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Your Ultimate Guide to Mastering SAT Vocabulary
You probably know that vocabulary on the current SAT isn’t what it used to be. Rather than having to know the meanings of difficult, complex words, you’ll be asked to understand more commonly-used words in context. So how do you prepare?
Find out our strategies for upping your vocabulary game—and acing the SAT Writing and Language and Reading tests below.
How are Vocabulary Skills Tested on the SAT?
The SAT no longer includes complicated sentences completions. Instead, your vocabulary knowledge will be evaluated in a few different ways on both the Reading and Writing and Language tests.
1. Determine the meaning of a word or phrase in the context of a passage.
2. Interpret rhetorical devices and how they affect the overall meaning of a passage.
To learn more, check out The Ultimate Guide to the New SAT Reading Test.
Writing and Language
1. Choose the words that best or better convey the idea.
2. Improve the word choice or syntax of a passage.
For more tips, read The Ultimate Guide to the New SAT Writing and Language Test.
Strategies for Studying SAT Vocabulary
Memorizing long lists of words is tedious and not helpful for your overall studying strategy. Instead, focus on strategies the correlate to the types of questions you’ll find on the test. Here are our ideas:
Read books, particularly literature, to learn and practice vocabulary in context. Also, practice reading the types of materials you’ll find in passages on the SAT, such as complex articles on history, literature, and science.
To make the most of this strategy, practice reading actively, highlighting words in passages and thinking of synonyms. You should also look up words you don’t know and work on learning their definitions.
Pay attention to author’s word choices: Why, for example, did she use effect instead of impact, or ameliorate instead of assuage or improve? Thinking about these devices and word choices will prepare you for performing this type of task on the SAT.
Check out What to Read to Prepare for the SAT for more tips.
Take Practice Tests
Start with a formative assessment to see where you are initially. (To learn about how this test can help you gauge your starting point, read What Is a Formative Assessment and Why Should I Use One to Study?.) You can also take a diagnostic test through Khan Academy. This will help you see which skills are strong and which ones need work.
Keep taking practice tests to gauge your progress, making sure you prepare and study in between. Don’t just take practice test after practice test, because doing so won’t help you improve. Instead, you’ll need to hone your skills and develop strategies to see real improvement.
Use Apps and Online Tools
Using apps is a fun way to improve your vocabulary for the SAT without going through stacks of flashcards. Here are some useful digital tools:
This platform allows you to watch videos to learn words in context.
This iPhone/iPad app uses games to help you learn words.
For Android users, this app includes definitions, multiple-example sentences, and phonetic pronunciation of words.
Create or use digital flashcards made by others to learn words for the SAT through this tool.
Study According to Your Learning Type
Understanding your learning style can help guide your studying for vocabulary and other subjects and concepts.
For example, a visual learner might draw pictures to correlate to certain words to learn new vocabulary. An auditory learner, on the other hand, could say the words and definitions aloud or discuss them with friends, teachers, and parents.
It’s not worth your while to memorize long lists of words now that the SAT no longer explicitly tests your knowledge of particular words. Instead, use practice strategies such as reading and apps to develop your ability to use and identify words in context. Take practice tests to gauge your starting point and progress, and remember to make use of your personal and learning strengths.
Looking for some more help for acing the SAT? The CollegeVine SAT Tutoring Program will help you achieve top scores on your test. We’ll pair you with two private tutors, one for English and writing, and one for math and science. All of our tutors have scored in the 99th percentile on the section they are teaching and are chosen based on teaching skills and ability to relate to their students.