Rapid vocabulary replenishment using the “Finger Tips” method


Today, English is an integral part of our lives, and comfortable consumption of information requires a large vocabulary.

In this article, we will share our personal experience of quickly replenishing vocabulary in preparation for the CPE exam.

We will also explain what it means to memorize a word and what does the fingers have to do with it.


Before proceeding to the article, let’s define the Word.

For the purposes of this article, word / phrase is a semantic unit that you can remember, write correctly and pronounce correctly.

Search for new words

Everyone has their own sources of information: news channels, popular science programs, films, articles, books, songs, educational literature, etc.

Everyone builds the search for new words on their own, depending on personal goals.

From our point of view, the vocabulary in English should be compared with the vocabulary in the native, Russian language. If you know the corresponding word in Russian, then it is not shameful to learn it in English. The brain is not inclined to remember unnecessary information: if you know the corresponding Russian word, then it is useful.

From experience, new words must be recorded in one dictionary, and immediately with the required meaning (=translation).

We use a mobile app for this. Yandex translate.

Figure 1 shows how a new word is added to the New Words collection specie with the right meaning (metallic money) and correct pronunciation (‘spi:ʃɪ).

Figure 1. Adding the required translation of a word to the selection

Figure 1. Adding the required translation of a word to the selection

List of studied words

When a collection has accumulated a decent amount of new words (according to experience, this is 300-500 words), you need to stop adding words to this collection and start studying it.

Before studying, it is advisable to scatter new words into thematic mini-collections in accordance with your goals.

As shown in Figure 2, in our case, these are 2 thematic collections: “Easy words” and “Complex words”.

Figure 2. Selections for searching and learning words

Figure 2. Selections for searching and learning words

Word learning

The most productive is the study of words from personal thematic collections (in Figure 2, these are the collections “Heavy words” and “Easy words”).

A word is learned if all of the following conditions are met:

  1. Did you remember the word with a hint (i.e. remembered that you are studying this word)

  2. Do you remember the meaning of the word without prompting

  3. Do you remember the spelling of the word without prompting

  4. Do you remember the pronunciation of the word without prompting

If all of the above criteria are met for a particular word, then the word is considered learned, passed into long-term memory at this stage, and therefore it can be removed from the corresponding thematic selection.

Figure 3 shows the word spell check and the Delete option.

Figure 3. Spell check and Delete option

Figure 3. Spell check and Delete option

Figure 4 shows a test of knowledge of the meaning (translation).

Figure 4. Translation of a word in the mode "learn words"

Figure 4. Translation of a word in the “Learn words” mode

Figure 5 shows the pronunciation check.

Figure 5. Option "voice" in mode "learn words"

Figure 5. “Speak” option in the “Learn words” mode

Prompt meaning, spelling and pronunciation of the word

A hint in our methodology is any information about the meaning, spelling or pronunciation of a word received during the day. The information received yesterday (before the night’s sleep) is not a clue and is considered to be the use of your long-term memory.

Recall the studied words

It is easier to explain the technique of recalling the studied words with an example.

Imagine that you are a teacher at a class reunion 20 years after they graduated from high school. You are standing in the place of the teacher, all the graduates sat down as they sat during their studies 20 years ago, and each in turn silently stands up (=showing the word), and you are trying to remember his name (=meaning of the word). If you are wrong, then you are corrected (=suggested the meaning of the word). When you have remembered everyone, you turn to the blackboard and, without turning to the class, write with chalk on the blackboard everyone from memory (=remembering the word).

Figure 6 shows the number of words learned in each recall attempt (=number of graduates per class from the example above). From experience, it is most productive to study words in groups of 10 to 20 words.

Figure 6. Setup "Number of cards" in mode "learn words"

Figure 6. Setting the “Number of cards” in the “Learn words” mode

Recall words with a hint

Remembering words is a laborious process even for familiar words, let alone new words, so a hint is appropriate here.

In the home reunion example above, to remember all the students in the class, the teacher could remember where the students sit. For example, see the legend of Simonides from the island of Keoss.

In our technique, each finger joint is assigned a letter of the English alphabet, as shown in Figure 7.

By touching the corresponding phalanx with your thumb, you mark those words whose meaning was named correctly and which were pronounced correctly. For example, the first letter of a word.

After looking through the entire set of cards (eg 15 words), you touch the corresponding phalanges with your thumb and try to remember all the words that you have learned the meaning of, then check their spelling.

Figure 7. Correspondence of the phalanges of the fingers to the first letters of the learned words

Figure 7. Correspondence of the phalanges of the fingers to the first letters of the learned words


To memorize a word is to learn to remember it both as a meaning, and as a pronunciation, and as a spelling.

By touching your fingers, you can remind yourself of the words you have learned both meaning and pronunciation.


  1. Anokhin K. V. The art and science of memory: in search of traces of the past in neurons, the self and society. Lecture 1 [Электронный ресурс] // YouTube. URL: https://youtu.be/UlVnVbBiwHQ?t=13m (Accessed: 08/31/2023).

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