Not all of us possess a penchant for utilizing intellectual vocabulary to perforate the SAT. Most people don’t. You can get every single vocabulary question on the reading section of the SAT incorrect and still score above a 600. However, knowing your vocab will help you out tremendously.
I’m aware that memorizing SAT Vocab is not the most titillating activity, but there are ways to reduce the tedium of it. Here are some methods I use that I don’t even have to think twice about. If I come across any other ideas I’ll add them to this post, and if you have your own study practices, please feel free to share!
1. Make lists. The totally untrained individual would study SAT vocab by randomly looking at words from his Princeton Review book when he has the chance. That’s not a bad thing, but it won’t help you as much as constructing a list. If you have time before the test, twenty words a week is good. If you don’t, maybe ten per day depending on how strong your memory is. You can type the list, but writing it will help you retain the meaning of the words more. Some people prefer to study words with similar meanings (aka, synonyms) at the same time. Here’s a great resource if you’re looking for words that frequently appear on the test.
2. Study your list… Everywhere. So you have your list, great. But when will you get the chance to sit down and study it? You would be surprised – there are many unexpected opportunities throughout the day you can take advantage of. Copy the list onto your IPod or cell phone and scan it every time you change songs or send a text. Bring your list with you while you work out at the gym (see my awesome treadmill up there?) Tape the list onto your wall if you have to. Just remember to constantly check it whenever you can.
3. Read, read, read. Read. A lot. It doesn’t have to be the New York Times or Frankenstein (though those are quite beneficial), but books that you’ll enjoy. As you’re reading, look up every word you don’t know. Not only will that ameliorate your vocabulary, but it’ll develop your writing skills as well. Guess who learned the word “irrevocable” from the book jacket of Twilight?
4. Use your words. Now that you know the words, apply them. An easy way to do this is to look back at old lists and write a sentence for each word – you can even create a short story if you want. If you want to take it a step further you can start incorporating your vocabulary into your everyday writing and conversations. Be careful with that though, as people may presume that you’re being pretentious.
It seems like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. I’m currently a rising junior in high school and I’ve used these tips since the beginning of sophomore year. They do help. In May I took the SAT and received a decent score on the reading section – a 730. I only got one vocab question wrong, and the word I didn’t know is permanently embedded into my brain: “mawkishness”.
Good luck! If you need a place to start, you can begin by looking up every word in this post you didn’t know. (;
Edit May 24, 2012: I took the SAT again in March this year, and received an 800 on the Critical Reading section! I memorized around 400 vocab words, if that may serve as an indication as to how important it is to know lots of words.