What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

Use These 6 Vocabulary Tips to Boost Your SAT Scores

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For many high school students, the SAT is an important factor in college admissions. Ace it and you may see new doors open to you; bomb it and doors might seem to slam in your face. Luckily, the SAT isn’t a lottery. You have plenty of power over your own performance and can even take the test multiple times to improve on your initial scores.


One of the easiest ways to build your SAT skills and improve your score is to bulk up on your vocabulary. Strong vocabulary will help you on the reading, writing, and essay portions of the test. Beyond that, a strong vocabulary will also help you in interviews and college essays. To learn how to strengthen your SAT vocabulary in six simple ways, keep reading.



1. Sign Up For the SAT Question of the Day

Did you know that the College Board has an SAT study app that claims to “eliminate any excuse not to practice for the SAT?” It does, and it’s easily downloaded from whatever app store you use.


Once you download the app, you’ll be able to unlock an official daily practice question. Each question comes with hints ready to reveal should you need some extra help, and a complete answer explanation so that you can learn from your mistakes.


While not all questions will specifically relate to vocabulary, you can use these to help refine your SAT vocabulary. Don’t let a single unknown word get past you while you’re doing your daily SAT question. Anytime you encounter an unfamiliar word, look it up immediately, try to memorize its meaning, and then make a point to try to incorporate it into a conversation or your written work that day.



2. SAT Practice Tests

The College Board also provides extensive practice materials in the form of practice tests and practice questions for each section of the test. You should use these tests and questions just as you would the SAT Question of the Day.


Review each question for unfamiliar words. If you encounter one, first use context clues to try to guess its meaning. Then, look it up to see if your guess is correct. Try to use the word correctly over the next day or two to really internalize its meaning.


Keep in mind that unfamiliar words won’t just arise in the verbal sections of your SAT. You might encounter them on the math section also. This is actually good news because it means you’re preparing for the math section through vocabulary review as well. Use the same process for learning math vocabulary as you would for writing or reading.



3. Dictionary.com Word of the Day

Another great daily tool is the Word of the Day available from Dictionary.com. Make a habit of checking this out by bookmarking the site and keeping a link to it on your toolbar. Visit the site when you check your email in the morning and it will become part of your daily routine.


The words commonly chosen for Word of the Day are typically somewhat obscure but often have common meanings that makes them easily suitable for daily use. For example, one recent word of the day was bacciferous, a botanical word of Latin roots meaning bearing or producing berries. If you can become familiar with not just the daily words, but also their roots, you are bound to quickly amass an impressive vocabulary.  

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4. New York Times Learning Network

Many people don’t even know that the NYT Learning Network exists, which is a shame since this educational resource aims to provide “rich and imaginative materials for teaching and learning.” This page is updated daily to include educational resources from the NYT, including videos, articles, podcasts, pictures, and more, all for free, without a subscription. This is a fantastic way to access high quality information without having to pay for a subscription.


In addition, the Learning Network hosts its own Word of the Day feature that is based on words used in the New York Times. Each day, a different word is featured, along with its definition and an excerpt from its use in the New York Times. There is also a quiz section at the end.



5. Read Engaging, Challenging Material

Another simple way to soak up more vocabulary is to read often. Choose high-quality articles from resources like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Science Magazine, or The Economist. Immersing yourself in a wide variety of subject matter will broaden your knowledge of content-specific vocabulary while also getting you used to various formats. In addition, reading current newspaper articles and journal articles will keep you connected to current events.



6. Create a Quizlet of Common SAT Vocabulary Words

Sometimes, the only way to learn a lengthy list of vocabulary words is to drill them into your brain. One simple way to create virtual flashcards and quiz yourself is to go on Quizlet and create your own quiz.


You can find comprehensive lists of SAT vocabulary words on Your Dictionary and Vocabulary.com. Both of these links feature 100 common SAT words along with their definitions. Cut and paste these into Quizlet and you’ll have a free practice tool set up and ready to go.


Studying for the SAT? Download our free guide with our top 8 tips for mastering the SAT.


To learn more about how to prepare for the SAT, see these posts:


Tips to Prepare Yourself for Your SAT Test Day

How to Pace Yourself on Every Section of the SAT

Five SAT Strategies You Should Know

10 Tips to Prepare for the SAT

What Parents Need to Know about ACT and SAT Studying Prep


Want to know how your SAT score impacts your chances of acceptance to your dream schools? Our free Chancing Engine will not only help you predict your odds, but also let you know how you stack up against other applicants, and which aspects of your profile to improve. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to gain access to our Chancing Engine and get a jumpstart on your college strategy!

Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.