SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

262 SAT Vocab Words You Must Know

Posted by Hannah Muniz | Jan 25, 2018 12:00:00 PM

SAT Reading, SAT Writing

 

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A lot of students immediately think of vocabulary when they hear the word SAT. But are SAT vocab words really that important for doing well on the test? Kind of. If you’re aiming for a high score, you’ll definitely want to spend some time learning key SAT words.

In this guide, we give you a comprehensive list of 262 of the most common SAT vocabulary words. We also explain how vocab is tested on the SAT, what types of questions you’ll see, and how to get the most out of your vocab prep.

 

How Is Vocabulary Tested on the SAT?

The SAT underwent a significant redesign in 2016, and since then vocabulary has become a far less important part of the test. This is because there are fewer vocabulary questions on the current SAT than there were on the old SAT. 

That said, it'll still benefit you to study vocab, especially if you're aiming for a high or perfect score.

All SAT words are about medium difficulty and are tested in the context of reading passages, so you’ll get not just a sentence but an entire paragraph or passage to work with.

Context clues make memorizing SAT vocab words less important on the current SAT than it was on the old SAT, back when you had to memorize dozens of obscure words and answer questions that dealt with isolated sentences (these were called Sentence Completion problems). This made vocab questions particularly hard since you were given minimal context with which to solve them.

 

What Do SAT Vocabulary Questions Look Like?

Purely vocabulary-based questions don’t make up a large part of the SAT. Based on our analysis of official SAT practice tests, 13% of the Reading section (or about seven questions) ask you to match a word with its correct meaning. We call these Words in Context questions. 

For these questions, you'll need to know alternative meanings of relatively common words, such as “directly” and “hold.” While you might come across slightly more difficult SAT words, you generally shouldn’t see any as hard as those on the old SAT.

Here's an example of a Reading vocabulary question (with the relevant part of the passage shown):

In addition to Words in Context questions, you’ll get questions that require you to pick a single word or phrase in order to paraphrase or clarify part of a passage. With these questions, you must understand what all the SAT vocab words mean so that you can choose the right answer.

Here are some examples of these questions: 

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A sample SAT question with single vocab words as answer choices. (Source: Official SAT Practice Test #1) 

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A sample SAT question with phrases as answer choices. (Source: Official SAT Practice Test #2) 

In these examples, you'll need to know the definitions of a variety of SAT vocabulary words, such as “substantiated,” “freewheeling,” and “scandalous,” so that you can select the right answer choice.

 

Are There Any Vocab Questions on SAT Writing?

Aside from the Reading section, are there any SAT vocab questions on the Writing and Language section? The quick answer is yes—you will see vocab questions on Writing and Language.

While most questions in this section focus on grammar, transitions, and tense, you'll also get some vocab questions that ask you to replace SAT words in a passage; we call these Precision questions. In total, you’ll get three Precision questions, making up about 7% of the SAT Writing section.

Here's an example of a Precision question (with the relevant part of the passage shown):

 

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262 SAT Vocab Words You’re Bound to See on Test Day

Now that you know what kinds of vocab questions are on the SAT, let's go over the 262 words and definitions we suggest memorizing if you want to get high scores on SAT Reading and Writing.

To compile this list, we dug through all official SAT practice tests, looking at both the Reading and Writing sections (and not just the questions but the answer choices and passages, too). We also looked at SAT words from other online vocab lists.

Though you don’t need to memorize all the words below, familiarizing yourself with most of them should help you better identify the tones of passages and make you more efficient at interpreting and answering questions correctly on SAT Reading and Writing.

Below, we give you each word, its part of speech, its definition, and an example sentence (or more if the word has multiple definitions/parts of speech). All words are listed in alphabetical order.

 

