Cracking the SAT

Part II

How to Crack the Critical Reading Section

Chapter 8

Vocabulary

Learning new vocabulary is an important step in maximizing your Critical Reading score. It is also a habit that will benefit you no matter what career you choose to pursue later in life. In this chapter you will find a number of ways to improve your vocabulary and maximize your SAT score.

A great way to improve your reading and essay-writing skills is to improve your vocabulary. The more words you know on the test, the easier it will be. It’s as simple as that. For this reason, it’s important that you get to work on your vocabulary immediately.

The SAT is very, very repetitive. Over and over again, the SAT tests words such as pragmatic, ambivalent, reticent, and benign. So instead of memorizing every single word in the English language, you can just focus your time memorizing those words that show up repeatedly on the SAT.

That’s where the Hit Parade comes in. The Hit Parade are the words that we at The Princeton Review have noticed show up frequently on the SAT. Why does ETS think you really need to know the definition of bombastic or capricious? Who knows? But since they’ve asked about these words so often, go ahead and learn the Hit Parade, so you can be prepared next time you see the word magnanimous. In fact, start right now. Pragmatic, ambivalent, reticent, benign, bombastic, capricious, and magnanimous are some of the most common words tested on the SAT, so try to memorize these 7 words today. Then, try to learn from 5 to 10 new words a day.

Each word on the Hit Parade is accompanied by its definition, its part of speech, and other iterations of the word that often show up on the test. We recommend that you come up with your own sentence for each word. We have included blank lines after the words where you can write your own sentences, or you may include your sentences on your flash cards. It will be easier to remember words if you come up with your own sentences, or apply the words to people you know. For instance, if you have a very loquacious friend, you are more likely to remember what loquacious means if you connect it to your talkative friend.

Only a tiny percentage of all the words in the English language are ever used on the SAT. Generally speaking, the SAT tests the kinds of words that an educated adult—your English teacher, for example—would know without having to look them up. It tests the sorts of words that you encounter in your daily reading, from a novel in English class to the newspaper.

Here are three effective methods for learning new words.

1.     Flash Cards: You can make your own flash cards out of 3 × 5 index cards. Write a word on one side and the definition and a personally relevant sentence on the other. Then quiz yourself on the words, or practice with a friend. You can carry a few cards around with you every day and work on them in spare moments, like when you’re riding on the bus.

2.     The Image Approach: The image approach involves letting each new word suggest a wild image to you, then using that image to help you remember the word. For example, the word enfranchise means “to give the right to vote.” Franchise might suggest to you a McDonald’s franchise. You could remember the new word by imagining people lined up to vote at a McDonald’s. The weirder the image, the more likely you’ll be to remember the word.

3.     Mnemonics: Speaking of “the weirder, the better,” another way to learn words is to use mnemonics. A mnemonic (the first “m” is silent) is a device or trick, such as a rhyme or a song, that helps you remember something. In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue is a mnemonic that helps you remember a date in history. The funnier or the stranger you make your mnemonic, the more likely you are to remember it. Write down your mnemonics (your flash cards are a great place for these).

What to Study

The SAT tests the same
few hundred words over
and over. Therefore, you
should make it your focus
to know all of the words
you see in this book or in
any real SATs you may
take as practice. You will
see many of the same
key vocabulary words repeated.
We have compiled
them here in this book to
save you some time. Now
it’s your turn to learn them
all as best as you can.

Even if you are not able to think of a mnemonic for every Hit Parade word, sometimes you’ll end up learning the word just by thinking about the definition long enough.

Well-written general publications—like the New York Times and Sports Illustrated—are good sources of SAT words. You should regularly read them or similar publications that are dedicated to topics that interest you. When you come across a new word, write it down, look it up, and remember it. You can make flash cards for these words as well.

Before you can memorize the definition of a word you come across in your reading, you have to find out what it means. You’ll need a real dictionary for that. ETS uses two dictionaries in writing the SAT: the American Heritage Dictionary and Merriam-Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. You should own a copy of one or the other. (You’ll use it in college too—it’s a good investment.) Don’t feel like lugging around a giant dictionary to college? Most dictionaries (including Webster’s) are now also online.

