SAT and ACT Vocabulary, Revisited

SAT and ACT VocabularyWhat do the words anachronistic, demagogue, and lobbyist have in common?

According to Quizlet, they are three of the “Top 100 Common SAT/ACT Vocabulary Words.”

Building a strong vocabulary is an integral part of effective preparation for any standardized test. The best way to absorb vocabulary, of course, is slowly throughout all of a student’s school years. It’s done by reading, defining, and using new words. But if you have a couple of months until your first ACT test and you’d like to give your word power a boost, what can you do?

In January 2015, we posted a blog article on this subject: Five Ways to Improve Your ACT Vocabulary. Let's revisit some of those points.

Commit to Learning One Word a Day

Having a “word-of-the-day” system is a great idea. There are learning websites that provide this service or you can choose a different word every day from the College Board list. Rebecca Safier, in her article for PrepScholar, reminds students to notice “how a word can be used in multiple contexts,” and Dan mentions this important point as well. Florid, for example, can mean “flushed” (His florid features betrayed his emotions) or “ornate” (Esther was fascinated by the florid designs on the mantelpiece).

Use That Word!

It might take some ingenuity to introduce the word perfidious in the middle of a casual conversation. However, many SAT and ACT vocabulary words come up quite naturally if you’re tuned in to using them. The word hypothesis can easily be used in a science class. Likewise, novice can describe your skill level when trying out for the tennis team. And if you try really hard, you can probably figure out how to bring up jubilation at your next party!


Instead of just “read,” we should probably say “read, read, read.” It bears repeating. Dan recommends a minimum of 15 minutes a day. That’s minimum, as in there’s no upper limit. The more you read, the more vocabulary you’re exposed to. Learning definitions and usage in context are two important skills that can be enormously improved by reading.

Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking you have to read the “right” stuff—that some reading doesn’t count. Sure, Jane Eyre and Ethan Frome are great works of literature, but reading the directions on a loofah teaches you what exfoliate means. And you may learn what desiccated means when reading instructions on how often to water your lawn.

It all counts.

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, we suggest starting vocabulary-building early, certainly by or before 9th grade. If you are researching vocabulary software or programs, give us a call to talk to us and hear our recommendations. If you would like more information, our Client Service Directors Anne Stanley and Susan Ware are available to answer questions and provide solutions. You may reach either of them by calling A+ Test Prep and Tutoring at 215-886-9188. 

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