Word
Definition
Example Sentence
Abate
v. to become less active, less intense, or less in amount
As I began my speech, my feelings of nervousness quickly abated.
Abstract
adj. existing purely in the mind; not representing actual reality
Julie had trouble understanding the appeal of the abstract painting.
Abysmal
adj. extremely bad
I got an abysmal grade on my research paper!
Accordingly
adv. in accordance with
All students must behave accordingly.
Acquisition
n. the act of gaining a skill or possession of something
Language acquisition is easier for kids than it is for adults.
Adapt
v. to make suit a new purpose
v. to accommodate oneself to a new condition, setting, or situation
The US has adapted many foreign foods to better suit the tastes of Americans.
Dogs are known for their ability to quickly adapt to their environments.
Adept
adj. having knowledge or skill (usu. in a particular area)
Beth loves playing the piano, but she’s especially adept at the violin.
Adequate
adj. having sufficient qualifications to meet a specific task or purpose
Though his resume was adequate, the company doubted whether he’d be a good fit.
Advent
n. the arrival or creation of something (usu. historic)
The world has never been the same since the advent of the light bulb.
Adversarial
adj. relating to hostile opposition
An adversarial attitude will make you many enemies in life.
Advocate
n. someone who promotes or defends something
v. to defend or promote something (usu. a belief, theory, opinion, etc.)
I am an advocate for free higher education.
Environmental protesters often advocate for cleaner energy practices.
Aesthetic
adj. relating to beauty or refined taste
The aesthetic decorations at the wedding reception made you feel as if you were a character in a fairy tale.
Afford
v. to be able to buy
v. to be able to spare
He’s saving money so he can afford to buy a new car.
I can’t afford to lose any more pencils!
Agitate
v. to promote something (usu. a cause)
They’re agitating for better health care.
Allow
v. to permit or consent to
US law allows citizens to speak freely.
Allude
v. to make a secretive mention of something
She alluded to the problem at hand but didn’t say anything more about it.
Altercation
n. a noisy argument or confrontation
Greg got into an altercation with a stranger at the bar.
Ambiguous
adj. unclear or vague in meaning
Her ambiguous statement made me question whether she could be trusted.
Ambitious
adj. having a powerful desire for success or achievement
Penny is so ambitious, she wants to be president someday.
Ambivalence
n. the state of being uncertain or stuck between two or more options
His ambivalence prevented him from immediately signing the contract.
Analogous
adj. similar but not identical
Green onions are considered analogous to spring onions.
Annihilate
v. to destroy or cause devastating destruction
The dictator sent orders to annihilate the group of rebels.
Anomaly
n. something different from the norm
This result is an anomaly and very rarely happens.
Anticipate
v. assume to be likely to happen
The party was just as fun as I had anticipated it would be.
Antipathy
n. a strong feeling of dislike
Her antipathy toward the professor was obvious: she rolled her eyes whenever he entered the classroom.
Apex
n. the highest point of something
The spring play was the apex of our school year.
Apprehension
n. fearful expectation of something
Her apprehension to leave her house resulted in her missing the train.
Articulate
v. to clearly express in words
She articulated her opinion on the price of the house.
Artificial
adj. something made; not occurring naturally
Many candies use artificial flavors to make them taste fruity.
Assertion
n. a strong declaration
His assertion that sharks are mammals made everyone laugh.
Austere
adj. extremely plain
adj. stern and forbidding
adj. relating to self-denial
He lived in a small, austere cabin in the middle of the woods.
My boss had an austere expression on her face.
An austere lifestyle, like that of monks, isn’t for everybody.
Authenticity
n. the quality of being real and true instead of fake and contrived
The police officer doubted the authenticity of the suspect’s story.
Avenue
n. an intangible path or approach to something
The company has decided to pursue other avenues.
Avid
adj. actively interested in or enthusiastic about something
Gerald is an avid soccer fan.
Basic
adj. relating to the foundation or basis of something
You have to start with basic Russian before you can move on to the advanced level.
Bear
v. to have as a characteristic
v. to have (a child)
v. to bring forth
v. to put up with
She bears a strong resemblance to your mother.
Judy will bear her first child last year.
My garden is going to bear pumpkins this year.
I can’t bear her complaining any longer!
Benevolent
adj. kind, generous
Many cultures believe in benevolent spirits.
Bias
n. a preconception that prevents objectivity
It’s important to avoid bias when investigating a crime.
Bittersweet
adj. tinged with a feeling of sadness
The ending of the romance movie was bittersweet.
Bolster
v. to support, strengthen, or fortify
If we work together, we should be able to lift and then bolster the couch.
Boost
n. an increase or growth
v. to increase or make grow
The boost in profits was a welcome change.
In order to boost profits, you need to cater to your customers.
Brawl
n. an intense, loud fight