Keep in mind that most words have more than one definition. The dictionary will list these in order of frequency, from the most common to the most obscure. ETS will trip you up by testing the second, third, or even the fourth definition of a familiar-sounding word. For example, the wordpedestrian shows up repeatedly on the SAT. When ETS uses it, though, it never means a person on foot—the definition of pedestrian with which you’re probably most familiar. ETS uses it to mean common, ordinary, banal—a secondary definition.

Very often, when you see easy words on hard SAT questions, ETS is testing a second, third, or fourth definition with which you may not be familiar. The Hit Parade will help prepare you for these tricks. So grab those index cards and get ready to improve your vocabulary!

depict    verb

depiction

to represent by drawing, portray; to characterize in words, describe


controversy    noun

controversial

a usually prolonged public dispute; an argument


undermine    verb

to weaken, sabotage, subvert, debilitate, destabilize


advocate    verb

advocacy

to support or urge by argument, especially publicly


arrogant    adj.

arrogance

having exaggerated self-opinion; egotistical or overproud


cynic    noun

cynical, cynicism

one who believes that only selfishness motivates human actions


dispute    verb

disputation

to engage in argument or debate; to argue vehemently, quarrel


provoke    verb

provocative, provocation

to anger or vex; to stir up or call forth (feelings, desires, or activity)


contradict    verb

contradiction, contradictory

to challenge, confront, counter, deny, or oppose


empathy    noun

empathetic

identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives


perceive    verb

perception, perceptiveness, perceptual

to become aware of by means of the senses; to recognize or understand


phenomenon    noun

phenomena

a fact, occurrence, or circumstance observed or observable; something remarkable or extraordinary


contempt    noun

contemptible, contemptuous, contemptuously

a feeling of disdain for anything considered mean or worthless


resolve    verb

resolution

to come to a firm decision about, determine; to settle or solve (e.g., a question or a controversy)


speculate    verb

speculation, speculative

to engage in thought, especially conjectural thought


intricate    adj.

intricacy, intricately

having many interrelated parts or facets; hard to understand, work, or make


skepticism    noun

skeptical, skeptic

a questioning or doubting attitude; doubt regarding religion


assert    verb

assertion

to state positively; declare


distinct    adj.

distinction, distinctive, distinctively, distinctly

not identical, separate; different in nature or quality, dissimilar


divisive    adj.

divisiveness

dissenting, at odds with, alienating; creating dissension or discord


consume    verb

consumer, consumption

to expend by use; to use up


digress    verb

digression

to wander away from the main topic or argument in speaking or writing


innovate    verb

innovative, innovator, innovation

to introduce (something new)


diminish    verb

diminution, diminutive

to make or become smaller, less, or less important


nostalgia    noun

nostalgic, nostalgically

a sentimental longing for something in the past


practical    adj.

practicality

of, involving, or resulting from practice or action; adapted or suited for actual use


versatile    adj.

versatility

capable of turning easily from one thing to another; having many uses or applications


profound    adj.

profoundly

showing deep insight or understanding; originating in the depths of one’s being


tenacity    noun

tenacious

persistence, strong character, perseverance


insight    noun

insightful, insightfulness

intuitiveness, awareness, observation, understanding, wisdom


endure    verb

endurance

to tolerate, withstand, sustain, undergo, bear hardship


perplex    verb

perplexity

to cause to be puzzled or bewildered; to confuse


denounce    verb

denunciation

to condemn openly; to attack, accuse, or criticize


plausibility    noun

plausible

credibility, believability


vulnerable    adj.

vulnerability

capable of or susceptible to being wounded; open to or defenseless against criticism or attack


pragmatic    adj.

pragmatism, pragmatist

practical, sensible, logical


rigor    noun

rigorous

the quality of being strict or inflexible; harshness, as of attitude, severity; hardship


adept    adj.

adeptness

very skilled; expert


disparage    verb

disparagement, disparager

to speak of negatively; to belittle


aesthetic    noun, adj.

aesthete, aesthetically, aesthetician

having to do with the appreciation of beauty


superficial    adj.

superficiality

being at, on, or near the surface; apparent rather than real


foster    verb

fosterling

to promote the growth or development of; to bring up


ambivalent    adj.

ambivalent

simultaneously experiencing opposing feelings; uncertain


elaborate    adj.

elaborately

worked out in great detail, painstaking; ornate, showy, or gaudy


beneficial    adj.

beneficiary, beneficent

producing or promoting a favorable result; helpful


embellish    verb

embellishment

to ornament or decorate; to exaggerate


imply    verb

implicit, implication

to indicate, suggest, refer, hint


esoteric    adj.

intended for or understood by only a small group


inevitable    adj.

inevitably

unable to be avoided or escaped


resent    verb

resentful, resentment

to feel or show displeasure or indignation at


scarce    adj.

scarcely, scarcer

insufficient to satisfy a need or demand; rarely encountered


ingenuity    noun

ingenious

the quality of being cleverly inventive or resourceful


substantiate    verb

substantial, substantive

to support with proof or evidence; to verify


isolated    adj.

isolating, isolation

detached or separated, alone


subtle    adj.

subtler, subtleties

difficult to perceive; fine or delicate; characterized by or requiring mental acuteness


presume    verb

presumption, presumptive, presumptuous

to take for granted, assume, or suppose; to undertake (do something) without right or permission


sentiment    noun

sentimental, sentimentality

an attitude, feeling, or opinion; refined or tender emotion


rhetoric    noun

rhetorical

the art of using language effectively and persuasively


defiance    noun

defiant

a bold resistance to authority or force; open disregard; contempt


abstruse    adj.

difficult to understand


deliberate    adj.

deliberated, deliberately, deliberation

studied or intentional; careful or slow in deciding


bolster    verb

to hearten, support, or prop up


eradicate    verb

eradication

to get rid of as if by tearing it up by the roots; to abolish


contend    verb

contention, contentious

to struggle; to compete


indifferent    adj.

indifference

without interest or concern; having no bias or preference


conventional    adj.

convention

conforming to accepted standards


autonomy    noun

autonomous

independence; self-determination


discern    verb

discernment

to catch sight of; to recognize and understand


futile    adj.

futility

incapable of producing a useful result; vain


trivial    adj.

trivialize

of very little importance


elitism    noun

elitist

the practice of or belief in rule by an elite


endorse    verb

endorsement

to express approval or support of, especially publicly


resign    verb

resignation

to give up (an office or position), especially formally; to relinquish; to submit (oneself, one’s mind) without resistance


forbear    verb

forbearance

to refrain from; to be patient or self-controlled


frivolous    adj.

characterized by lack of seriousness or sense; not worthy of serious notice, trivial


fundamental    adj.

fundamentally

of or being a foundation or basis; basic; of great importance, essential


inadequate    adj.

inadequacy, inadequately

insufficient, incompetent, incapable, weak


erratic    adj.

erratically

inconsistent, unpredictable, wandering, irregular, unstable


persuade    verb

persuasion, persuasive

to prevail on (a person) to do something, as by advising or urging; to induce to believe, convince


exemplify    verb

exemplary, exemplification

to illustrate by example


prevail    verb

prevalence, prevalent

to be widespread or current; to occur as the most important or frequent element


exploit    verb

exploitation

to utilize, especially for profit; to take advantage of


hostility    noun

hostile

meanness, bitterness, animosity, resentment


naïve    adj.

naïveté

having unaffected simplicity of nature; lacking in experience, judgment, or information


negligent    adj.

negligence

guilty of or characterized by neglect


vindictive    adj.

vindictiveness

disposed to seek revenge; revengeful, spiteful


prestige    noun

prestigious

a reputation or influence arising from success, achievement, and/or rank


reconcile    verb

reconciliation

to cause to accept something not desired; to cause to become friendly again; to settle a dispute


tolerate    verb

toleration, tolerance

to allow without hindrance, permit; to put up with, endure


accumulate    verb

accumulation

to gather or collect


adapt    verb

adaptability, adaptable, adaptation, adaptive

to adjust or become adjusted to new requirements or conditions


complacency    noun

complacent

a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of unpleasant possibilities


anachronism    noun

anachronistic

the representation of something as existing or happening in the wrong time period


disdain    noun

disdained, disdainful

hate, contempt, scorn, dislike, or ridicule


antagonism    noun

antagonistic, antagonist, antagonize

active hostility or opposition


connoisseur    noun

an expert judge in an art or matters of taste


assume    verb

assumption

to take for granted without proof; to suppose; to take upon oneself


baffle    verb

baffling, bafflement

to bewilder, perplex, astound, or confuse


benign    adj.

