SAT- How to Approach Vocabulary Study

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

– ‘Jabberwocky’ by Lewis Carroll

We should be glad that Lewis Carroll’s nonsense verse won’t be tested heavily on the SAT. But how do we learn the words we need to succeed on the verbal section?

First, recognize that there is a certain type of word that just is an SAT word. They’re words that make you look at them and say, ‘Shucks, I feel like I have the meaning of that word on the tip of my tongue- I should know what it means but I don’t!’ – In other words, you won’t see words like ‘floccinaucinihilipilification’ on the SAT.

Another type of common word on the SAT is one that you might not know but could decode- you can figure it out if you’re clever. A strong understanding of the building blocks of words (prefixes and suffixes) can help here. For example, the prefix ‘di’ means ‘two’, so you might guess ‘dichotomy’ has something to do with two (it means ‘any splitting of a whole into two non-overlapping parts’)

To memorize, come up with mnemonic devices (repetition techniques); research suggests that the most effective ones are visual. For each tricky word you encounter, spend 15 seconds coming up with a ridiculous picture or image that will help you remember the word. Jot it down on the back of a flash card with the word on the other side. You’ll be surprised how much mental imagery can boost your preparation.

(‘floccinaucinihilipilification’ is the act or habit of describing or regarding something as unimportant, and at 29 letters is widely regarded as the longest non-technical word in the English language)

 

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