New SAT Video: High Utility Academic Words Part II


SAT Vocabulary: High-Utility Academic Words Part II (Letter A)

Click here for Part I of this video series!

What is high utility? Basically, words that you need to know for college. In fact you may even know these words. You might not know, however, how to define them. And I don’t mean, “uh, it kinds of means, like, uh…” kind of definitions. We are talking exact here, since the SAT will test you on the subtle difference between words that are kind of, but not exactly, like the high utility word in question.


This word can be either a noun or a verb. As a noun it means the characteristics or features of something. As in, Beyonce’s halftime dance had many attributes—slick moves, well-synched choreography—though modesty was not among them.

Attribute can also mean to assign a cause to. If you are feeling tired, a friend might likely ask what caused you to be tired. Though your friend likely wouldn’t use the word in a sentence unless they are trying to sound like someone out of Downton Abbey, they would say, “To what do you attribute your lethargy?”. As for my lethargy yesterday, I think I can attribute it to a lackluster game involving grunts and helmets.


To assess means to determine the value or quality of something. Oftentimes they call tests assessments, since they are measuring or assessing your ability at something. Indeed, the SAT used to be known as the scholastic assessment test, but is now just known as the SAT, as in I SAT for four hours taking this horrible test.

A good synonym for assess and a word you might also recognize is appraise.


Like attribute, this word can function as both a noun and a verb. To advocate (verb) means to support or champion somebody or something. As a country, we advocate many rights: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, etc.

As a noun, advocate means a person who supports a person or cause. Martin Luther King, for instance, was an advocate for human rights. To retain information that you learn throughout the day, I advocate at least eight hours of sleep a night.


Ascribe is actually a synonym for the second definition of attribute: to figure out the cause of something. If you are wondering how you can improve your vocabulary, you might try being more diligent about looking up words in the dictionary when you come across them in reading. That is, you might ascribe your vocabulary level to the fact that you haven’t been building up a vocabulary over the years.



  • Chris Lele

    Chris Lele is the Principal Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh. Chris graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology and has 20 years of experience in the test prep industry. He's been quoted as a subject expert in many publications, including US News, GMAC, and Business Because. In his time at Magoosh, Chris has taught countless students how to tackle the GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT, MCAT (CARS), and LSAT exams with confidence. Some of his students have even gone on to get near-perfect scores. You can find Chris on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!

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

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