Tips for learning Scrabble words

Allan Simmons, a former Scrabble champion and author of the book Scrabble Trainer, shares his tips on how to learn words to improve your Scrabble game.

There are nearly 120,000 two to eight letter words in the Collins Scrabble word list and very few Scrabble enthusiasts have the time or the will to try and learn them all. Most players focus on the types of words that are going to be most useful, and those that are likely to crop up based on the letter distribution of the set. Essentially, this means the following categories: The two and three letter Scrabble words, the four letter words as extensions of threes and those using awkward letter combinations, the JQXZ words, the vowel-heavy words, the most likely seven and eight letter words (bonus words)

These represent the core of Scrabble vocabulary you should focus on. Of course it’s one thing to have memorized words and quite another to have them front of mind during a game. So you need to ensure you get to know these words, the more familiar a word the more likely you are to spot it in play. So how do you learn words to ensure you play better Scrabble? well a apart from looking at word lists you need to test your knowledge on a regular basis. Here’s my top tips to help you learn words for better Scrabble playing.


Have a pack of index-cards with the prompt on one side and the solution(s) on the other.For example with vowel-heavy fours and fives on one card could have the prompt , eg: AEIU (3) which tells you there are three five-letter words with those vowels. On the reverse you will have the solutions: ADIEU AUREI URAEI. And so on for each combination. Then test yourself on a regular basis.


Practise spotting words you’ve learned by drawing appropriate letters and seeing if you can spot them on an opening move. For example, for JQXZ words take JQXZ and a U for the Q out of the bag. Pick a random six-letters and see if you can spot words that have the JQX or Z on a double-letter square as an opening move. Repeat with a fresh set of six letters and so on.


Keep the lists you are trying to learn short and useful, so you build up a lot of small lists rather than one lengthy unwieldy one. So rather than set out to learn all the fours, you may focus on those with a V, and if you remove all those that have an E and S (the sort of letters you would prefer to keep back) there are only 73 to study.


Look for words that can be grouped together with common patterns then you will find those nuggets of vocabulary will stick in the mind better. For example, the following threes can all have any of A,E,I or O as an end hook: CAM CAP DIV LOT MAN ROT SOL TOR. For example: BOOGIE NOOGIE SOOGIE are all valid as are their plurals.


Couplets are useful for recalling unusual bonus words that have a common anagram. You may not see the unusual word on a rack but, if you’ve learnt the couplets, may recall it once you’ve formed the common word on your rack as a prompt. For example:; AUGMENT gives MUTAGEN; UNRAVEL give VENULAR.

All opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of Collins, or its parent company, HarperCollins.

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