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Building Your General Vocabulary for the MAT

Does the prospect of learning thousands of general vocabulary words just for the MAT seem daunting to you? If so, the strategies listed below should help you manage the task.

  • Learn synonyms and antonyms. Whenever you learn a new word, also learn some synonyms and antonyms of that word. You can find synonyms and antonyms quickly with an online thesaurus or with the thesaurus built into Microsoft Word.

  • Learn words in thematic groups. Instead of memorizing unrelated words in random fashion, take a thematic approach to learning new words. For example, learn various words relating to the concept of wealth or the concept of strength (both of which are covered often on the MAT) as a group.

  • Learn roots and prefixes. If you don't have much time before exam day, focus your vocabulary training on roots and prefixes. Then, if you encounter a new and unfamiliar word on the exam, you may be able to make a reasoned guess as to its meaning based on its root, prefix or suffix.

  • Learn the right kinds of words. Focus your vocabulary-building efforts on the kinds of challenging words that typically appear on the MAT. These are words that are not common, everyday words but at the same time are not overly obscure, archaic, or technical. (See this MAT vocabulary FAQ for more information about the kind of vocabulary to expect on the exam.)

  • Find the right kinds of books. To build your MAT vocabulary, consult books specifically designed to help you prepare for the MAT. The book market is laden with vocabulary books, but most are either too comprehensive or too quirky to be worth your while. My book Words for Smart Test Takers is one good choice for MAT vocabulary prep, but of course there are others as well.

  • Find some good software. Some publishers provide software specifically designed for MAT vocabulary training. You can easily find this sort of product at online bookstores such as Amazon.com. If you can afford the software and have enough time before you exam, by all means add it to your arsenal of vocabulary-building tools.

  • Set realistic goals. Don't try to learn every single word in the dictionary. Instead, be realistic. Chances are that you will encounter at least a few unfamiliar words on your MAT, regardless of how diligently you prepare.