How To Improve Your Child’s Vocabulary

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.”

– Paul J. Meyer

From the moment they utter their first word, parents experience the unmatched joy of watching the incredible growth in their child’s expression of themselves. Vocabulary is the most helpful tool for communication. This is why one of the greatest gifts you can give to your child is to help them build their vocabulary. The key is a commitment to regularly learning new words.

You can help your child cultivate a good vocabulary at a young age. Here’s how:
1. Children start developing a vocabulary during infancy. They imitate words that they hear from adults, and associate those words with objects or actions. Talk to them, but remember to remove empty fillers from your speech by reducing the use of word’s like “um” and “ah.”

2. No matter how difficult, parents should work on giving up baby talk, while asking friends and family to do the same. Baby-talk confuses children. Talk to them the way that you’d speak to anybody else.

3. When the child is young, and can’t read, parents should read aloud to them.

4. Try and play word games with them. For example, play a game called “word of the day”, in which you teach them a new word every day. If they remember the seven new words at the end of the week, take them to their favourite place or give them something they like. Games like Scrabble, Word Search, Word Jumble have been designed to help children improve their vocabulary.

5. When they are able to memorise seven words easily start upping the ante. Try teaching them 10 words next week.

6. The way you teach your child is also critical to your child’s ability to learn. Show them books with pictures and words to help them learn through association. Use words that might interest or fascinate them while talking to them–they’ll ask you for the meaning themselves!

7. Teach your child to look up words they don’t recognize. As your child grows up, it’ll become easier for you to help them build their vocabulary. Encourage them to ask questions, use a dictionary every time they don’t understand a word and pick up a thesaurus when they are working on writing assignments such as essays.

8. Reading is imperative to improving language skills. It’s typically easier for children to learn more words when they are growing up. Children who make reading a habit, tend to learn more words than those who do not. This is true for all languages.

9. Comic books are a great way to learn new words and develop an early interest in reading. Ask them to articulate and share their opinion about their current reads.

10. Get them a library membership or urge them to bring home new books from the school library. Encourage them to listen to podcasts like NPR.

11. Once the child starts reading and writing they learn more words, ask them to start a journal or write letters. It’s a great practice, and it will also help them be more organized.

12. Do the crossword with your children. Help them at first, and eventually you would find that they would be doing it themselves.

13. Keep a vocabulary notepad for extremely difficult words.

14. Remember that they should practice putting your new words into their writing and speaking. It’s very difficult to retain a word if we are not using it regularly.

Speak to your child about your day. Tell them about the things you did and the people you encountered. Don’t miss any funny details. This will help them understand storytelling outside the realms of a book. Ask them to do the same and tell you about their day using the new words they’ve learnt. A good vocabulary will help your children at all stages in life. We use language to express ourselves every day. It may be difficult to memorize large words daily, but there are many ways to make it fun. You’ll start enjoying watching your child grow one word at a time. 🙂

How To Crack Reading Comprehension in CAT 2013


The focus of Reading Comprehension passages in the CAT exam over the last few years has been on relatively short passages, but those which require you to ‘infer’ the answer. This means that the candidate needs to understand the passage holistically, including its many nuances, as the answer will not be found directly in the passage.

The candidate is expected to exercise his mind and work out what the author is actually trying to convey, what his attitude or tone is towards the issue being discussed etc.

Type of Questions

Title of the Passage: Passages given in CAT are often extracts from a larger text, and you are asked to choose the ‘most appropriate title’. The title must not be vague (too broad) or too specific or narrow. It is one that expresses a theme that is consistent throughout the passage.

Central Idea: The candidate may be asked to choose an option that appropriately summarises or re-states the main idea of the passage; it may also reflect the main aim of the author in writing the passage that has been given.

Who is the author? This is another type of inferential question-the candidate is asked to choose who the author is likely to be. For example, could the author be a journalist, a teacher or professor, a corporate executive etc. The candidate needs to look for subtle hints in the passage to answer this question. A professor may expound his views on some academic issue, while a journalist is supposed to be unbiased and present the facts without necessarily taking sides on the issue under discussion.

Author’s Tone/Attitude: This is an important type of question. You are asked to pick the ‘tone’ employed by the author. For example, the author may have been sarcastic-gently poking fun at some one’s view or idea. Make sure you know what terms like ‘sarcastic’, ‘sermonizing’, ‘prescriptive’, ‘eulogising’ etc mean.

Direct Questions: These are the easiest type of questions, checking whether you have paid attention while reading. A question is asked on some detail and the answer is clearly given in the passage. All you have to do is read with concentration and remember in which paragraph a particular topic was mentioned.

Tips to Prepare

  • There is never any substitute for reading, if you wish to do well in Reading Comprehension. Read as much as possible, including a few passages on a computer screen, so that you are used to this medium.
  • One good site from where you can access a number of articles is Magazine Article Search Engine and Directory. This site has a huge number of articles from various magazines on a variety of topics.
  • In addition, the candidate should remember that the passages which appear in CAT are from a wide variety of topics-such as science and technology, economics and business issues, politics and current affairs, biographical sketches, psychology, art and architecture, social issues etc. Hence, it may not be enough to just read-there must also be a variety in what you read. So a student of history may need to read passages pertaining to science and technology while preparing for CAT and vice-versa!
  • During your preparation stage, while you read, train yourself to stop periodically and ask yourself as to what the author wants to indicate by the usage of particular phrases, is there an implicit meaning in his words, what is the impression he is trying to convey etc. This will help you get better and better at ‘comprehending’ passages and understanding exactly what the author wants to convey.
  • Another skill that you should develop is the ability to understand the author’s tone or style. Check whether the author is merely stating facts or giving views or advice, taking sides or being biased etc.
  • Look out for the usage of phrases or idioms. These convey a lot about the author’s feelings, thoughts, emotions etc.
  • Similarly, your Vocabulary should be of a good standard. Not knowing the meaning of certain words, may cause the candidate to struggle in understanding what the author wishes to say.
  • At the end of the day, you must read a number of passages on different topics on a daily basis. There is no short-cut for RC, and it requires sustained effort-it is advised that you read around 5-6 passages every day while preparing for CAT.

About the Author: Sidharth Balakrishna is an alumnus of IIM Calcutta and has been employed with the world’s top Marketing, Management Consultancy and energy firms. Besides his regular Corporate job, he has written a number of books and articles for various reputed publications and has taken several guest lectures and seminars across the country. He is a Faculty in several top Management Institutes.

Sidharth Balakrishna’s books include the following, all published by Pearson Education: