Concept Journaling for Entrance Exams
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Concept Journaling for Entrance Exams

You probably haven't started thinking about your graduate entrance exams yet. Big mistake.

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Concept Journaling for Entrance Exams
Medium.com

Even though you only have so many years of your undergraduate program left, you probably haven't started thinking about your graduate entrance exams yet.

Big mistake.

Most entrance exams, especially for Masters of Arts—I mean, we're all here because we like to write, right?—, require you to have a vast vocabulary.

So, what are you planning to do? Study a bunch of random words the summer before the test? I don't think so.

This is where concept journaling comes in.

Instead of glancing at the Dictionary.com word of the day every morning—I can guarantee this doesn't work because I've tried it—, give yourself a list of three "tough" words to know in-depth by the end of each week.

For each word, write…

  • what you thought the word meant before you looked it up or, if you already knew the word at a basic level, what you knew about it.
  • the history of the word (optional but makes it easier to remember).
  • what caused you to learn more about the word.
  • what you'll do with the word now that you know it.

I have a professor this semester requiring us to write a concept journal. Even though journaling takes time, the assignment has been one of the most helpful experiences I've had in college yet. I use a notes tab on my phone to list all the words I learn throughout the week. When I get to my concept journal every Sunday, I realize I can remember more words than I'll end up writing about simply because I've given thought to them and have kept them in mind for multiple days.

Here's the last concept journal entry I submitted:

When I noticed "privy" in the footnotes of The Roaring Girl, I was surprised to see that it was an adjective that meant "secret." I had always assumed the word had something to do with a toilet. After searching the word, I found that it means both "secret" and "outhouse." Since its origination, "privy" has always meant "secret," but it hasn't always meant "toilet." In a time when people still had chamber pots or holes dug out of the ground, people started using the phrase "privy odor" to be more delicate about saying that something smelled awful because of a nearby pile of you-know-what. Next thing you know, "privy" was no longer specifically about something secretive, but was suddenly about defecation in general: privy door, privy yard, privy stone, etc. In the future, I can use this word when I'm trying not to sound tacky in my prose. Simple words, like "secret," can landslide a whole piece when aiming for an academic reading level. Now I don't have to rely on a thesaurus or worry that I'm choosing words with the wrong context!
They say the best ways to remember things are a) to connect them to something interesting or different and b) continue using the knowledge. A concept journal is the best way! So long as you aren't just using Quizlet to increase your vocabulary, you can gain a veritable vocabulary in no time.
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