SAT CRITICAL READING
BUILDING YOUR VOCABULARY
Tips on Building Your Vocabulary
Use Memory Tricks to Keep New Words in Your Active Vocabulary
Reading widely does not always help you remember the words you read. You may have the words in your passive vocabulary and be able to recognize them when you see them in a particular context and yet be unable to define them clearly or think of additional contexts for them.
Remembering words takes work. It also takes wit. You can spend hours memorizing dictionary definitions and get no place. Try capitalizing on your native intelligence by thinking up mnemonic devices—memory tricks—to help you remember new words.
Consider the word hovel. A hovel is a dirty, mean house. How can you remember that? Hovel rhymes with shovel. You need to shovel out the hovel to live in it. Rhymes can help you remember what words mean.
Now consider the word hover. To hover is to hang fluttering in the air or to wait around. Can rhyme help you here? Hover rhymes with cover. That doesn’t seem to work. However, take another look at hover. Cut off the letter h and you’re left with the word over. If a helicopter hovers over an accident, it hangs in the air; if a mother hovers over a sick child, she waits around to care for it. Hidden little words can help you remember bigger words.
Try the hidden word trick with a less familiar word than hover. Take the word credulous, which means gullible or easily fooled. A credulous person will give money to someone who wants to sell him the Brooklyn Bridge. Now look closely at credulous. What little word is hidden within it? The hidden word is red. What happens when a person finds out he’s been taken for a fool? Often, the poor fool turns red. Credulous, red in the face. There’s your memory trick.