Many studying for the SAT think that the only way to learn vocabulary is by going through a stack of endless SAT flashcards. While flashcards can definitely help you learn many words, they are not the only weapon in your arsenal when worrying about how to learn SAT vocabulary.
A great—but often neglected—way of learning vocab is by reading. That’s right, whether you are reading a book for your English class or simply skimming magazine you should always look up unknown words. Here’s why.
Encounter words in context
Reading allows you to see how a word functions in the context of what you are reading. Oftentimes you can guess what the meaning is. Sometimes you may be right. Regardless, you should always consult a trusty dictionary.
Not just looking up any old word in the dictionary
I do not recommend that you start reading through a dictionary. In addition to becoming bored by words that look very similar, you will not retain much of what you read. Running to the dictionary after seeing a word you do not know is a very different experience. You will be far more likely to remember that word because you are only looking up that word. The moment when your mind sees the definition should be somewhat special (versus seeing one definition after another the way you do with flashcards).
Bumping into flashcards words
There is nothing like bumping into a friend. The surprise alone makes us giddy. We are also far more likely to remember such surprise encounters. In the same way, seeing one of the words you have been studying in a vocabulary list suddenly pop up while you are reading reinforces the memory of the word. And if you can’t remember the meaning, just run to your dictionary.