Do I Need to Study Vocabulary for the SAT?

The following guest post comes from Jenn Cohen, President and Chief Word-Nerd of, an online
resource for SAT and PSAT vocabulary prep.  She will be our guest on #CampusChat, Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 9PM, Eastern.

SAT & PSAT Vocab Prep: Word-NerdHow many times have I heard this question from students, usually said in a whine…"do I REALLY have to study vocabulary?"

Since the SAT changed its format and analogies were eliminated, vocabulary has gotten a bad rap. Students, and even teachers, have bought into the idea that since vocabulary is only a factor on about a third of the reading questions, it's not worth the effort of studying.  I'll buy that argument for the student that only decides he or she needs to prepare for the test a week before test day. Yes, for that student, time is better spent on math or reading passages. But if you're reading this post, you're not that student.

If you're serious about your preparation and your goals include applying to top tier universities, vocabulary is essential. Those few extra points earned may be the difference between a 600 and a 700 on the critical reading section.  If you take it a step further, those extra points may be the difference in getting accepted to the school of your choice, or not.

Hopefully you're reading this well before test day, since vocabulary preparation is best done over the course of months or even years. That's not to say that hitting the vocabulary a month ahead of time is a waste of time, but you'll feel so much less pressure if you start early!  Of course, Word-Nerd is your best bet for targeted, efficient study.  But don't stop there. I hope you're also reading everything you can as part of your prep for the reading passages. When you come across a word you don't know, look it up!  If you need ideas for reading, check out my blog post here.

To sum up, study vocabulary and start as early as possible, ideally at least a year before you take the test.  While I don't recommend starting other SAT prep more than a few months before test day, with vocabulary you can get to work at any point. Lots of luck!


Jenn Cohen is president and chief word-nerd of, an online resource for SAT and PSAT vocabulary prep. 

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