v. to fight loudly and disruptively
A brawl broke out at school today after one student accused another of cheating.
The two students brawled for an hour.
Brevity
n. the quality of being brief or terse
The brevity of their time together made it all the more romantic.
Candid
adj. direct, blunt
Josh is candid about his desire to become an actor.
Candor
n. the trait of being honest and frank
I admire her candor, especially when nobody else bothers to speak up.
Capitalize
v. to use to your advantage
I’d like to capitalize on your math skills by having your work the cash register.
Capture
v. to trap or take possession of
v. to successfully represent or imitate
v. to captivate, mesmerize
v. to catch or seize
The spy was captured by the enemy.
Your painting beautifully captures the ephemerality of life.
I was captured by her beauty.
The cops captured the criminal three days after the incident.
Civic
adj. relating to the city or citizens
Voting is a civic duty.
Clinical
adj. emotionally unattached (usu. used in medical or scientific setting)
Her clinical approach to situations allows her to handle them more effectively.
Clout
n. special advantage or power
Children of rich and famous people often believe they have a lot of clout.
Coarse
adj. indicating a rough texture
adj. lacking refinement or sophistication
The horse’s mane was coarse, as if it had never been washed.
The queen’s coarse way of speaking surprised the other members of royalty.
Coincide
v. to happen at the same time
It wasn’t until after I booked my ticket that I realized the concert coincided with my finals.
Commission
n. the use of payment to request something (e.g., a service or product)
This painting was commissioned by a rich merchant in 1589.
Comparable
adj. able to be compared
This novel is comparable to Huckleberry Finn.
Competent
adj. sufficiently qualified
We need to hire a competent web developer to create a good website for our company.
Complacent
adj. satisfied, with no desire to change or improve
Though he had never won any awards or even been published, he was complacent with his life as a poet.
Complement
v. to make perfect or complete
This wine perfectly complements this platter of gourmet cheese.
Concede
v. to be forced to agree or surrender
v. to admit to a transgression
With no chance of winning the battle, the army at last conceded.
Dan conceded to pranking his sister.
Conceive
v. to imagine or come up with
The plan to build the city was originally conceived in the early 1900s.
Condone
v. to overlook, approve, or allow
She couldn't condone her daughter's rebellious behavior.
Conducive
adj. able to bring about or be suitable for
The noisy students hardly made the campus library conducive to studying.
Conduct
v. to control or manage
v. to behave a certain way
The group conducted their research abroad last year.
Be sure to conduct yourself accordingly.
Confide
v. to share something secretive with someone
She confided all of her biggest secrets in her best friend.
Confine
v. to put limits on; to restrict
We are going to confine the use of this drinking fountain.
Consensus
n. overall agreement
After weeks of debating, the panel finally came to a consensus.
Constitute
v. to form or compose (part of) something
The desire for equality constituted the civil rights movement.
Contemplate
v. to think deeply about
She contemplated telling her teacher about the cheating student.
Contend
v. to maintain or assert (an opinion)
The president contends that the US government will not negotiate with terrorists.
Contradict
v. to be in contrast with
The camera footage contradicts his alibi.
Controversial
adj. highly debatable and causing contention
Millions of viewers watched the controversial debate take place.
Conventional
adj. abiding by accepted standards
She lives a conventional life in the suburbs.
Convey
v. to pass on or transfer (information)
I have trouble conveying my thoughts in French.
Conviction
n. a firm belief in something
Her religious convictions prevent her from eating meat.
Corroborate
v. to provide evidence for; to back up (a claim)
The note signed by her father corroborates her claim that she was absent from class that day.
Counteract
v. to work in opposition to
This ingredient seems to counteract the other ones.
Counterargument
n. an argument used to criticize or dismantle another argument
Make sure to include a counterargument in your essay so that you can show you’ve considered the topic from all perspectives.
Counterproductive
adj. hindering the achievement of a goal
Bill’s idea to take a shortcut was ultimately counterproductive: it took us twice as long to get to the train station.
Culmination
n. the final act or climax
The culmination of the performance was unforgettable.
Cultivate
v. to foster the growth of
Teachers don’t just pass on new information to studentsthey cultivate their academic potential.
Decree
v. to declare formally and with authority
The president decreed that Halloween would henceforth be a national holiday.
Deference
n. respect; regard
Her deference to the elderly makes her the perfect candidate for an internship at the retirement center.
Deficient
adj. not enough in degree or amount
I feel as though the sources for my paper are deficient.
Demonstrate
v. to do as an example
v. gives evidence for
Could you demonstrate the dance move for me?
This book’s use of words such as “grim” and “bleak” demonstrates the author’s mournful tone.
