English: skills for learning
English: skills for learning

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

5.1 Using vocabulary cards to record vocabulary

A vocabulary card is a card containing useful information about a word. The kind of information you record on your vocabulary cards depends on your needs, but it is normally useful to include the definition, synonyms, the most common collocations and some examples. If you know the phonetic symbols, you may want to also record the pronunciation.

Activity 13

Timing: Allow approximately 15 minutes

Download [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   the printable version of the table below to record information about ‘stability’, one of the academic words contained in the reading ‘The global threat of infectious diseases’. While dictionaries provide several definitions, examples and collocations, it is only necessary to record information related to your interests. For the purposes of this exercise, just record information that would interest somebody who studies or is interested in economics and politics.

Table 3


Word class



Definition/sWord familyExample/sCollocations


My card contains information taken from the Macmillan Dictionary, Just the Word. To find the word family, I have used the Academic Word List provided by UEFP.

Table 4


Word class


Definition/sWord familyExample/sCollocations





A situation in which things happen as they should and there are no harmful changes.









The rise of nationalism could threaten the stability of Europe.

The country must achieve political stability.

Economic/social/political/ financial stability

Achieve/maintain/ensure/promote stability

Threaten/undermine stability

Period of stability

Threat to stability


Vocabulary cards can be kept in alphabetical order for easy reference. They can also be used as flash cards. Just write the word on the back of the card. When you want to revise, look at the word, try to remember its definition and then turn the card to check.

If you use a smartphone or a tablet, you could search the internet and download a flash card app that will allow you to revise your list of new words wherever you are

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371