How to Figure Out Vocabulary Definitions for the SAT - dummies

How to Figure Out Vocabulary Definitions for the SAT

By Suzee Vlk

Part of SAT Vocabulary For Dummies Cheat Sheet

You can come through the vocabulary section of the SAT with flying colors if you can prepare for the test by grouping words into logical clusters. During the test, you can figure out word definitions from word parts and use context to give you clues to a word’s meaning.

Considering connotation clusters

Unless you have a photographic memory, you probably don’t remember words in alphabetical order, straight off the pages of a dictionary. You need another way to recall not just one word at a time, but groups of words together. The following suggestions can help:

  • Group words according to their meanings, such as words about personal appearance, words about intelligence, words about work, and so on.

  • Remember words as synonyms (erudite, omniscient = knowledgeable) and antonyms (nescient, dolt = ignorant)

  • Use three or four words instead of one in conversation and personal writing, such as “She was pulchritudinous, comely, and svelte” or “We suffered from lethargy, torpor, and sluggishness on the weekend.”

Benefiting from building blocks

Think of the roots, prefixes, suffixes as the building blocks you use to construct your vocabulary. Using these blocks efficiently and effectively helps you to maximize your word gain and minimize your brain strain.

  • Use prefixes to determine whether a word is positive (eu– = good; pro– = big or much) or negative (caco– = bad; de = down from, away from, or to put down)

  • Use roots to get the gist of the word (phon = sound; culp = guilt)

  • Use suffixes to fine-tune the definition (–ous = full of; –ate = to make)

  • Put everything together to define hard words: euphonious = full of good sound (good-sounding, like a pleasant voice); exculpate = make away from blame (free from guilt, declare blameless)

Contemplating contextual clues

Very rarely in your life does someone approach you and say, “Quick: What does somnolent mean?” Instead, you encounter words in stories, articles, or speeches. You can remember words by recalling where you read or heard them.

  • Review words in the context of stories.

  • Remember where you learned a word by recalling the tale.

  • Define a word in a way that’s close enough by recalling how it was used in an anecdote.