The Knewton Blog

Our monthly newsletter features edtech and product updates, with a healthy dose of fun Knerd news.

The Importance of SAT Vocabulary Prep

Posted in Test Prep on February 23, 2010 by

This is the first post from our friends at Vocabulary study is a big part of our SAT prep course, so we were excited to hear their thoughts on the subject.

How important is vocabulary study on the SAT? This simple question has recently become the subject of a great deal of debate in the world of SAT prep. When analogies and antonyms were dropped from the SAT, vocabulary became directly relevant to just Sentence Completion questions. Since Sentence Completion comprises only one-third of the Critical Reading section, 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, but it only makes sense if a student starts thinking about the SAT just a week before test day, when time is of the essence. If you are reading this post, you are not that person! You’re already planning ahead and motivated to earn a high score. There are some very good reasons why you should search for that definitive sat vocabulary list so you can add vocabulary to your SAT arsenal:

#1 One-third of the Critical Reading section is based on vocabulary. Approximately 300 points are directly related to vocabulary, with about 200 of those points coming from moderate to hard sentence completions. You may encounter some difficult words like “xanthous.” Do you know what xanthous means? Probably not, but you should if you study vocabulary. It is that simple. Don’t leave those 200 points on the table!

#2 Your English teacher would rather teach “War and Peace” than vocabulary. As a result, you may not be learning enough vocabulary in school. Many schools have bought into the idea that vocabulary preparation is not important, and therefore you may not be doing enough to learn new words. Of course, if you come across a word you don’t know, you should look it up, but for most students, that will not be enough preparation to score well on Sentence Completion questions.

#3 The person sitting next to you on test day probably has not been studying vocabulary. That person is not going to answer those tough Sentence Completion questions correctly. For you, this is an opportunity to get a leg up on the competition. Most students will have little trouble with the easy questions, but those same students will miss the hard ones. Therefore, if you answer a difficult question correctly, you will receive crucial points that most students will not. The good news is that deducing which words fill in the Sentence Completion blanks is usually easy — if you know the vocabulary. Studying vocabulary gives you an edge and the opportunity to score in the higher ranges.

#4 Love is a battlefield, and so is college admissions. What can those extra points do for you? It should go without saying, but it can mean the difference between being admitted 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 further, admission to a better school can mean a better job down the line. That should be enough to convince you!

So now that you are 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 is able to associate new words with words it already knows. Word-Nerd’s vocabulary prep is based on that theory; it groups over 1,500 of the most commonly tested words into meaningful categories, like “color” and “eating,” so that they are easy to remember.

By the way, xanthous means “yellow-hued.” By upping your vocab study, you’ll make sure you know that on test day!