Demur
v. to object to
She demurred at my request to transfer to a different department.
Deplete
v. to (over)use over time (usu. resources)
The lost campers quickly depleted their supply of food.
Desolate
adj. bare, barren, empty
The moon is one giant, desolate landscape.
Devise
v. to come up with (a plan)
Lana devised a plan to make herself famous.
Dilemma
n. a problem, usually requiring a choice between two options
The main dilemma is whether to pay for a commercial or not.
Diligence
n. conscientiousness; the quality of being committed to a task
Diligence and confidence will get you far in life.
Diminish
v. to become smaller in scope or degree
The itchiness of mosquito bites usually starts to diminish after a few days.
Dire
adj. hopeless and dangerous or fearful
When the police didn’t explain what was happening right away, Jane knew that the situation must be dire.
Discord
n. disagreement
Disputes over money caused intense discord in the family.
Disdain
n. a lack of respect and strong dislike (toward something or someone)
He looked at me with such disdain that I immediately knew the job wouldn’t work out.
Dismay
n. hopelessness, stress, or consternation
v. to fill with woe or apprehension
To Nick’s dismay, he got an F on the test.
Many were dismayed by the town’s implementation of metered parking.
Disparage
v. to belittle or speak down to
A good boss is stern but never disparages his or her employees.
Dispatch
v. to send off a message or messenger
The mother dispatched her daughter to their neighbor’s house.
Diversification
n. the act of becoming diverse
Lately, there’s been noticeable diversification of students at higher institutions.
Doctrine
n. a principle, theory, or position, usu. advocated by a religion or gov’t
Devoutly religious people often live their lives according to their doctrines.
Dominion
n. power and authority (usu. over a territory)
n. a legal territory
The country claimed to have dominion over parts of Russia.
Puerto Rico is a dominion of the US.
Dreary
adj. sad, gloomy, dull
The gray clouds in the sky made the day feel dreary.
Dubious
adj. doubtful, questionable
The man’s claims to the throne were dubious since nobody knew where he’d come from.
Eccentric
adj. peculiar or odd; deviating from the norm
She’s a little eccentric but still fun to be around.
Egregious
adj. extremely bad
After cheating on the exam, Emily began to feel as though she’d made an egregious mistake.
Eloquent
adj. having refined or expressive communication skills (in speaking or writing)
His speech was not only eloquent but also extremely compelling.
Eminent
adj. superior or distinguished; high in position or status
Our town made news when the eminent magician came to perform at our local theater.
Emit
v. to discharge, give forth, or release
Plants consume carbon dioxide and emit oxygen.
Emphatic
adj. very expressive; using emphasis
Her emphatic smile told me she was excited to ride the roller coaster.
Empirical
adj. derived from experience, observation, or an experiment
You need empirical evidence to support your claim.
Endow
v. to equip or bestow (usu. a quality or ability)
According to the myth, the gods endowed him with the gift of healing.
Endure
v. to withstand, sustain, or hold out against
I can’t endure this wait any longer. Will Stanford accept or reject me?
Entail
v. to involve or include
A doctoral program entails long nights and a heavy workload.
Entrenched
adj. firmly established
Her face will forever be entrenched in my memory.
Enumerate
v. to specify or count
I can’t enumerate how many times I’ve had to remind my students when their papers are due.
Envy
n. excessive jealousy
v. to admire and be jealous of
His envy of her is quite obvious.
She envies her coworker's social skills.
Erratic
adj. having no fixed course; deviating from the norm
The car became erratic after slipping on ice.
Establish
v. to enact
v. to found (a business, group, school, etc.)
They established a law that made it illegal to drive after drinking any amount of alcohol.
Our group established a new branch in Chicago.
Evoke
v. to draw forth or call up
Horror movies are great at evoking fear.
Exacerbate
v. to make worse or increase the severity of
The doctor told me not to run as it can exacerbate my knee injury.
Excel
v. to do something extremely well or to be superior in
She was a well-rounded student but excelled especially in science.
Exert
v. to put into use (usu. as effort)
Don’t exert all of your energy at once.
Exhilarating
adj. invigorating, stimulating, or exciting
The music playing at the club was catchy and exhilarating.
Expend
v. to use up (as in energy or money)
Be careful not to expend all your energy in the first half of a marathon.
Exploit
v. to use selfishly or for profit
The shoddy company exploited its workers by paying them extremely low wages.
Facilitate
v. to aid the progress of
In grad school, advisors facilitate students’ research and offer constructive criticism.
Feasibility
n. the practicality or possibility of something
The feasibility of her project was doubtful; she’d have to go all the way to Antarctica and back before the school year ended.
Ferocity
n. viciousness, violence
The lion is just one wild animal known for its ferocity.
Fiscal
adj. related to (government) money
Fiscal policy is how the government uses money to influence the economy.
Flourish
