Boost Your Vocabulary, Boost Your ACT Score: Part 2

**For Part 1 of this post, click here**.

You’re already on your way to a building a prolific word stock, but before test day, make sure to add these habits to your repertoire (quick- what does that mean?) for your optimal ACT composite score (because remember: even though the ACT- unlike the SAT- doesn’t directly test vocabulary, recognizing and being able to correctly employ a wide range of words will help you in all departments of the test.)

5. Know Your Roots. English can be a very confusing language, but believe it or not, there are a lot of patterns- and the more you know, the easier word identification becomes. You surely know a lot about prefixes, for example: “de-’’, and “un-’’ have the power to give the attached word the exact opposite meaning (destress, unavailable, etc) and “re-’’ immediately indicates that the following verb is being done again (rewind, reassess.) Did you know, though, that there are many many embedded roots across the English lexicon that automatically tell you what the seemingly foreign word means? “Rupt”, for example, means “to break”: corrupt= crooked, immoral; erupt= to boost forth; interrupt= causing a break in the flow. There are many of these, and they are your key to comprehension- especially since the ACT’s multiple-choice format often only requires you to pick the closest answer. (Stay tuned for a separate post entirely on word roots!)

6. Flash Your Knowledge. Flash cards might not be especially innovative, but they work. Here’s how to do it the right way:

  1. Collect and organize. Gather together all the words you’ve amassed via your “Word of the Day”s, daily reading and word learning apps. Put each on a flash card, with the definition, part of speech and sample sentence on the back.
  2. Go through your words. Words you get right away can go in a “Know” pile (but don’t cast those aside just yet.) The rest go in the “Don’t Know” pile, and be harsh with yourself: These should include words you kind of get, but couldn’t define completely. Go through these several more times, starting with your trickiest words. In a full study session, go through all of them; if pressed for time, flip through the un- or little-knowns.

BONUS: Apply the sketch tactic! In the last post, I mentioned images as a way to jog your memory toward remembering new words. For the ones you’re stuck on, put the pictures right on the flashcards. For now, this isn’t cheating; it should help. But to ascertain that you’re covered, eventually make sure you can define all the words without the pictures right in front of you (you should have mental images by now.)

  1. Go the Magoosh way. Remember that Magoosh has its very own set of SAT Vocab cards that you can download FREE on your phone. These are sure to help in whatever vocab-learning endeavor you may be undertaking. And remember, no excuses: This is the perfect idle time-filler for even the busiest of Magooshers.

There you have it: A range of vocabulary building tips for all levels of ACT-takers. To reinterpret the “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” adage: “An ACT vocab practice session a day keeps the low test scores at bay.” Five minutes daily could be all it takes. See you on the other side of that shining score!



  • 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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