SAT Vocabulary: friend or foe?
Ah yes, the bane of every SAT student: vocabulary. Even to this day, people my age (and I’m probably twice as old you) still accuse others of using “SAT words” when a large word like prodigious happens to slip into polite conversation. Unless you go into writing as a field, are an avid reader, or are firmly set on the grad school path, there are certain words on the SAT that you will probably never see again. So it is not surprising that there is a certain stigma against big, Latin-sounding words. Yet the SAT is also filled with words that you will encounter in everyday life—especially if you plan to go to school (which, since you are reading this, I assume you do).
SAT Vocab as prep for life
So one way of looking at SAT vocabulary is that you are learning important words such as rhetoric, indifference, bolster, denounce—words that will make all that reading you’ll do in college much easier.
Another way is to think of learning vocabulary as a game, one at which you’ll have to work hard, but that will have big payoffs. Part of any game entails having fun. So look at a word and see if it triggers any random associations. Does deleterious sound like delete; does avuncular remind you of a friendly uncle; does lambaste conjure up a picture of an angry ungulate (or hooved-animal) criticizing you? This one mere technique of making wacky associations will already make you better at memorizing words; do not simply think of vocabulary as having to sit in front of a massive word list, going down each word, one at a time. Your brain will fall asleep, you will not learn, and you will walk away hating vocabulary.
Helpful learning techniques
Other important techniques include using words throughout the day. Come up with a short story, write silly little song lyrics, call a friend a curmudgeon—it doesn’t matter, as long as you are having fun (“use it or lose it”, as they say).
Finally, don’t try to memorize too many words at once. Break up words 50 a week, to give your brain time to absorb them. Of course, if you don’t have that much time, don’t despair. Learning 250 high-frequency SAT words, something that, with a little work, you can do in a couple of weeks, can do wonders to your verbal score come test day.