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Chris Lele

SAT Vocab Friday – SAT Top 5 Vocabulary For Reading Comprehension

When people think of SAT vocabulary, they typically think of SAT Sentence Completions—you know, those fill-in-the-blank questions. True, most of the vocabulary you see on the SAT will be in that section. However, you shouldn’t forget that both the reading passages and the questions/answers following the passages are filled with vocabulary.

The SAT tends to have pet words that show up in the Reading Comprehension—words you have to know if you want to score well. Below are the top 5 Reading Comprehension vocabulary words.


Life is complicated—often you don’t just completely hate or completely like something, but you have mixed feelings about. Take high school. You can’t possibly hate everything about high school, or for that matter like everything about high school. That’s where ambivalent comes in—it helps describe that mixture of both negative and positive feelings about something.

The authors of SAT Reading Comprehension passages tend to have complex feelings regarding complex subjects. That’s why “ambivalent” is oftentimes the correct answer to a question.

Ted was ambivalent about AP History class; the teacher was a great lecturer who really knew her stuff, but the 200-plus pages of nightly reading was simply too much.


The SAT likes to use big words in place of small ones. Instead of saying practical, it chooses pragmatic. Sure, there are differences between the two words, but that would never be tested on the SAT. So let’s be practical: When you see pragmatic think practical.

One pragmatic approach to studying with flashcards is to go through a pile of 100 words, holding on to those words that you don’t know; keep repeating until you are no longer holding on to any cards.


This word means a short story about something real that happened. It doesn’t have to be personal—meaning I could tell you an anecdote about the time Plato met Socrates.

One anecdote many grandparents like to repeat is how they used to walk to school in the snow each day—even those grandparents who have never even seen snow.


Many students assume this word means equal. The word is a little more complex than that. If you are saying something equivocal, you are being intentionally vague and misleading. So if you bring the car home at midnight and your mom asks you were you’ve been, you are likely to equivocate: I was, uh, out.

Many politicians, in order to avoid telling the truth, often equivocate.


About Chris Lele

Chris Lele is the GRE and SAT Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh Online Test Prep. In his time at Magoosh, he has inspired countless students across the globe, turning what is otherwise a daunting experience into an opportunity for learning, growth, and fun. Some of his students have even gone on to get near perfect scores. Chris is also very popular on the internet. His GRE channel on YouTube has over 8 million views.

You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh GRE blog and High School blog!

You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

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