Student at desk focusing on memorizing Latin and Greek roots.

Supercharge Your SAT Vocab: Boost Your Score by 20% with Sarah's Pro Tips

May 7, 2024

Improve your SAT vocabulary and increase your chances of success! Understanding words and their meanings is crucial, especially with the introduction of the Digital SAT. With roughly 20% of the English section focusing on words in context questions, you need to be prepared. Don't waste your time memorizing hundreds of words and their definitions – learn the significance of Latin and Greek roots in the English language. Our compiled list of common roots, prefixes, and suffixes will help you break down unfamiliar words into parts and decipher their meanings. Access the list and start making flashcards or other study aids today. With this resource, you'll be on your way to acing the SAT!

Challenges of traditional vocabulary memorization

Memorizing hundreds to thousands of words and their definitions can be overwhelming and impractical, especially with the limited time available for SAT preparation. Traditional memorization methods can often lead to rote learning, where students may forget the words as quickly as they memorized them. It can also be discouraging when you realize that you may not even encounter most of those words on the actual exam. Therefore, it's important to find alternative methods to enhance your vocabulary that are more strategic and efficient.

A strategic solution for vocabulary enhancement

Understanding the significance of Latin and Greek roots in the English language can make a big difference in improving your SAT vocabulary. By familiarizing yourself with common roots, prefixes, and suffixes, you can break down complex words into smaller, more manageable parts.  When you stumble across an unfamiliar word, you will be able to make better-informed guesses. For example, if you know that "bio-" means life and "logy" means the study of, you can probably guess that "biology" is the study of life. Similarly, if you know that "mis-" means hate and "-ist" means a person who practices or is concerned with something, you can decipher that a "misogynist" is someone who hates women. By focusing on these common linguistic building blocks, you can make learning new vocabulary much easier and more efficient.

Chalkboard displaying Greek roots with tree in center
Greek roots on a chalkboard with a tree in the middle

Resource for vocabulary improvement

To assist in your vocabulary improvement, here is a compiled list of common roots, prefixes, and suffixes. You can access the list through this link: Link to the list. I encourage you to use the list to make flashcards or other study aids, which can be a practical way to learn new vocabulary. Another study method you can use is creating a vocabulary notebook where you write down new words along with their definitions and examples of how they are used in context. Online resources are also great tool, such as vocabulary games and quizzes, to make learning new words more engaging and interactive. You could also try incorporating new vocabulary into your everyday conversations and writing to help solidify your understanding and usage of the words.


1. How does the SAT test vocabulary?

The SAT tests vocabulary through words in context questions. Questions will present words in the context of a sentence or passage. This means that instead of simply defining a word and asking what it means, the exam will provide a sentence or passage where the word is used and ask questions about the word's meaning or usage based on the context. For example, a question might provide a sentence like "The politician's ambiguous response to the question left the audience confused." and then ask the test-taker to select the answer choice that best defines the word "ambiguous" based on its usage in the sentence.

2. Is SAT vocabulary hard?

SAT vocabulary can be challenging for many students because it requires understanding words in context rather than simply memorizing definitions. Additionally, there are a large number of words that could potentially appear on the exam, making it difficult to prepare for every possibility. However, by focusing on common roots, prefixes, and suffixes, students can break down complex words into smaller, more manageable parts, and make better-informed guesses when encountering unfamiliar words. Incorporating new vocabulary into your daily conversations and writing can be helpful in strengthening your comprehension and usage of the words. Although it may take some effort, with the right strategies and resources, you can improve your SAT vocabulary and increase your chances of success.

3. What should I do if I don't know a word on the SAT?

If you encounter a word on the SAT that you don't know, don't panic. Here are some ways to approach it:

  • Context Clues: First, read the sentence or passage carefully. Often, the context in which the word is used can provide clues about its meaning. Look for nearby words or phrases that may give you hints. For example, if you see the word "ostentatious" in a sentence describing someone's extravagant lifestyle, you can infer that it means something showy or extravagant.
  • Break Down the Word: Analyze the word's components. Many English words have Latin or Greek roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Try to identify familiar parts of the word. For instance, if you see the word "malfeasance," break it down into "mal-" (meaning bad) and "-feasance" (meaning action or conduct), which can help you understand that it refers to wrongful conduct.
  • Process of Elimination: If you're taking a multiple-choice test, eliminate options that don't make sense based on the context or the parts of the word you've identified. This can increase your chances of selecting the correct answer even if you're unsure of the word's precise meaning.
  • Guess Wisely: If you've narrowed down the options but are still uncertain, make an educated guess. Consider the context, the parts of the word you've identified, and any other information you have. Sometimes, you can make an educated guess that's more likely to be correct.
  • Flag It: Most standardized tests allow you to mark questions for review. If you're unsure about a word, flag the question and move on. You can return to it later if you have time after completing questions you are more confident about.
  • Practice Vocabulary: To minimize encountering unfamiliar words on the SAT, it's essential to build your vocabulary over time. Read widely, including newspapers, books, and magazines, and make a habit of learning a few new words every day. Online vocabulary-building tools and flashcards can also be helpful.
  • Test Preparation: Utilize SAT preparation resources, such as study guides and vocabulary lists specifically designed for the SAT. These resources often highlight common SAT vocabulary words that are frequently tested.
  • Stay Calm: Lastly, maintain your composure during the test. Stress and anxiety can hinder your ability to think clearly. If you come across a challenging word, take a deep breath, apply the strategies mentioned above, and remain focused on the task at hand.

Remember, it's normal to encounter unfamiliar words on standardized tests like the SAT. What's important is how you handle them. By practicing these strategies and building your vocabulary, you can increase your confidence and performance on the verbal sections of the SAT.


As you dive into your SAT preparation journey, get ready to unlock the full potential of this incredible resource! Say goodbye to the daunting task of memorizing endless lists of words and definitions, a method that's tiresome and impractical. We hope this resource proves beneficial, and encourage you to take the time to utilize the list to enhance your vocabulary. To further boost your SAT skills learn smart, not hard, and sign up for the Aha AI Learning Platform! Come join the Aha community today and start an AI-boosted learning adventure that will bring you nearer to your goals. Wishing you the very best – you got this!

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