Strategies to familiarise yourself with the lexicon of vocabulary 

Look at this sentence: “Just as the effusive floral prints of the radical William Morris now cover genteel sofas, so the revolutionary intentions of many folk historians and revivalists have led to music that is commonly regarded as parochial and conservative”. If someone were to ask you what the words in bold meant, it would stump majority of the first-time readers. These are words that are rarely used in common speech in these times. However, they did appear in one of the RC’s in the morning session of CAT 2019(this is an excerpt from one of the RC’s). Even though direct questions about the meaning of a word are rare in CAT, they do ask what the context of the sentence is. For exams other than CAT, they ask questions about what a word means, so vocabulary building is something that you cannot ignore.

Vocabulary for MBA Entrance Exams
Quick Tips to Improve Vocabulary

Now why should you focus on building your vocabulary? Other than the fact that many exams either require you to have a good vocab for the RC’s or explicitly ask you questions about meaning of words, some MBA colleges also have a WAT(Written Ability Test) as a criterion for admission. Having good vocabulary skills there will really help your essays come to life and make them sound more crisp. Also, for many colleges other than the IIMs, they ask you for a statement of purpose or an essay for the applications. This will also help you draft better, professional, and more crisp sounding SOP’s that will really help in your admission process. Finally, if you look beyond this, when you are in your MBA this will help you in understanding case studies better, draft more elegant reports and really enhance your presentations.

Vocabulary building does not happen overnight. You need to put in the required effort to be on top of this, and more importantly, know where to use what. Here are a few tips that will help you in this effort to build your vocabulary skills:

  1. Start from ground up

CAT exam

When you start your CAT prep, you really need to gauge where you are with your vocabulary. A great place to start can be websites or online resources like or which will give you an understanding of where you stand. Once you are able to get a rough idea of this, a good place to start will be to make note of the words from these sources which you didn’t recognize and explore what they mean as a jumping off point. This is on a personal level to help you really get an idea of where you stand and give a head-start to your MBA entrance preparation.

  1. Complete “Word Power Made Easy”

This is a classic book by Norman Lewis for improving your vocabulary. The approach that it takes is that it starts from the roots of the word, the etymology (the study of the origins and history of words and their meanings). This will help you immensely as if you know these basics, you can even derive the meaning of words that you may not know.

What is great about this book is that it is a very engaging read that can be finished over a period of a week or two if you do the chapters daily. Also, you will find everywhere for a very affordable price so do not miss out on this!

  1. Use Excel to help you

Now this may sound strange, but it is one approach that will help you a lot. Create an Excel file on your laptop and everyday spend 30 mins on it. What you need to do with it is that find 10 words for the day that you have not seen before and list it in the excel. Write it is meaning, an example of its usage, synonyms, and antonyms for the words. Do this exercise everyday or once in 2 days. At the end of each week review what new words you have learned. By the time your entrances roll in, you would have increased your vocab by 400-500 words easily. To help you with this even more, try and use the words you have learned in various situations, be it a text message or a report. This will make sure you are actively using the word, so you do not forget about it.

  1. Mocks, mocks, mocks

Now mocks are important for MBA preparation no doubt, but what is equally important to giving a mock is its analysis. Be it CAT, XAT, NMAT, SNAP, for whichever exam you are giving a mock, when you are analysing it, make a note of the words you didn’t know/understand and add them to your vocab roster. This will definitely be a win for your both your entrance preparation and vocab building.

  1. Play Scrabble

This may not be everyone’s cup of tea but a great place to practice words you have learned. Applications like Words with Friends or Scrabble online help you test your vocabulary skills in a fun environment. Of course, the strategies there are different, but you can use it as a place to see how familiar you are with different words. Also, these apps provide inbuilt dictionaries for words, so it is a fun learning experience you can definitely try. [Note: Play these games in moderation to relax, do not go over with it]

Vocabulary for MBA Entrance Exams
Quick Tips to Improve Vocabulary

These are just a few strategies you can use to improve your vocabulary. You need to see what you are comfortable with and stick to that through your preparation. This is not something that happens overnight and will require some effort, but the payoff is worth it. All the best for your MBA entrances and the journey ahead!

CAT exam