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Although the vocab portion of the reading section is really a relatively small part of the test, it seems to be the one that gets the most attention. Why? Well, for the most part, you either know a vocab word or you don’t. There is rarely any middle ground, which makes the prospective test taker pretty dang nervous. Sure, you’ve been going over about 300 vocab words a night for months, but there will always be that stray vocab word that majorly trips you up. The rough part about it is that it is always at the beginning of a reading section, so if you get stressed in the first few questions, it will become an uphill battle.

Obviously, we here at TP want to help you overcome your test anxiety. So here it is: some vocab words you need to know!

Censure (v) – to criticize harshly

Okay, maybe it’s just me that thinks this is a hard one. I kid you not, I got this one wrong on every vocab quiz for WEEKS, and I’m normally a vocab guru! I’ve found the easiest way to remember it is to think of a similar sounding word, censor, which is pretty common. Now, remember that, generally, people censure censorship!

Dogmatic (adj) – dictatorial, insisting on ones point of view

The first time I read the word dogmatic, I was pretty sure it was a vending machine that shot out dogs. Little did I know, this memory was how I’d learn to remember the real meaning. While I don’t have any dog vending machines, I do have three dogs, three VERY, VERY bossy dogs. In fact, they are the most dogmatic dogs I know…lucky for them, they also are good vocab helpers.

Erinaceous (adj) – of or pertaining to the hedgehog family

I admit it, I have no cute or nifty tips for this one. However, I can offer you this…it is Jillian’s favorite SAT word EVER, and Jillian, like a hedgehog, is adorable.

Aural (adj) – related to hearing

I don’t know why I had trouble with this one…maybe because it sounds like oral? In any case remember that you hear the audio, and aural is related to hearing!

Somnambulist (n) – someone who sleep walks

We all know what insomnia is, so the first half of this word is a bit of a give away. However, I find that remembering the whole term is to focus in on the “ambulist” at the end, which reminds me of an ambulance. Ambulances move, need I say more?

Circumlocution (adj) – using a lot of words that aren’t totally necessary in explaining something, generally this leads to a degree of confusion

I really hope all you guys see what I did there, or I might be publically humiliated for that sentence. Anyways, something I noticed on all my SAT vocab lists was there was a fair amount of words starting with “circum” (or something of that sort), and that made it hard to keep it straight. For this one, I ended up focusing in on the fact that locution is almost location, and with the “circum” at the beginning, it makes me think of circling a location (with words), but not quite hitting the mark.

Alacrity (n) – upbeat willingness or readiness

For some reason, I’ve always felt the way alacrity sounds is extremely bitter. Ask anyone who helped me study, and they will tell you I got it wrong every single time because I would confuse it with acerbic. My only real tip for this is to remember that acerbic is a very similar to the word acidic, and alacrity is basically dead opposite.

Acerbic (adj) – acidic, biting, bitter

Acerbic – acidic, ya feel me?!

Cantankerous (adj ) – hard to deal with

I’m not sure this is even considered a weird word, but it’s been one of my all time favorites since I first learned it. I may or may not make a point to use it on a daily basis. A good tip for remembering is that I’m pretty cantankerous without a tank of coffee in the morning.

Desiccate (v) – to dry up

A good tip for desiccate is that a desert is desiccated. I love when my tips are actually straightforward!

Egalitarian (adj)  – characterized by a belief in human equality

The beginning of egalitarian sounds like eagle…which is the national bird for America…where all man is created equal. Please tell me you guys are following this…

Mercurial (adj) – erratic, unpredictable, often changing

Again, this is another easy one to remember. Everyone knows mercury – the magical liquid metal that is unpredictable, erratic, and often changing. Well, that’s mercurial for you!

Mendacity (n) – untruthfulness

I confess, almost 80% of the reason that this one is in here is because in tenth grade my teacher gave us the BEST trick to remember it: “Men in da city lie – mendacity”. Yeah, good luck EVER forgetting that one.

Archipelago (n) – a group of islands

This is definitely another one of my favorite SAT words, but also one of the ones I had the hardest times remembering. Finally, it came to me…pelicans live on islands and a group of islands is an archpelago. It also helped that my school’s mascot is the pelican…hear us roar!



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the author

Mollie Yacano is a freshman at Boston University studying marine science. She works in a biogeochemistry lab that studies human impact on coastal ecology, assisting with various grad student projects. Aside from being a science nerd, she is a self-diagnosed college admissions addict, and has been writing for TP almost since its inception. When she isn’t writing for The Prospect, she can be found instagramming her nail art, pretending to be witty on twitter, ranting about harmful algal blooms, and of course, wasting copious amounts of time on her personal Tumblr.

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  1. Heather on July 6, 2013

    While probably not an SAT word, kenspeckle (meaning conspicuous) is easily my favorite word. I mean, how can you NOT love saying kenspeckle?

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