v. to prosper, grow, or make fast progress
After one year, the tiny plants had flourished into a breathtaking garden.
Fluctuate
v. to be unstable; to rise and fall
Stocks can fluctuate on a daily basis, making it difficult to determine when to buy or sell one.
Foment
v. to stir up
The civilians accused their leader of fomenting political unrest.
Foreseeable
adj. capable of being predicted or anticipated
I can't imagine aliens visiting us in the foreseeable future.
Frankly
adv. directly, clearly
I frankly don’t see the point in learning to drive.
Freewheeling
adj. carefree
His freewheeling attitude often got him in trouble at work.
Fundamental
adj. the most essential or most basic part
A thesis is arguably the most fundamental part of an essay.
Galvanizing
adj. thrilling, exciting, stimulating
The galvanizing performance left everyone spellbound.
Geriatric
adj. relating to old age
I became interested in geriatric medicine shortly after my grandfather passed away from cancer.
Hostile
adj. harmful, dangerous
The voices around the corner sounded angry, hostile even.
Hypothetical
adj. supposed; related to a hypothesis
For my physics homework, I must come up with a hypothetical situation.
Ignominious
adj. publicly shameful or humiliating
The politician's expensive campaign ultimately ended in ignominious defeat.
Impart
v. to transmit, bestow, or disclose
Parents must impart common sense to their children.
Impartiality
n. the equal and objective treatment of opposing views
To ensure impartiality, we require everyone to follow these general guidelines.
Imposing
adj. impressive (esp. in size or appearance)
The old mansion was imposing in its huge size and gothic architecture.
Imposition
n. an unnecessary burden
If it’s not too much of an imposition, could you proofread my paper?
Imprudent
adj. not cautious or prudent; rash
Backpacking abroad can be fun, but don’t be imprudent about money.
Incite
v. to encourage or stir up
Her hateful words incited anger in the crowd.
Indifference
n. apathy, emotional detachment
The girl’s indifference toward her brother upset their parents.
Indiscriminately
adv. randomly; with little or no distinction
Lottery winners are chosen indiscriminately.
Indulge
v. to give into; to satisfy or gratify
My friend loves to indulge in cheesy romance movies.
Infer
v. to guess, conclude, or derive by reasoning
You can infer from this quotation that the writer didn’t care for “pretty” language.
Innovative
adj. novel or new (esp. as an idea or invention)
Her invention was incredibly innovative and won her multiple awards.
Insatiable
adj. can’t be satisfied
A vampire’s thirst for blood is said to be insatiable.
Inversion
n. a reversal
The culture’s norms were an inversion of our own.
Invoke
v. to call on; to appeal to (e.g., a higher power)
The shaman attempted to invoke a demon.
Irreconcilable
adj. incapable of being in harmony or agreed upon
The couple’s differences were ultimately irreconcilable, giving them no choice but to break up.
Lament
v. to feel sorrow for; to mourn
Susan lamented her missed chance at going to Europe with her high school class.
Locomotion
n. movement
Physics involves the study of locomotion.
Lucrative
adj. capable of making a lot of money; profitable
Writing books isn’t a particularly lucrative career, unless you’re J.K. Rowling.
Malicious
adj. harmful, spiteful
The malicious spirit drove out the inhabitants from their home.
Malleable
adj. capable of being molded or changed
Children’s minds are malleable but only for so long.
Materialistic
adj. superficial; focus on material possessions
Many people accuse Americans of being materialistic.
Melodramatic
adj. extravagant or exaggerated (as of a melodrama)
The melodramatic play was well liked by the audience.
Modest
adj. simple and humble
adj. small in size or amount
They moved into a modest house in the countryside.
I received a modest sum of money for my help at the company event.
Modify
v. to change, alter, or tweak
Dr. Nguyen modified the gene so that it wouldn’t carry the disease.
Momentous
adj. historically significant
Her win in the election was momentous.
Novel
adj. new, innovative
We are looking for novel ways to approach the project.
Nuance
n. a subtle difference in meaning
Body-language experts even understand the nuances of facial expressions.
Null
adj. legally void and ineffective
The government declared their marriage null.
Objectivity
n. judgment based on observations instead of emotions or opinions
In scientific research, objectivity is of utmost importance.
Obsolete
adj. no longer used; rare or uncommon
Historians assumed record players would be obsolete by now, but in fact they’re making a huge comeback.
Omnipotent
adj. almighty and all powerful
Gods are omnipotent beings who can control human destiny.
Onset
n. the beginning or early stages
At the onset of her career as a lawyer, things were looking up.
Opine
v. to openly express an opinion
The new employee opined at the company meeting.
Ornate
adj. highly detailed and decorated
That ornate silverware must be worth thousands of dollars!
Oust
v. to remove or force out of (usu. a position or office)
Sick and tired of putting up with his bad moods, the pirates ousted their captain.
Paramount
adj. predominant, superior, most important
Our paramount concern is the safety of our employees.
Peculiar
adj. strange, bizarre
Upon entering the abandoned house, Kate experienced a peculiar feeling, as if someone was watching her.