kind and gentle


brevity    noun

the quality or state of being brief in duration


callous    adj.

callousness

emotionally hardened; unfeeling


candid    adj.

candor

completely honest; straightforward


collaborate    verb

collaborative, collaboration

to work with another


integrate    verb

integration

to bring together into a unified or interrelated whole; to combine to produce a whole or a larger unit


commemorate    verb

commemoration, commemorative

to serve as a memorial of; to honor the memory of by some observance


burden    noun

burdened, burdensome

that which is carried; a load; that which is borne with difficulty


contrary    adj.

opposite in character or direction


inconsistent    adj.

inconsistency

lacking in harmony between the different parts or elements; self-contradictory; lacking agreement, as one thing with another or two or more things in relation to each other; at variance


convey    verb

conveyance

to take from one place to another; to communicate


linguistics    noun

the study of language


drama    noun

dramatic, dramatize

the art of writing and producing plays; a series of vivid, exciting, or suspenseful events


duplicitous    adj.

duplicitous, duplicity

deceitful, dishonest, two-faced, deliberately deceptive


inquiry    noun

a seeking for information or knowledge; an investigation; a question, query


erroneous    adj.

containing an error; incorrect


gesture    noun

gestured

a movement or position of the hand, arm, body, head, or face that is expressive of an idea or an emotion


impression    noun

impressionable, impressionistic, impressive

a strong effect produced on the intellect, feelings, or senses; a somewhat vague awareness or notion


interact    verb

interaction

to act upon one another


lament    verb

lamentable, lamentation

to express grief or regret (for or over); a vocal expression of grief


contemporary    adj.

contemporaries

existing, occurring, or living at the same time


legitimate    adj.

according to law; in accordance with established rules and standards; valid, logical; justified


manipulate    verb

manipulation, manipulative, manipulator

to manage or influence skillfully and often unfairly


egotism    noun

egotist, egotistical

excessive reference to oneself; self-centeredness


mitigate    verb

mitigator, mitigation

to make or become less severe, intense, or painful


objective    noun

objectivity

a purpose, goal; not influenced by personal feelings, unbiased


proximity    noun

nearness in place, time, or relation


obscure    adj.

obscured, obscurity

not clear to the understanding; ambiguous or vague; not easily noticed; inconspicuous


optimism    noun

optimistic

a tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions; the belief that good will ultimately triumphs over evil


vigor    noun

vigorous

active strength or force, intensity; healthy physical or mental energy, vitality


paradox    noun

paradoxically

a contradiction, a puzzle, an inconsistency


reticence    noun

reticent

the quality or state of keeping silent; reserve


penchant    noun

a strong inclination or liking


predict    verb

predictable, prediction, predictive

to tell (what will happen) in advance; foretell


refute    verb

refutation

to prove to be false or erroneous


rouse    verb

rousing

to bring or come out of a state of sleep, unconsciousness, or inactivity


somber    adj.

gloomily dark; downcast, glum; extremely serious, grave


sustain    verb

sustainable, sustenance

to bear the weight of, support; to undergo (e.g., injury, loss) without giving away; to endure


obligation    noun

obligate, oblige

a moral or legal duty; a binding promise, contract


theorem    noun

an explanation based on hypothesis and experiments


debilitate    verb

debilitating, debilitation

to impair the strength of; to weaken


steadfast    adj.

