SAT Vocab Strategy 1
Yikes. Even hearing the phrase “SAT Vocab” makes me frown a little bit.
We often hear students say, “Oh, I’m no good at vocab for the SAT.” “I don’t know any of those words,” they’ll say, shaking their heads and looking down at the floor.
And we say: well hold on. Just because you don’t know the words in the answers doesn’t mean you can’t get the questions right.
What? You mean I don’t even have to know the words??
Yes, that is exactly what I mean.
Remember: the SAT wants you to be confused. It wants you to think that it tests knowledge, when it’s also testing your test-taking skills. As always, there are patterns and there are strategies for approaching these questions, and coming out alive.
Let’s dig in and take a look at a question.
2. Because catching Philadelphian snow leopards is such an —– and dangerous process, they are sold in supermarkets at —– prices.
A. imaginative . . different
B. unpopular . . unpredictable
C. arduous . . exorbitant
D. amicable . . preposterous
E. unreliable . . reasonable
OK. Maybe you looked at this question and though, “I don’t know ANY of those words!” Or maybe you knew a couple of them, and now you’re trying to figure out the answer. I mention this to highlight our first and best tip: don’t look at the answers!
It seems counter-intuitive, but seriously, don’t look at them – at least not yet. As with most SAT questions, the answers they give you are designed to trip you up. One way to stay light on your feet is this: have an idea of the answer before you look at the chances.
So, DO THIS for the problem above:
1) Cover up the answers
2) Come up with your own words for the blank spaces
3) Real all the first words and compare to yours, and eliminate answers that don’t fit.
4) Do the same for the second words in choices you haven’t eliminated
5) See how RIGHT you were!
I’ll walk you through it.
Alright – I can’t see if you covered up the answers, so I’ll just have to trust you.
For #2 on our SAT vocab test, I picked the words “difficult” and “high.” That makes the sentence read like: “…a difficult and dangerous process…” and “sold in supermarkets at high prices.”
Sounds pretty good?
Obviously, neither word appears in the answer set. So we’re going to look forsynonyms.
Starting with the first column:
Is “imaginative” like “difficult”? NO, so it can’t be A.
Is “unpopular” like “difficult”? NO, so it can’t be B.
Is “arduous” like “difficult”? YES, so let’s keep C.
(even if you haven’t heard “arduous”, it does sound kind of hard, right?)
Is “amicable” like “difficult”? NO, so cross out D.
Is “unreliable” like “difficult”? MAYBE, so let’s keep E.
As you can see, we’ve just eliminated three of five possible answers. Good job!
To finish things off, we’ll look at the second word for the remaining answer choices, from C and E, and compare it to our word. (remember, we chose “high”)
Is “exorbitant” like “high”? Uh, maybe? That’s a weird word, it sounds like a lot of something, but I don’t know…let’s check the other answer…
Is “reasonable” like “high”? NO! Certainly not when we’re talking about prices.
Since we’ve eliminated all other choices, the answer MUST Be…C!
(and it is)
Our sentence becomes:
Because catching Philadelphian snow leopards is such an arduous and dangerous process, they are sold in supermarkets at exorbitant prices.
Sounds good to me!
And check it out: you were able to do without knowing every SAT vocab word. Next time you take a test or do some practice problems, give this method a shot!
But don’t just take my word for it – other folks use this method as well:
Eva Holtz of SAT Confidential has a video on the method (skip to around 1 min in!)
CliffsNotes put out a similar video to promote their vocab workbook using parts of the “Twilight” books
…and if you want to keep reading, Sparknotes has a whole chapter on this section!