Perish
v. to die; to pass away
According to the news, nobody perished in the fire.
Persecute
v. to cause suffering to
They will persecute anyone who doesn’t agree with their views of the world.
Petulant
adj. cranky, pouty, irritable
Petulant children are especially difficult to care for.
Pinnacle
n. highest level or degree
Many believe that composers such as Beethoven and Mozart represent the pinnacle of classical music.
Pitiable
adj. deserving pity
The frail-looking dog was pitiable, so I gave it some food and took it inside to care for it.
Plausible
adj. reasonable and possibly true
Her story is plausible, but that doesn’t mean she’s telling the truth.
Postulate
v. to assert
The literary critic postulates that romanticism and naturalism are actually interconnected.
Potent
adj. having great influence
adj. having a strong, chemical effect
The bald eagle is a potent symbol of the US.
The potion was definitely potentit healed my wounds immediately!
Pragmatic
adj. practical, useful
It’s not necessarily more pragmatic to study engineering than it is to study philosophy.
Precedent
n. an example or subject from earlier in time
This change in law is without historical precedent.
Predecessor
n.  someone who comes before you (usu. in position or office)
My predecessor gave me many tips for running the office.
Prescribe
v. to command orders
v. to issue authorization for medications
The directions for our essay prescribe a length of at least ten pages.
A doctor must prescribe you this medication before you can begin taking it.
Principle
n. basic truth, assumption, or rule
Remember the universal principle: treat others as you want them to treat you.
Prohibit
v. to command against, to outlaw
Alcohol was prohibited in the US in the 1920s.
Prompt
adj. punctual, on time
n. a cue to begin something; instructions
v. to incite, propel, or cause to act
She is always prompt when it comes to turning in her homework.
I had to write an essay based on a prompt.
The possibility of a scholarship prompted him to apply to Harvard.
Promulgate
v. to put into law or formally declare
The ruler will at last promulgate an amnesty with the neighboring countries.
Prosecute
v. to bring criminal action against someone (in a trial)
The suspect was prosecuted yesterday.
Provocative
adj. intending to provoke, inspire, or arouse
Her nude paintings are considered quite provocative.
Qualitative
adj. involving qualities of something (features and content)
I noticed a qualitative change in her paintings.
Quantitative
adj. involving quantities (numbers and amounts)
We must conduct a quantitative analysis.
Quirk
n. a strange habit
His biggest quirk is his love of old marbles.
Ramify
v. to split into two or more branches
Cars ramified throughout the world in the twentieth century.
Rash
adj. without attention to danger or risk
Her rash decision to pass the car nearly resulted in a crash.
Raw
adj. unrefined
adj. not processed; uncooked (as in food)
He’s got raw talent as a singer, but he needs to work on his performance skills.
In some countries, such as Japan, it is normal to eat raw fish.
Readily
adv. right away and without difficulty
Water was readily available at different points in the race.
Reconsideration
n. thinking again about a previously made choice
The judges’ reconsideration of her performance resulted in her victory.
Reform
n. a change for the better; improvement
v. to improve via change
The reform made it so that only those 18 and older can legally drive.
The government reformed its vague policies on marijuana use.
Refute
v. to prove to be untrue, unfounded, or incorrect
The student refuted the professor’s claim in class.
Reinforce
v. to strengthen or add support to
We can use these pipes to reinforce the structure.
Reluctantly
adv. somewhat unwillingly
Max reluctantly agreed to see the horror movie with his friends.
Renounce
v. to give up (usu. power or a position)
v. to cast off
Our CEO renounced her position yesterday.
He renounced his friend after he caught her stealing money from him.
Reproach
v. to criticize
The mother reproached her daughter’s school for making students come in during a blizzard.
Repudiate
v. to refuse to recognize as true
v. to cast off
The father repudiated his son’s marriage.
She repudiated her son once she found out he’d married someone without telling her.
Retention
n. the act of keeping something
Water retention can make you weigh more on certain days.
Satiated
adj. satisfied (usu. in hunger)
I felt satiated after eating a snack.
Savvy
adj. having practical intelligence or knowledge
My brother is not very savvy when it comes to using public transportation.
Scandalous
adj. morally offensive, often causing damage to one’s reputation
The scandalous politician decided it was best to resign from office.
Scorn
v. to look down on with disdain
It’s difficult for me not to scorn those who use improper grammar.
Scrupulous
adj. paying great attention to detail
I am a scrupulous proofreader and never miss an error.
Scrutinize
v. to examine carefully and critically
The teacher scrutinized her students’ essays.
Secrete
v. to produce or release (a substance)
Trees secrete a sticky substance called sap.
Sentiment
n. opinion
n. a tender or moving gesture
I am of the sentiment that you should never give out your passwords to anyone.
Even though I’m not a big fan of porcelain dolls, I appreciated the sentiment.