steadfastness

fixed in place, position, or direction; firm in purpose, resolution, or direction; unwavering


admonish    verb

admonition

to caution or advise against something


alleviate    verb

alleviating, alleviation

to ease a pain or burden


compromise    noun

an agreement, a give-and-take; a bargain or settlement


anomaly    noun

anomalous

an odd, peculiar, or strange condition, situation, or quality; something abnormal


reverence    noun

reverent, reverential

a high opinion of something; admiration


contrast    verb

to compare in order to show differences


enigma    noun

enigmatic

a puzzle, mystery, or riddle


apathetic    adj.

apathy

feeling or showing little emotion


exaggerate    verb

exaggeration

to magnify beyond the limits of truth; to overstate or overemphasize


disregard    verb

to pay no attention to, ignore; to treat without due respect or attentiveness


arouse    verb

arousing, arousal

to stir up; to excite


determine    verb

determination, deterministic

to settle or resolve (e.g., a dispute or a question) conclusively


articulate    adj.

articulation

uttered clearly; capable of, expressed with, or marked by clarity and effectiveness of language


atypical    adj.

not typical; irregular


capricious    adj.

capriciousness

impulsive and unpredictable


dispense    verb

dispensable, dispensation

to deal out, distribute; to do without, do away with


commend    verb

commendable, commendation

to mention as worthy of confidence or attention


ascertain    verb

to find out, as through investigation or experimentation


commonplace    adj.

ordinary; dull or platitudinous


magnanimous    adj.

courageously or generously noble in mind and heart


vivid    adj.

vividly

strikingly bright or intense; brilliant; presenting the appearance, freshness, and spirit of life


conform    verb

conformist, conformity

to act in accordance; comply


ornate    adj.

fancily decorated; beautiful, brilliant, flashy, showy


anecdote    noun

anecdotal

a short account of an interesting, often biographical incident


indulge    verb

indulgent

to treat oneself or another to; to entertain, delight, please


spare    verb

to refrain from harming, punishing, or killing; to save, as from discomfort; kept in reserve


devoid    adj.

totally lacking; destitute


mock    verb

mockery

to ridicule, mimic, imitate


neutral    adj.

neutrality, neutralize

not taking the part of either side in a dispute or war; of no particular kind or characteristic


distinguish    verb

distinguishable

to mark off as different; to recognize as distinct; to make prominent or eminent


incredulous    adj.

incredulity

disinclined or indisposed to believe; indicating disbelief


diverse    adj.

diversity

of a different kind, unlike; of various kinds, varied


prolong    verb

to draw out, extend, stall, stretch


belligerent    adj.

belligerence

eager to fight; hostile or aggressive


edify    verb

edification

to instruct and improve, especially morally; to enlighten


negate    verb

negation

to deny the existence or truth of (something); to nullify or invalidate (something)


ensure    verb

to secure or guarantee; to make sure or certain


voracious    adj.

craving or consuming large quantities of food; exceedingly eager


envy    noun

envied, envious

resentment of a more fortunate person; jealousy, spite, hatred


dominate    verb

dominant, domination

to rule over, control; to occupy a commanding position


hail    verb

to salute or greet; to acclaim


idiosyncrasy    noun

idiosyncratic

peculiarity, oddity, quirk, characteristic, trait, singularity


irony    noun

ironic

the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning; an outcome of events contrary to what was, or what might have been, expected


lucid    adj.

easily understood; clear


despair    noun

loss of hope; hopelessness


modest    adj.

modesty

having or showing a moderate estimate of oneself


preoccupy    verb

preoccupation

to absorb, immerse, consume, engage


redundant    adj.

repetitive, excessive, unnecessary


reform    noun

reformer

the improvement of what was wrong, corrupt, or unsatisfactory; improvement, as of conduct or belief


reluctant    adj.

reluctance

not willing; disinclined


supplement    noun

something added to complete a thing


evoke    verb

evocative

to call up (e.g., memories or feelings); to draw forth


repute    verb

reputable, reputed, reputedly, reputation

to consider, believe


spontaneous    adj.

spontaneously, spontaneity

coming or resulting from a natural impulse or tendency


stringent    adj.

rigorously binding or exacting; strict


temperament    noun

temperamental, temperamentally

the combination of mental and emotional traits of a person; nature


tyrannical    adj.

tyranny, tyrants

unjustly cruel or severe


insolent    adj.

