How to Build Your Vocabulary for the SAT

The SAT is an important milestone for anyone planning to attend college. The sooner you can start studying the exam, the better your scores can be. As you begin preparing for the exam, one of the most important skills to improve is your vocabulary. Having a strong vocabulary will be a great asset on the reading and writing sections of the exam. Here’s how to build your vocabulary for the SAT!

How is Vocabulary Tested on the SAT?

Vocabulary is not tested explicitly on the exam. There are no questions asking you to define the meanings of words. Instead, your vocabulary will be tested through reading comprehension and the essay portion of the exam:

  • Reading Comprehension. Can you understand the meaning of words and phrases in the context of a given passage? Explore SAT Reading Tips.
  • Essay. Does your word choice best convey your message or help to improve the syntax of a given passage? Explore SAT Writing Tips.

Tips to Improve Your Vocabulary

Here are some of the best ways to improve your vocabulary for the SAT:

Read, Read, Read!

Reading is an essential way to build vocabulary. Find something you enjoy reading, but do also consider seeking out classic literature as well as complex articles on various topics. The more you push beyond your comfort zone, the more new words and ideas you are likely to discover.

As you read, if you come across a passage that is difficult to understand, take the time to slow down and parse out its meaning. What context clues can help you understand the passage? What words can you look up to better understand the meaning?

Note New Words

To actively build vocabulary through reading, be sure to highlight any new words you discover or are having trouble defining. Then look up those words in a dictionary and record both the word and the definition in a journal. Writing the word and definition down will help you to remember it, and you can quickly review your journal to refresh yourself on all of the words you’ve previously struggled with.

Take Practice Tests

Of course, one of the best ways to prepare for the way vocabulary will be evaluated on the SAT is to take practice tests. This is a great way to simulate testing on the day of the exam. Complete the practice portion, then revisit any questions you answered incorrectly and work to understand the correct answer.

You can find online SAT practice tests at the CollegeBoard.

Flash Cards

Flash cards are a classic method of studying vocabulary. Simply write the word on one side of a card and the definition on the other. This act alone will start to help you to remember the word and its meaning. Complete this for a list of words you have had trouble with—or work from a list of common SAT vocab words. Once you have your stack of flash cards, place them all face-up so that the word is showing and the definition is hidden. Then, one-by-one, see if you can define the word.

Words that you can define quickly and are no longer can be removed from your stack. See if you can clear out your whole stack!

SAT Test Prep Course

Want more tips for improving your vocabulary for the SAT? Consider registering for an SAT prep course. A prep course can be a powerful way to improve your scores on all sections of the exam. Sign up for a SAT prep course with Jantzi Test Prep today!