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Chris Lele

SAT Vocab Friday – Literary Words

The SAT doesn’t just test your knowledge of tough vocabulary (those only show up on the hardest Sentence Completions). Many vocabulary words, both in the Sentence Completions and on the Reading Comprehension questions, test your knowledge of basic literary devices and other words relating to them.



Do not confuse this word with “illusion”, which describes something that doesn’t really exist. An “allusion” is a reference to something, usually from literature or history. An allusion doesn’t call something out by name, but points to it. For instance, if you are reading a book and it say, “like those star-crossed lovers”, it is referring to Romeo & Juliet (whom Shakespeare called “star-crossed lovers”).

The verb form, alludes, is also common on the SAT. In this sense allude can more generally mean to hint at or suggest, as in the following:

The book alludes to the author’s greatness, but does not directly praise him.

The newspaper article alluded to the recent bank crimes, saying that there had of late been several violent acts committed in broad daylight.



A metaphor is what is often called a figure of speech. What this means is it is not to be taken literarily, or word for word. For instance, if you say the running back was a hurricane, blowing through the defense. You don’t actually mean that the running back became an actual weather phenomenon associated with the East Cost. You are implying that he was like a hurricane in that he was very powerful. A metaphor, then, is much like a simile, but without the use of the word like or as.



A short, amusing story relating to a real life incident, anecdote is very popular on the SAT. Did I tell you about this one time where I was taking the SAT and saw it pop up three times? Wait, that’s an anecdote!

An important note: an anecdote doesn’t always have to be personal. The key is that the story is not an apparent fiction, but something that actually happened.



Studying for the SAT is equivalent to running a race that consists of running a marathon every Sun for a year, with a climb up Mt. Everest thrown in every other Wednesday. Okay, the SAT is hard, but it is not THAT hard (there aren’t many things).

A fancy way of saying exaggeration—which the previous example clearly was—is hyperbole. Sure, the SAT could just use the word exaggeration, but instead the test writers grab from the literary device glossary to give us hyperbole (n.) and hyperbolic (adj.). Hyperbole is a little more specific than mere exaggeration, since it is an exaggerated claim or statement.


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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