How to Study for SAT vocabulary

by Sarah Cage

You do not need to learn every word in the dictionary to improve your SAT score. Every bone in your body has a name, but the names of your bones will not be on the SAT for two reasons. It would give an unfair advantage to students interested in human anatomy, and the question would be too difficult. Just as easy questions that everyone can answer will not be on the test, questions that no one can answer will also not be on the test for the same reason; they do not measure anything since everyone would get the same score.

SAT Vocab Words

There are about 10,000 words that are likely to show up on the SAT - other words are too hard or too easy. While 10,000 words is a lot, you probably know half of the words already. Also, many of the words are related to each other through common roots such as subsonic and supersonic. If you know what supersonic means, you should be able to figure out what subsonic means and vice versa.

Five or ten hours of vocabulary work cannot compare to a lifetime of studious vocabulary building, but all is not lost. You can review, remember and clarify words you once knew and learn a few new words. Unless you have a photographic memory or have mastered mnemonics (thinking of memory aids), you will not be able to memorize 1000 new words from a list in a few hours. What you can do is review words that you barely remember, and some of the new words may stick.

SAT Vocab Test Example

If you are tempted to skip vocabulary building because there are too many words, just remember that you do not need to know all the words to answer vocabulary questions correctly. Consider the following sentence completion question.

Because of his _____ and effort, John Doe was a success.

a. laziness

b. nationality

c. xyyxxyx (a word you don't know)

d. sleeping

e. beauty

Even without understanding xyyxxyx, you can rule out all of the other answers - as long as you know 4 of the 5 words - and answer the question correctly.

Vocabulary words are on the SAT, GRE and other standardized tests for a reason - people with better vocabularies perform better in college and later in life. If your vocabulary is weak, you will understand less. Your ability to express yourself is limited by your vocabulary - if your vocabulary is weak, you will be understood less. If you overuse simplistic words, such as "cool" or "great," people will be unimpressed. Even if you are a computer science genius, other computer science geniuses with better verbal skills will be hired and promoted ahead of you.

If you improve your vocabulary, you will (1) improve your SAT score, (2) enter a better college, (3) earn better grades and learn more in college and (4) perform better in your career. If you need to invest more time building your vocabulary, read the following vocabulary-building books, which have examples of words used in context and illuminating explanations:

Merriam-Webster Vocabulary Builder, 712 pages, $6.99 (list price).

1000 Most Important Words by Norman Schur, 245 pages, $5.99.

Click on the above titles to view’s description.

In addition to answering more vocabulary questions correctly, answering quickly leaves more time for reading comprehension questions, which have vocabulary embedded in the passages.

These words are targeted for SAT test prep, but other tests, such as the GRE and GMAT, use the same collegiate words. GRE words and GMAT vocabulary are just hard SAT words; SAT prep will help you on graduate school entrance tests.The SAT vocabulary and SAT math advice also applies to GRE vocabulary and GRE math, but the difficulty is different.

On the SAT, Both Speed And Accuracy Count

The reading-passage questions are NOT ordered from easy to hard. If you run out of time, because of slow reading or slow vocabulary, you both miss opportunities to answer easy questions for easy points and don't have extra time for hard questions.

Just 20% faster is like having an extra 5 minutes on 25-minute sections.

- SAT Vocabulary Building developed by Dr. Steve Baba

About Sarah Cage

Sarah Cage is an accomplished education writer known for her insightful and engaging work in the field. With a passion for empowering students and teachers alike, she has made a significant impact through her thought-provoking articles and research papers.

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