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How to boost my vocabulary skills?

PhysicsIsNotPhunPhysicsIsNotPhun 20 replies28 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
So on the ERW, my biggest problem is intricate vocabulary (like how I used a big word there??!). Like when the question asks for "(insert word)" can also mean A. B. C. D. and which one is it. Sometimes, the choices are just obscure words I have never heard of in my life so if anyone can give me tips on how to make my vocabulary better in a relatively short period of time, that would be amazing.
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Replies to: How to boost my vocabulary skills?

  • kasdnfjkasdnfj 8 replies8 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Questions like that tend to rely a lot more on context than on knowing the specific definition of words. I think it would be more worth your while to practice figuring out vocab within the context of a story than to spend hours memorizing words you probably won't see on the test. That being said, the best way to get a better vocabulary is reading or consuming media which uses higher levels of vocabulary.
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  • marvin100marvin100 8568 replies1249 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Reading a lot is the best way, but the fastest way is to memorize a few thousand of the most common words (there are ~6000 "SAT words" and most students already know 2-4000 of them). A motivated student can lock literally all the vocab down in under a month.
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  • bako225bako225 15 replies4 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    read!!!
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  • RuberiRuberi 51 replies2 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    What kind of books would you recommend that would be helpful with the SAT vocab?
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  • SoccerMomGenieSoccerMomGenie 189 replies13 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    www.vocabulary.com is an EXCELLENT free resource for expanding your vocabulary.
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  • marvin100marvin100 8568 replies1249 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Quizlet remains the best, imo.
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  • techmom99techmom99 3457 replies6 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I second SoccerMomGenie's suggestion of vocabulary.com.

    My friend's D used it to help study for the GRE and got herself up into the 94th percentile on the vocabulary/English portion. She said that she had not done as well on the SAT, etc. I personally studied with this young lady, quizzing her on vocab, before she started using vocabulary.com and, although she is an incredibly bright girl, her vocabulary was relatively limited. I could see the difference in her understanding, ability to reason out definitions and recall as she progressed through her program. For instance, she speaks a Romance language, but was not making connections on word roots, etc. until she started using the program.

    Lastly, in the interest of full disclosure, I know someone who works for the company, but the above story is true.
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  • surrealshocksurrealshock 15 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    anki flash cards. they have a deck from Barrons and that really helped me.
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  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 1391 replies10 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Read. Often and much. On different subjects. Your vocabulary will improve.
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  • marvin100marvin100 8568 replies1249 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @surrealshock - anki is amazing, but I found it takes too much up-front effort to set it up. Maybe there's an easier way than what I was doing? I stand by Quizlet.
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  • surrealshocksurrealshock 15 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @marvin100 I'm not sure, it was pretty simple for me on my Mac and my brother uses it pretty regularly with no issue. Maybe just use an online guide to get started?
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  • nyermomnyermom 226 replies14 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    When my D17 was studying a few years ago, her SAT tutor gave her a few (somewhat cheesy) YA novels that have integrated SAT vocabulary in the plot, with definitions at the bottom of the page. "Rave New World" was one title that I recall and they're available from Amazon. They're fast, painless reads and my D felt they helped (final V SAT: 780...your results may vary)
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  • SoccerMomGenieSoccerMomGenie 189 replies13 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Can't argue with the value of reading. The books @nyermom mentions sound like they're are worth a look. (Side note, since 2017, SAT no longer tests difficult SAT vocab. Vocab is still important and it will show up here and there on the test, but not with anything like the former emphasis.)

    Main point: Don't dismiss Vocabulary.com without checking it out. It is far, far superior to quizlet for many reasons, including: it quizzes you on all definitions of the word without you having to type in the definition; it quizzes you in slightly different ways and tracks your progress on each word; it gives superb and memorable explanations of the meanings of the words. You can create your own word lists (simply by typing the words) or use pre-existing word lists. You can practice on computer or smart phone or tablet. Once you have almost mastered the word it will also test your spelling of it. If you don't want to create a word list you can just get started with their words and they will create a list just for you based on your existing vocabulary. It really is fabulous and I have absolutely no connection with them other than my students and I have used it for a few years now.
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  • marvin100marvin100 8568 replies1249 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Side note, since 2017, SAT no longer tests difficult SAT vocab. Vocab is still important and it will show up here and there on the test, but not with anything like the former emphasis.

    I vividly remember when they announced this change (which took place in 2015, not 2017, fwiw, and was the second major test overhaul I've experienced since I've been a full-time teacher). CB head David Coleman was making the interview rounds, and at every stop he said the test would de-emphasize "SAT vocab." I was very pleased--vocab studying is the most tedious, soul-crushing part of test preparation--and began re-working my curriculum with great anticipation.

    Then the CB released some practice exams. I started analyzing them, and what did I see? The same vocab. No more sentence completions, obviously (so no more free 250 points just for learning vocab), but the passages have SAT words, the questions have SAT words, and many answers have SAT words. Now that more exams have been released, it's even more obvious--if you don't know SAT vocab, you'll lose significant points, points that should be easy to gobble up if you just put in the time to learn the words.

    I've had almost 2000 students since the debut of the current test, and my data are super clear: no element of their preparation is more predictive of the pace or ceiling of their improvement than their initial vocabulary knowledge, and I've still yet to meet any student who can score 750 on the RW exam without being able to score 80%+ on my diagnostic vocab assessment. I've met some 700+ kids with busted vocab, for sure, and their skill at figuring out words from context alone is impressive, but doing so takes time and mental energy, and without beefing up their vocab they've already hit their ceiling.

    So guess what? I still focus heavily on vocab, and it still works, just like it used to. Aggressive, targeted vocab & grammar study can get virtually any student (except the very lowest-fluency internationals--but even some of them!) into the 650-700 range in 3-5 weeks.
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  • SoccerMomGenieSoccerMomGenie 189 replies13 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @marvin100, I respect your knowledge of and experience with this test. I don't entirely disagree with you -- just a bit in degree and cause and effect. I am not at all surprised that students who score high in your initial vocabulary assessment will tend to score higher on the verbal SAT. But I would strongly suspect that this is not entirely due to their vocabulary strength per se, but rather because students who have stronger vocabularies tend to be stronger and more frequent readers and stronger and more frequent readers tend to do better on the reading portion of the SAT.

    I agree with you that vocabulary is still important and that students will be well-served to improve their vocabulary for the SAT as well as for life. However, if I had a limited amount of time to tutor students for the verbal component of the SAT, I would not focus their efforts on memorizing vocabulary. There are other things I could teach them about attacking the reading portion of the SAT that would be a more efficient use of their time. After they master those other elements, I would definitely support spending additional time and attention on vocabulary.

    Another factor that might explain a difference between your experience and mine is the number of students for whom English is not their native language. I live and work in the US and pretty much all of my students have been native English speakers. It might be true (I don't know) that for non-native speakers, the study of vocabulary will result in greater gains on the SAT.

    You mention that "aggressive, targeted vocab & grammar study" can generate good results in 3-5 weeks (although you didn't mention how many hours are spent per week). I totally concur with your reference to grammar study. As you well know, Section 2 of the SAT, which is worth 400 out of the 800 possible points for the verbal portion of the SAT, focuses on heavily on grammar. There are a limited number of grammar rules tested by the SAT and if a student actively and intensively studies them, the student can make quick and significant gains on Section 2 of the SAT, which will result in significant overall gains in the verbal scores.

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