorial company):

  • When someone memorizes 100 words, after finishing memorizing them of, he forgets almost 60% of those words or 60 words (out of 100) within first half an hour, only 40 words are retained.
  • Later on, within next one hour or so, more than 80% of words, or 80 words, in total, escape from his brain and only 20 words are retained.
  • After one more hour, he only remembers 5 to 7 of those words, which he knew even before he started grasping (or rather swallowing) those words. For those words to remember, he did not even need to memorize the other 95 to 93 other words in the first place. So, that would simply prove that the effort and labor he put in memorizing all those 100 words were almost for nothing, the ultimate outcome after 2-3 hours is almost nil.

An argument may be made here that if we revise those 100 words very frequently, we may be able to retain those words more and more every time. But that is also problematic to consider for two reasons, such as:

  • Not everyone has that much time (except for very few of the students) to pursue after vocabulary and revise them over and over again all day all night long, as many of the GRE holders are either busy with their core academic works or with a job. Also, GRE itself has many other topics to study such as Quantitative Problem Solving, Analytical Writing, Reading Comprehension and so on; they also require excruciating level of preparation.
  • Even though someone manages to revise and study repeatedly those 100 words all day long, he will never be able to retain more than 60 words.

Now, when we are talking about GRE/GMAT, we are not talking about only 100 words, rather 5000 words and more. So, if we can only retain only 60 percent after all these effort, then the question remains, how effective “memorizing words” truly is?

Let us for an instance, consider that we memorized more than 60% of words and we went to the test center with all those words in our brain. It has been observed that, during the test, more than 90% of what we memorized are NOT going to be recalled when we will need them the most, not only because we have to remember so many more things other than some English words for GRE but also for the fact that in the “pressure situations” like these, only intrinsic memories work, memorization being external memory, not going to work. Therefore, these kinds of “memorized vocabularies” are simply termed are “non-functional” vocabulary. These are the things that make GRE a difficult test for everyone. To overcome this situation, we have to forget about “non-functional vocabulary” and focus completely on “functional vocabulary”.

How to grow “functional vocabulary”:

There are three things one must do to achieve “functional vocabulary”, which are:

READ             REALIZE       and      RECALL

First thing one must do is to read more and more and more. What to read and how to read it is a topic from my next article.

Second thing one must do is to “realize” what are you reading properly. Because, without realizing properly what one reads, reading bears no fruit what-so-ever. Not only that one have to realize every word of it, one also have to realize every structure of the sentence as well as why these structure is being used. Make a roster of every new word or sentence structure helps while reading something fancy. Details on which is the topic of our next article.

Third thing one must do is to “recall” what he “read & realized” before, so that while sitting for the test, that individual can recall what he read before and implement it properly. Details of that is also made clear in the next article.

That’s it for today, as it was just an introductory session regarding “functional vocabulary”. Next Saturday we will discuss more about how to achieve functional vocabulary chronologically in a way that really works.

Till then, happy reading. See you soon.