Sheer
adj. so thin that light can shine through
The curtains on the window were so sheer you could clearly see inside the house.
Simple
adj. easy; not complex
adj. undecorated
This math problem is so simple even a first grader can solve it.
The simple beauty of the ocean is what makes it memorable.
Sinister
adj. ominous, evil
Medieval peasants believed sinister demons could harm humans.
Solidarity
n. the joining of commonalities or common purposes among a group
I stood in solidarity with other female students by refusing to wear the school’s sexist uniform.
Sparingly
adv. insufficiently, meagerly, or in a restricted manner
Due to my condition, I must eat salt sparingly.
Spawn
v. to release eggs
v. to call forth or generate
Frogs typically spawn in ponds.
The topic spawned an ongoing debate among his family members.
Spur
v. to stimulate or incite
Her bravery spurred others to act.
Squalid
adj. run-down, sordid, or sleazy
The squalid cabin needed a new roof and an exterminator.
Stark
adj. very plain; devoid of any details or features
Looking out at the stark landscape, I felt a keen sense of isolation.
Static
adj. motionless
adj. changeless
The ball is static.
Her life has been static for the past three years.
Subordinate
adj. lower in rank
n. someone lower in rank
v. to make dependent on or put at a lower rank
The subordinate officers work every day.
My subordinate will check you in.
You aren’t my bossyou can’t subordinate me to the role of receptionist!
Subsequently
adv. happening later or after something
I subsequently went home.
Substantial
adj. very large in amount or degree
I was shocked to find a substantial amount of money beneath the park bench.
Substantiate
v. to strengthen with new evidence or facts
It is important for scientists to substantiate their theories whenever possible.
Subtle
adj. hard to detect or analyze
I detected in her expression a subtle hint of irritation.
Sufficient
adj. enough; just meeting a requirement
These boxes should be sufficient for our move.
Surly
adj. unfriendly; inclined to anger
The bartender was a surly fellow who wasn’t afraid to start a fight.
Surmount
v. to get on top of or overcome
They managed to surmount the language barrier by using a translation app.
Susceptible
adj. to be vulnerable (to something)
Children are more susceptible to certain illnesses than adults are.
Tactful
adj. skilled at dealing with people
Her tactful attitude toward our class made her one of my favorite teachers.
Taut
adj. pulled tight
The rubberband was taut and ready to be fired.
Teeming
adj. abundantly filled (usu. with living organisms)
Doorknobs are not as clean as they look and are often teeming with germs.
Temperament
n. usual mood or feelings
She had a hostile temperament, making her intimidating to most people.
Tentative
adj. not yet finalized
We haven’t made any official arrangements yet, but the tentative location for our wedding is Hawaii.
Transparent
adj. see-through; so thin that light can shine through
adj. truthful or easy to perceive
Stained window glass isn’t as transparent as regular window glass is.
She was transparent about her plans to end her marriage.
Treacherous
adj. dangerous and unstable
The journey was becoming treacherous, but they continued on regardless.
Tremendous
adj. very large, good, or bad in degree or size
Tremendous news! You don’t have to repay your loans!
Ubiquitous
adj. being everywhere at once
Cell phones are ubiquitous these days.
Unadorned
adj. undecorated, plain
Though the dress was cheap and unadorned, it was by far her favorite one on the rack.
Undermine
v. to weaken or subvert (usu. gradually or secretly)
Parents should take care not to constantly undermine their children.
Underscore
v. to emphasize or give additional weight to
This sentence seems to underscore the overall meaning of the passage.
Undulate
v. to move as ripples or in a wavy pattern
Belly dancers are known for their ability to skillfully undulate their stomachs.
Unilateral
adj. one-sided
The unilateral decision was deemed unfair by the other party involved.
Unjust
adj. unfair; not justified
The court’s decision is unjusthe should not go free.
Unmitigated
adj. downright, utter, total
My speech was an unmitigated disaster!
Unprecedented
adj. completely new and never having happened before; historic
The number of protestors was unprecedented.
Unveil
v. to make visible; to reveal
We plan to unveil our plans for the new company project on Sunday.
Urge
n. desire or impulse
v. to encourage or persuade
He had the urge to tell his parents about his acceptance to Columbia but decided against it.
She urged her sister to apply to Stanford.
Validate
v. to prove or declare valid
Your selfish actions do not validate your feelings for me.
Viability
n. ability to be done in a practical or useful way
The viability of the solution is questionable.
Vital
adj. urgently necessary
It is vital that you respond by the deadline.
Vow
v. to promise
My brother quickly broke his vow to never eat chocolate again.
Warrant
v. to prove to be reasonable
Wanting to look cool in front of your friends doesn’t warrant breaking the law.
Yield
n. production of an amount
v. to give way to or surrender to
v. to produce or supply
The farmer’s annual pumpkin yield exceeded 10,000.
Cars turning right on red must yield to oncoming traffic.
Our experiment yielded many unique-looking vegetables.

