Boost Your Vocabulary, Boost Your ACT Score: Part 1

Developing a rich vocabulary has many benefits: you can better convey what you mean, you can command respect for your well-expressed ideas, and you can even appear more romantically appealing (there is even a term now for people who are attracted to intelligence.) If landing that job interview or that date are not on your list of biggest concerns now, however, I have even better news: a built-up inner word bank can easily help you add points to your ACT score (and that’s what brought you here, right?)

Here are some surefire key tips for enhancing that lexicon:

1. READ. Anything and everything. While your naturally crazy school schedule probably won’t allow much time for War and Peace , consider the bits of free time you do have throughout the day and assign to them pieces of reading material. Waiting for a ride? Read a news article on your phone. A topic at school piqued your interest? Take a bit of time to read up on it while doing your homework. Pay attention to new words and how they are used. Be sure to seek out material you enjoy: Everyone is more motivated to read when they’re engaged. Soon, you’ll be so used to this practice that it will seem less of a chore and more of a mindless habit, and this provides an added benefit: The more you read, the faster you become, which is sure to help your performance in all ACT subject areas.

2. APPLY. It’s not enough just to learn new words: You need to use them- and correctly. (DO NOT experiment with word meanings- if you’re not 100% sure of what a word means, don’t use it!) When you come across a new word, look up not just the definition but three sentences in which the word is properly used. Then, I challenge you to incorporate that word into your own vocabulary immediately: Slip it into everyday speech once every day. If you’re self-conscious about this, remember that your friends may thank you for it: You likely just added to their word bank too!

3. Home Delivery. Sometimes, a vocab boost is just as easy as checking your phone (and come on- I know that’s not too much to ask.) Several dictionary websites, like Merriam-Webster (my personal savior for ACT vocab prep way back in the day), and Wordsmith offer “Word of the Day” emails delivered daily to your inbox. In the Smart Phone app world, the options are endless, but no word-boosting efforts would be complete without Magoosh’s very own free Vocabulary Builder app (available for both iPhones and Android devices.)

4. Tap Your Creativity. Some of us learn better visually, and this one is for you: When you learn a new word, draw next to it an image or a figure that represents its meaning. No Picasso skills necessary: The point is purely for association, and to point your memory in the right direction. For example, when I think of the word “jargon”- which means “special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand”, I often think of how it is applied to law: legal jargon. Because of this, I may choose to draw a judge’s gavel next to the word to help me remember. Think of the game “charades”, and you’ll figure out why this works- sometimes something as simple as a stick figure is all it takes!


Well, Magooshers, I’m leaving you in good hands with these tips, but there is more on the way. Stay tuned for the next post!


  • Susanna Langholm

    Susanna holds a BA in Education & Liberal Studies from Smith College and has spent the better part of her college and post-graduate years helping students achieve success both in and outside of the classroom. Most recently, Susanna served as the Assistant Director for a tutoring franchise catering to college-bound exam prep students, learning a thing or two about the ACT in the process. When she’s not navigating the test-taking waters for the sake of her students, Susanna can be found reading, writing on her education blog, skiing, or planning a future filled with international travel - her favorite (but most expensive) hobby.

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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