How to improve vocabulary?

Vocabulary is an integral part of most of the competitive exams, and sometimes it is a nightmare for most students who are giving these exams. The main problem with learning vocabulary is our ability to retain all the meanings of words, and to also use them as per the requirement. Therefore, it is better or rather easier to use some tricks to help remember the meanings of words. Let's discuss some of the best ways to learn new words and enhance your vocabulary.
1. Association method
In the association method, logically associate the words to things such as pictures, events, people or other words.
For example: Let us look at the word FINESSE. And let us associate this word to MARCH PAST.
Now think of 'march-past'. It is a type of walk which requires a lot skill and practice.
Hence, finesse means anything that is done with skill and delicacy. In this association, there was no connection between the two words.
Now let’s use association with two related words.
Let’s look at the word CUMBERSOME and associate it with CUCUMBER.
Think of a cucumber. It’s bulky and long, difficult to carry. Hence, carrying a cucumber is a cumbersome task.
2. Root method
Using the root method is one of the easiest methods to learn words. Once you know the meaning of the root, you can easily guess the meaning of the entire word.
For example: look at the root word ‘geo’, ‘roga’ etc.
Geo means ‘earth'.Words with the root 'geo' are:
  1. Geology means study of earth.
  2. Geologist is the person who studies earth.
  3. Geography means the features of earth.

‘Roga’ means ‘ask’. For example: ‘Interrogate’ and derogatory’ are a few words having this root.

Similarly, 'nascent' is derived from the Latin Root 'nasc-,nat-', meaning 'born or birth'. The very root of the word points to its meaning. Some other interesting words based on this root are:
  • Natal: Relating to or accompanying birth.
  • Prenatal: Occurring or existing before birth.
  • Neonatal: Concerning the first 28 days after the birth of a child or pertaining to a new born. This word is the combination of natal and neo (which means new).
Learning words through their roots is an amazing learning method. One gets the benefit of learning multiple words through a single root; it is this multiplicity of knowledge that works wonders for an individual. You learn a single root and get to learn multiple words.
3. Word trees
This method can be easily used, and is very useful to learn the synonyms and antonyms of words.
For example: consider the word ‘speak’.  So whenever you come across any word related to ‘speak’, note down the words on the same page. Going by this way will ensure that you will always revise all the words related to ‘speak’ every time.
For example: some of the words related to speaking will be banal, garrulous, cogent, Loquacious, reticent, taciturn etc.
There can be no substitute to reading when it comes to vocabulary improvement. Read novels, Newspaper, online journals magazines etc.
4. Prefix /suffix method
A lot of words don’t have roots; hence we can easily use prefixes to know the meaning of the words.
For example: The prefix ‘BIO’ means life.
Hence Biology means 'study of life'. Similarly, Biography means features of life.
The suffix ‘al’ means ‘related to’. Hence ‘mathematical’ means ‘related to mathematics’
By using this method we can easily learn 200- 300 words more.
Other ways:
Contextual vocabulary
This is the most used method of learning words, and is in fact part of our intrinsic (meaning 'belonging to a thing by its very nature') learning methodology. Let's take a sample word with a sentence extracted from the New York Times, and see how this method works.
Sample Word: Lure
Sentence Example: To lure business, some states are offering a refuge from rules, especially those requiring companies to set aside enough money to pay future claims.
Meaning: Lure means to tempt or attract with the promise for reward. In this example, companies are being lured by different states by giving them special benefits. This is an example of learning words through the context they appear in. The more you read, the more such contexts you discover. And the more contexts you discover, the more you learn. So the effectiveness of this method comes down to your reading habit.
Learning through Pictures and movies
They say pictures speak a thousand words. Words can be easily learnt through this method of associating words with images. In fact, this is method of learning that we have used since our childhood. You can easily explore the net for such photographs. 
So, you can use a mix of various approaches to learn words.