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TOEFL TIP #208: Crossword Puzzles Improve Your Vocabulary

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 14, 2013

Crossword puzzles are great tools for building your active vocabulary. A crossword puzzle is a grid with blank spaces to fill in words across (left to right) and down (top to bottom). Each word has a clue, and as you fill in the crossword, the letters from one word help you to fill in another word that intersects with it.

 The daily crossword puzzle in The New York Times is well-known, and Monday’s puzzle is the easiest. By contrast, the Sunday Times puzzle is famous for its difficulty! With the following rules, a student with intermediate-level English can do a New York Times Monday puzzle. Practice vocabulary with a crossword puzzle to vary your study routine!

 1. Know the crossword puzzle rules:

  • Answers are the same grammatical form as the clues. A plural clue will have a plural answer, so you can put an “S” in the answer’s last box.
  • Similarly, tenses must match, so a past tense clue must have a past tense answer.
  • Remember phrasal verbs, so a clue for “dispersed” could have the answer “handed out.”
  • Abbreviations in clues means the answer is an abbreviation, so a clue of “Headed the CIA” would be “JEH” for J. Edgar Hoover.

2.  When it’s just a fact – especially a person’s name – use Google!  So a clue, “Won the swimming gold in 2012″ can be found in Google, and that will help you fill in some letters for words that “cross” the Olympics answer.

3. Look at word patterns instead of the clue. The clue “gregarious” may not help you very much, but if you have some letters already filled in, then you might figure out the answer. For example, this answer might be partially filled in as:

t a _ k _ t i v _

and we know that TALK is a common word in English, and we know that TIVE is a common suffix in English. And we know that the letter between the “K” and the “T” has to be a VOWEL (a, e, i, o, u).

The best part is that the New York Times repeats words often, so you see them again days later, which helps you to remember them!  For example, you’ll see ALOE at least 5 times within the first month of doing crosswords, so you’ll be sure to remember what it means!



Categories: Listening,Reading,Speaking,TOEFL for Pharmacy,TOEFL for University,TOEFL Preparation,Vocabulary,Writing

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