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What are the Most Common SAT Words?

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  • 0:04 What Are SAT Words?
  • 1:12 The Easy Words
  • 2:23 Short Powerful Words
  • 3:50 Challenging Words
  • 4:48 Confusing Words
  • 6:02 Don't Be Listless
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Raudenbush
Vocabulary makes up an important part of each section of the SAT. Studying the most common SAT words can help boost your overall score, so check out this lesson so you can go into the test with a better handle on some of them!

What Are SAT Words?

Forget all the anecdotes you've heard about SAT vocabulary. Diligent study of the most common words can improve the score of any intrepid student. Vocabulary on the test is in no way a superfluous part of your score. Be tenacious in your studies and improvement is inevitable.

All those bolded words in the passage we just saw (anecdote, diligent, intrepid, superfluous, tenacious, and inevitable) are all common SAT vocabulary words. Of course, no one can predict what words might show up on the test. However, studying the most common words has two benefits: you learn words you can see, and you get a sense for the kinds of words that you will see. Being familiar with common SAT vocabulary words will allow you to better understand the reading passages, answer questions about words in context, and write high quality essays. If the words in that passage we looked at weren't familiar, you should check out their definitions here.

  • Anecdote means a short, amusing story
  • Diligent means hardworking
  • Intrepid means fearless
  • Superfluousmeans more than enough
  • Tenaciousmeans determined
  • Inevitable means unavoidable

The Easy Words

The SAT assesses vocabulary knowledge through word in context questions in the reading and writing sections. In the reading section, you will be assessed on how well you understand the meaning of certain vocabulary words in the passages and how the author's word choices affect the passage's meaning and tone. In the writing section, you will need to use your knowledge to change and fill in blanks to convey the correct meaning and style of the passage. Some questions will be easier than others, as the difficulty varies in this section. You may already be familiar with some of these commonly used SAT words, so the questions might be a little easier.

  • Impartial means not favoring one side
  • Idealize means considered as perfect
  • Maverick means someone who does not conform or follow prescribed rules
  • Objectivity means not influenced by feeling or emotion
  • Novel means new or original
  • Subtle means hard to describe
  • Abbreviate means to shorten
  • Arid means dry
  • Contemporary means current
  • Collaborate means to work together
  • Enhance means to improve
  • Conditional means subject to meeting requirements
  • Incompatible means not able to work together

Short Powerful Words

The mention of SAT words might make you think about long, multi-syllable words that are hard to pronounce, recognize, or remember. However, word length isn't the criteria for the SAT. Some very powerful vocabulary words are short. These words are often less common in everyday usage, but more specific in their meaning. Wary is a good example. It's only four letters, and you don't necessarily hear it or read it everyday. Wary means to exercise caution in possibly dangerous situations as in, ''I am very wary of wading into the ocean when I see warnings about strong rip tides.'' When you are working on SAT word in context questions, don't assume the longest word is going to be the correct answer. Use the context clues in the sentence to help you choose the correct word. These shorter words commonly show up on the SAT:

  • Tactful means careful to avoid offending others
  • Orator means a speaker
  • Impute means to assign blame or attribute the cause of action or event to an individual or group
  • Apathy means a lack of emotion or interest
  • Banal means either common or ordinary, usually in a negative context
  • Discernmeans to recognize
  • Pious means devoutly religious
  • Zeal means enthusiasm
  • Strut means a self-important walk
  • Laud means to praise
  • Guile means deceitful cunning
  • Extol means to praise highly
  • Futile means the same thing as hopeless

Challenging Words

Some common SAT words present challenges because their spellings look unusual making the word hard to recognize or pronounce at first. For example, there is euphonious, which means pleasant sounding, and should not be confused with cacophonous, which means loud or harsh sounding. Learning these words will help you to ameliorate you vocabulary (and ameliorate means to improve if you weren't sure).

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