Word Traveler: Learning SAT words

This feature is for all word lovers as well as those studying for the SAT and seeking to learn new vocabulary.

The SAT tests your vocabulary using "analogy" questions, in which your job is to determine the relationship between words in pairs. If you know the meaning of every word in the question, you will probably get the answer right. And the more words you know, the better your chances of narrowing down the choices to the correct one. The SAT also includes "vocabulary-in-context" questions (sentence completions), in which your task is to determine the meaning of words as used in the context of particular sentences. Finally, the critical reading section indirectly gauges your vocabulary. Again, test-takers with a strong vocabulary hold an advantage when it comes to the questions.

You can learn some new words through practicing at this Web site and Thesaurus.com, or various other Web sites, but that is not really enough. You need to use a good vocabulary book (or more) and do some solid work. Don't just focus on definitions, but go in depth and find out words' origins (etymologies) for an even better understanding that also helps you "connect" words you learn to words you already know.

Here are some tips that will help you build a smart vocabulary and boost your SAT verbal test scores:

  • Break up the big task into small pieces. Do not try to learn hundreds of words at one time or you will overload your mental circuits. Try tackling 20-30 words at a time.
  • Limit yourself to three or four sessions per day (20-30 words per session), depending on how much time you have to prepare for the test. Take breaks of a few hours between study sessions.
  • Sleep on it. Study a new batch of words just before bedtime. Your mind is more likely to retain information received just prior to sleep.
  • Vocalize as you learn. Saying words aloud or hearing somebody else say them helps you to recall them later. Try reading sample sentences and definitions aloud as well. Learn words in the context of a story or interesting and instructive sentences or short paragraphs.
  • Incorporate new words into everyday conversation. Use new words as you converse with friends and even pause to explain what the word means, and ask your friend if he or she knows any similar or contrasting words.
  • Do lots of reviewing. It is not enough to "learn" a word once. Unless you review it, the word could vanish from your memory bank!

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