So do I need to study vocabulary for the SAT?
By Jennifer Cohen
This simple question has actually become the subject of a great deal of debate in the world of SAT preparation. When analogies and antonyms were dropped from the test format, vocabulary became directly relevant to only sentence completion questions. And because sentence completions comprise only one-third of the Critical Reading portion, the prevailing wisdom turned against vocabulary study. “Big Test Prep” (you know who they are) declared that vocabulary preparation was a waste of valuable student time. This opinion has since trickled its way down to classrooms, guidance counselors and college admissions gurus. This makes sense, if a student starts thinking about the SAT only a week before test day. But if you’re reading this post, you’re not that person! You’re planning ahead and you’re motivated to score high. There are some very good reasons you should add vocabulary to your arsenal for the SAT.
#1 One-third of the Critical Reading section is based on vocabulary. That means approximately 300 points is directly related to vocabulary, with about 200 of those coming from moderate to hard sentence completions. You may encounter some seriously tough words like “xanthous.” Do you know what xanthous means? If you haven’t done your vocabulary prep, you almost certainly won’t. It’s that simple. Don’t leave those 200 points on the table!
#2 Your English teacher would rather teach “War and Peace” than vocabulary. That means you may not be picking up enough vocabulary in school. Many schools have bought into the idea that vocabulary preparation isn’t important, and you may not be doing much to learn new words. Now, of course, if you come across a word you don’t know, you should look it up, but for most of you, that’s not going to be enough.
#3 The person next to you on test day probably hasn’t been studying vocabulary. That means that person is going to get those tough sentence completion questions wrong. And for you, that’s an opportunity to get a leg up on the competition. Most students will get the easy ones right, but most will miss the hard ones. When you answer a difficult question correctly, you’re scoring points that most people won’t. And when it comes down to it, deducing which words go in the blanks is usually pretty easy, IF you know the vocabulary. Studying vocabulary gives you an edge. That alone gives you the opportunity to score in the higher ranges.
#4 Love is a battlefield, and so is college admissions. So what can those extra points do for you? It should go without saying, but it can mean the difference between getting into the college of your choice, or not. It can mean the difference between earning a great scholarship, or not. And to take it even a few steps farther, admission to a better school can mean a better job down the line. That should be enough to convince you!
So now that you’re on board, and I know you are, what’s next? Don’t waste your time on mind-numbing activities like reading the dictionary or looking for long lists of words on the internet. Your brain learns best when it’s able to associate words to words it already knows. That’s where Word-Nerd.com’s SAT vocabulary prep comes in. The site groups words into meaningful categories so they’re easy to remember, and gives you unlimited quizzes and tests to reinforce what you’ve learned. Learn more in less time with a lot less effort. By the way, xanthous means “yellow hued,” but if you were studying with Word-Nerd, you’d know that!
Jennifer Cohen is the President and Chief Word-Nerd at Word-Nerd.com, a site devoted to SAT and PSAT vocabulary prep.