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Test Prep

How to Improve Your SAT Vocabulary

The SAT verbal section places a strong emphasis on vocabulary. Unless you are an avid reader and keep a dictionary on you at all times, odds are your vocabulary is not up to the SAT’s standards. In order to improve your vocabulary fast you have to commit to learning somewhere between 500 and 3500 words. In the short term, check out the mindfish video vocabulary page to start learning SAT words in a fun new video format.


1. MAKE NOTECARDS-  Notecards not only help you learn words by allowing you to use your written memory, but they also give you a way to rapidly review, sort, and reorganize hundreds/thousands of words.

2. FOCUS ON QUANTITY NOT QUALITY- Knowing 50 to a 100 words perfectly is not nearly as powerful as having a very basic understanding of a few thousand words. Focus on learning the basic quality of words and don’t worry about secondary definitions.

3. KEEP YOUR NOTECARDS ON YOU AT ALL TIMES- If you are going to successfully learn several thousand words, you have to take advantage of all the little breaks in your day. I learned vocabulary in class before the teacher showed up, in the car when my parents drove, during television commercials, and even on the bench during my baseball games (wouldn’t recommend this one unless you have an academically inclined coach). The point is that you are not going to learn enough words unless you find a way to fit it into each and every day.

4. KEEP A DICTIONARY NEARBY- You have to stop letting words slide by. Part of building a good vocabulary comes from being accountable to the words you come across in your life. Whether you see a word you don’t know on a practice SAT test, read a word you don’t know in a novel, or hear a word you don’t know on television, you have to LOOK IT UP. Make notecards for the new words you come across and as you start learning and stop ignoring you will be amazed at how these words are all around you.

5. START WITH PREFIXES, SUFFIXES, and ROOTS- Learning thousands of words can be a daunting task and there is no way to learn every possible SAT word in a short period of time. So, whether you are planning on cramming in a few hundred the week before the test or learning a few thousand over the summer, start by learning the basic building blocks of words. The best prefix/suffix/root guide I have found is in the Barron’s SAT Book .


Looking for a huge list- Check out Barron’s SAT Book or Gruber’s Complete SAT Guide

Looking for a shorter list to get you started- Check out Hot Words for the SAT

Looking for a good vocabulary building book (not SAT specific) – Check out Word Power Made Easy 

Good Luck,