How To Create SAT Vocabulary Flashcards

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
The use of flashcards is a time-honored way of studying SAT vocabulary. This article will take you through suggestions for creating flashcards that reflect the 2016 changes to the SAT, and give you some tips for using them alongside other study resources.

Creating Relevant Flashcards for the New SAT

The vocabulary flashcards you'll need to study for the new SAT are a little different than those students used in the past. That is because unlike the obscure, or Tier 3, words included in the prior versions of the SAT, the new SAT focuses on more commonly encountered Tier 2 words. These words frequently have multiple meanings, and the new SAT will test your ability to understand the meaning of each word based upon the context in which it is used. To create appropriate flashcards for the new SAT, you'll need to focus on words in context:

Step One

The first thing you'll need to do is identify a list of Tier 2 vocabulary words. You will find examples within the SAT practice tests available on the website of the College Board, which administers the SAT. You may also find additional words by searching for Tier 2 vocabulary online.

Step Two

Next, you'll need a stack of index cards. On each card, write a Tier 2 word on one side of the card and all the possible definitions on the other side. Alternately, you can create multiple cards for each word - each card should have the word used within a sentence on one side and the definitions on the other side, so you train yourself to understand its meaning within context.

Study Tips and Resources

A study published in 2013, Improving Students' Learning With Effective Learning Techniques, found that distributed practice, which is spreading your study time over multiple sessions, improves your ability to retain key information over the long run much better than cramming in your studying the night before a test. Another takeaway from the study was that practice testing is one of the most effective methods of study. Your flashcards are considered one form of practice testing. Others include sample questions, practice exams and prep courses.

Prep Courses to Help You Study SAT Vocabulary

Because test takers who are new to the SAT will encounter vocabulary throughout the reading and writing sections, it is critical that students familiarize themselves with the content and types of the questions they will encounter in both of these sections.'s online SAT prep and practice courses for reading and writing are a convenient, self-paced way to accomplish this. Courses are broken down into chapters that focus on the specific content of the exam, and each chapter is taught via short, easy-to-follow video lessons.

  • The SAT Writing Section: Prep & Practice course has 13 chapters, which include vocabulary-relevant lessons on words in context and the impact of word choice.
  • The SAT Reading: Prep & Practice course has six chapters, which include vocabulary-relevant lessons on the types of passages you'll encounter and analyzing text.
  • The English Flashcards course has chapters to help you refresh the grammar skills you'll need to demonstrate on your test day.

All courses illustrate the effectiveness of distributed practice and practice testing methods of preparation. After all, the short video lessons are designed to help break up your test prep into manageable study sessions, and the practice quizzes and chapter exams can help ensure retention of the information you'll study!

Meanwhile, if you are looking for an in-depth review of the entire SAT, check out's comprehensive SAT Prep: Practice & Study Guide course, which covers everything you'll encounter on test day.

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