insolence

insulting in manner or speech


tact    noun

tactful

skill in dealing with difficult or delicate situations


constituent    noun

constituency

serving to make up a thing; component


arbitrary    adj.

unreasonable or unsupported


unprecedented    adj.

without precedent; never before known or appreciated


urgent    adj.

urgency

requiring immediate action or attention; insistent in urging; importunate


rebellion    noun

rebellious

armed resistance to a government or ruler; defiance of any authority


oblivious    adj.

oblivion

unmindful or unaware; forgetful


volatile    adj.

evaporating rapidly; tending or threatening to erupt in violence, explosive


acquire    verb

acquisition

to get possession of


charisma    noun

charismatic

a personal magnetism that enables an individual to attract or influence people


adverse    adj.

adversely, adversity

unfavorable; opposing one’s interests or desires


disposition    noun

mental outlook; characteristic attitude


afflict    verb

affliction

to distress with mental or bodily pain


allege    verb

allegation

to assert without proof


sufficient    adj.

sufficiently

adequate for the purpose; enough


impractical    adj.

not practical or useful; incapable of dealing sensibly with practical matters


consensus    noun

solidarity of opinion; general agreement or harmony


personage    noun

a person of distinction or importance


anticipate    verb

anticipatory, anticipation

to realize beforehand; foresee


precursor    noun

a person or thing that precedes, as in a job or method; forerunner


demagogue    noun

demagogic, demagoguery

an orator or political leader who gains power by arousing people’s emotions and prejudices


assess    verb

assessment

to judge the value or character of


authentic    adj.

authentically, authenticated, authenticity

not false or copied; real


benefactor    noun

a kindly helper; a person who makes a bequest or endowment


characterized by goodwill; desiring to help others


bewilder    verb

bewilderment

to confuse or puzzle completely


captivate    verb

captivation

to attract intensely; enchant


congenial    adj.

agreeable or suitable in nature


conviction    noun

a firm belief; the act of convicting or state of being convicted


deference    noun

deferential

respectful yielding of the opinion or will of another


pretension    noun

a claim to something; an unwarranted or false claim, as to merit, importance, or wealth


detract    verb

detractor, detraction

to take away a part, as from value or reputation; to divert


alter    verb

alteration

to make different, as in size or style


dilettante    noun

a person who takes up an art, activity, or subject for amusement, especially in a superficial way; dabbler


amass    verb

amassment

to collect; to accumulate


equanimity    noun

composure, especially under strain; evenness


motive    noun

something that causes a person to act; incentive


exotic    adj.

foreign, not native; strikingly unusual or strange, as in appearance


benevolent    adj.

benevolence

marked by or disposed to doing good


crude    adj.

in a raw or unrefined state; lacking culture and refinement; vulgar


forebode    verb

foreboding

to predict, warn, forecast, foresee


predilection    noun

a partiality; preference


indignation    noun

indignant

strong displeasure at something considered unjust, offensive, insulting, or biased


intuition    noun

direct perception of truth and fact, independent of any reasoning process; a keen and quick insight


knack    noun

a special skill or talent; a clever way of doing something


longevity    noun

long life; length of life


context    noun

the parts before and after a statement that can influence its meaning


misconceive    verb

misconception

to interpret wrongly; misunderstand


moderate    adj.

not extreme, excessive, or intense; average in quantity, extent, or amount


pacifism    noun

pacifist

opposition to war or violence as a method of settling disputes


faulty    adj.

having faults; imperfect


ambition    noun

an earnest desire for achievement, distinction, wealth, or power


prudent    adj.

prudence

wisely careful, showing good judgment


As important as Hit Parade words are, they aren’t the only words on the SAT. As you go about learning the Hit Parade, you should also try to incorporate other new words into your vocabulary. The Hit Parade will help you determine what kinds of words you should be learning—good solid words that are fairly difficult but not impossible.

One very good source for SAT words is whatever you’re already reading. Magazines that interest you and books you read for school, or just for fun, are treasure troves of good vocabulary; just take the time to look up words you don’t already know. Reading can only help your chances of earning a higher score on the SAT. In short, the students with the best vocabularies are the ones who read the most.