It’s true that the SAT® does not test as much vocabulary as it once did. But here at The Princeton Review we know that students with a strong vocabulary tend to get better SAT scores.

The SAT contains at least 10–15 words that the average student may not know. Those words could be the difference between answering a question correctly and getting stuck!

How SAT Vocab Can Give You an Edge

SAT Vocabulary

You might already know that the SAT underwent a major change in March 2016. Prior to the re-design, the SAT had questions (called Sentence Completions) that explicitly tested difficult vocabulary words.

And if you go back further in time to when your parents took the test, there were even more vocabulary-based questions, such as word analogies.

Sentence completions may be gone, but the truth is you still need a strong vocabulary (and a strong vocabulary strategy) in order to score well on the SAT. Tough words still appear in many SAT Reading passages, questions, and answer choices, and if you don’t know these words, you will probably struggle.

Easy Ways to Build Your SAT Vocabulary

Students may be more familiar with some of the vocabulary tested on the SAT than in past iterations of the test, but you will need to know multiple definitions of those words. Here’s are some simple ways to build up your vocabulary before your SAT test date.

1. Invest in a prep book

Prepping for the SAT may no longer mean memorizing long lists of “SAT words,” but an SAT prep book can help you focus on what's most important. Our own SAT Power Vocab  gives you practical advice for understanding and remembering key vocabulary terms across all SAT sections.

2. Read, read, read

Read voraciously to build a solid, sophisticated vocabulary in the long term. Reading not only brings you into contact with new words, but it also forces you to figure out what those new words mean.

3. Use a dictionary

The natural way to learn a new word is by paying attention to how other people use it—that is, to see or hear the word in context. But be careful! You won’t know whether you’re right about the meaning of a new word until you’ve consulted a dictionary to check the definition. Read all of the definitions listed, not just the primary meaning of the word.

4. Make new SAT words your own

To understand a word completely and make it yours, try to define it in your own words. You’ll understand the meaning better, and you’ll be more likely to remember it.

5. Write it down

Many people find that they can learn new information more easily if they write it down. The physical act of writing can plant the information more firmly in your mind.

6. Practice with flashcards

You probably use flashcards to study for some of your high school classes already, like when you are tackling new words for Spanish class. Use index cards or our own Essential SAT Vocabulary flashcards to either practice independently or have a friend quiz you.

7. Use it or lose it

Think of your new word knowledge as a muscle that you have to keep working out. Use the word every chance you get, so you can keep your new knowledge in shape.

8. Don’t forget your Math vocabulary!

In order to do well on the SAT Math Test, you need to know what the questions are asking you––and that all begins with understanding key math terms. Take the time to brush up on math terminology, like the differences between integer and co-efficient, for example—before you tackle the SAT.


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