 

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How to Study SAT Words Effectively: 3 Essential Tips

Now that you've got a huge list of SAT vocabulary words you can work with, what’s the best way to study them? Here are three key tips to help you get the most out of your SAT vocab studies.

 

#1: Make Flashcards and Use the Waterfall Method

One of the absolute best ways to study SAT vocab words is to make flashcards. This lets you control which SAT words you study and even randomizes them so that you don't accidentally memorize words in a predetermined order.

We recommend using the waterfall method to study your flashcards. With this method, you'll get to see all the words in your deck, going over the most challenging words more often than the ones you already know or sort of know.

Here's how to use the waterfall method:

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Once you’ve made your flashcards, split them up into decks (you can put whatever words you want in these decks) of about 30-50 cards each. Choose one deck to be your Starting Stack. 

Go through your Starting Stack, looking at each and every card. For the words you know, put them in a Know It pile. For the words you don’t know, put them in a separate Struggled pile as so:

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Now, pick up your Struggled pile and go through each card in it (leave your Know It pile where it is). Put the cards you know in a second Know It pile and the ones you don’t know in a Struggled pile.

You should now have two Know It piles and one Struggled pile:

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Repeat this process of picking up your Struggled pile and going through each card until you’re left with about one to five cards in your Struggled pile:

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By now you should know most, if not all, cards in your deck. But it isn’t enough to just go through them once—you also have to work back up your “waterfall” of cards. 

To do this, combine your Struggled pile with your last Know It pile (the pile closest to the Struggled pile). This will be your Working pile. Go through all the cards in this pile. If there are any words you forgot, go through the entire pile again and again until you've learned all the definitions in it.

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Continue this pattern by combining your current Working pile with the next Know It pile. Go through all these cards until you know each one.

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At the end, you should have made your way all the back to your original Starting Stack. You now know all the SAT words and their meanings in your deck! Repeat this waterfall method with the other decks you make so that you can learn even more critical SAT vocab words.

 

#2: Focus On Words You Don’t Know

If you don’t have time to study the entire list above or only want to learn some SAT words, use our list to make a new vocab list containing only the words you don’t know. So if you know a word or are fairly sure you’ll be able to recognize it on test day, skip it and instead focus on the words you’ll have the most trouble remembering. Once you have your list, use the waterfall method to study it.

If you’re not a fan of paper flashcards, you can opt for digital flashcards. Anki is a free software you can download and use to make your own flashcards. The program uses spaced-repetition software (SRS) to show you difficult cards more often than those you know (basically, a digital version of the waterfall method).

 

#3: Take Official SAT Practice Tests

Since the majority of the words in our list above come from official SAT practice tests, once you’ve studied these SAT words, you can put your knowledge to the test by taking a practice test. This lets you see whether you truly know the meanings of the words and whether you’ll be able to get the right answers in the context of a full-length, timed test—just like the real SAT.

If you miss any questions because you forgot the meaning of a word, go back over our SAT vocab words list using your flashcards and the waterfall method.

 

Conclusion: The Importance of Studying SAT Vocabulary

Overall, vocabulary words don't play a huge part on the SAT. That said, you’ll definitely have some questions on both the Reading and Writing sections that test your knowledge of SAT words, so it’s important to study those most likely to appear on test day.

The best way to study SAT vocabulary is to make flashcards and use the waterfall method. This ensures you know all the words in your deck and aren’t glossing over any difficult ones.

If you don’t want to make flashcards or don’t have time to study the whole list, however, it’s a good idea to pick out the words you don’t know and study just those. With these, you can either make a smaller deck of paper flashcards or opt for digital flashcards.

No matter how you choose to study SAT vocab words, be sure to test out what you’ve learned in the context of full-length practice tests. Nearly all the words in our list above come from official SAT practice tests, so you’re guaranteed to come across them in some form!

 

What’s Next?

Want more tips on how to study SAT vocabulary words? Check out our expert tips for memorizing SAT words fast and learn why the waterfall method works so well.

Aiming for a high SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score? Take a peek at our in-depth guides to getting a perfect Reading score and learning how to read SAT passages.

Taking the ACT instead? Then you'll need to know vocab for that test, too. Learn what words to expect on the ACT and how to study them.

 

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We have the industry's leading SAT prep program. Built by Harvard grads and SAT full scorers, the program learns your strengths and weaknesses through advanced statistics, then customizes your prep program to you so you get the most effective prep possible.

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Hannah Muniz
About the Author

Hannah graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in English and East Asian languages and cultures. After graduation, she taught English in Japan for two years via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.



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