Your Ultimate Guide to Mastering SAT Vocabulary

SAT preparation requires careful planning and diligent adherence to it for a student to score high on the test. With the new SAT test format introduction in 2016, students have had to adjust their study plans according to the reformatted test pattern. In the new format, English reading is the longest section, where SAT vocabulary knowledge is put to test the most. Regarding SAT vocabulary a significant change in the exam is testing students on how well can they use a word in different contexts? Earlier in the old format, the focus was on testing knowledge of word meaning.

According to the official SAT test makers College Board, the following types and a number of reading passages are included in the new SAT reading section:

  • A passage from a classic or contemporary piece of US or world literature.
  • A passage (or pair of passages) based on a US founding document or text in the Great Global Conversation.
  • A passage on social science.
  • Two science passages.

SAT writing section will have passages on:

  • History
  • Social studies
  • Science

Basis these new changes, following the suggestions given below will help you improve on your vocabulary on SAT:

Read widely

As mentioned above SAT English reading and writing section includes a wide variety of topics. Therefore, regularly reading a wide variety of articles, books, magazines, and newspapers will help you enormously. Cultivating a discipline of reading long articles every day and being conscious of diversity in topics will:

  • Make you comfortable with the varying writing style, tone, and genre.
  • Broaden your knowledge of content-specific vocabulary.
  • Improve your reading speed.
  • Expose you to a wide variety of viewpoints and ideas.

Using the knowledge gained with such reading, students drastically improve their English writing skills too as it becomes easy for them to interpret and express different types of information and thoughts.

Learn word meaning from context

On the SAT test, vocabulary questions can be segmented under two categories:

  • Words in context questions-that ask you to match a word with the correct meaning.
  • Precision questions- in the writing section, they ask you to replace (or leave as is) a certain word in a passage.

Cramming the meaning of the word will not be of much help. The test is to see how well you can use words in a different context.

For example: “Fix” as a word means to repair. However, depending on the context of its usage in a passage its meaning can change from a repair or mend to solve a problem or improve on something.

To expand on SAT English vocabulary practice reading in context. Whenever you come across a word you do not know the meaning of while reading, do the following:

  • Try to use the context of the sentence to guess its meaning.
  • Use a Thesaurus. A thesaurus will give you a group of synonyms and related concepts for words.
  • If you struggle with understanding the correct meaning of a word, do not get stuck on it. Write down the word and its definition and continue reading to finish the passage. Study or discuss the word with your teacher later to understand it better.

Learn word roots, prefixes, and suffixes

Learning vital word roots can help you expand your SAT English vocabulary easily. Word root is the simplest form of a word. When combines with other words they form new words:

  • For example “a”. It has a Latin origin, meaning “on”.
  • Words using “a” are – afire meaning on fire; ashore meaning on the shore; aside meaning on the side

Prefixes and suffixes are a group of words used before or after a word to form new words. Knowing the meaning of commonly used prefixes and suffixes can help expand one’s vocabulary significantly.

Build a vocabulary list

  • Use free resources-There are ample to free resources on the web that provide vocabulary lists for students to learn from. Be sure to use lists that are tailor-made for new format SAT test. Such lists are based on past SAT exams to contain a repository of words that are frequently used in the SAT test. Using random lists that contain advance or difficult words may not prove to be very beneficial. 
  • Practice new words- Knowing the meaning or reading a word once will not help you much in memorizing and remembering new words. To considerably improve upon your vocabulary knowledge purposely make an effort to use the new words learned, in your conversation, writing assignments, emails, texts, and practice essays. The more you recall and use a new word while learning, the more likely you are to remember it permanently.
  • Sign up for the SAT question of the day-The College Board has resources to help students refine their SAT vocabulary. Include this in your study plan. Anytime you come across an unfamiliar word, look for its meaning, and memorize it by trying to use it in your verbal and written conversation immediately.

Take an Online SAT Vocabulary Practice Tests and Quizzes

Tests and quizzes are a great way to build SAT English vocabulary knowledge. There are free websites that let you practice and test with pre-made and customizable flashcards. Three such widely used websites are:

  • Quizlet-A mobile and web-based study application that allows students to study via learning tools such as flashcards and games.
  • Anki– An open-source, media-rich learning tool that uses spaced repetition for its functioning.

It uses a study technique where its users are quizzed more often on the information they struggle with.

  • Vocabulary.com– It has an adaptive learning system that lets you create your own vocabulary list. It also offers over 50,000 ready-to-learn vocabulary lists tailored made for SAT. With academic games it will help determine what level of learning support one requires to master vocabulary one is aiming for.

Using these strategies on a regular basis and following the suggestions will certainly help you learn new words much quicker and faster to build a strong SAT vocabulary list.

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