New SAT—Do I need to study Vocabulary?

Old SATOne of the big changes on the New SAT is the adjustment of the reading section. What used to be critical thinking is now “evidence-based reading.” The New SAT has done away with the sentence completion questions. No more obscure vocabulary, which means no more memorizing extended vocabulary lists… right?


Well… yes and no. Yes, it is no longer necessary to memorize thousands of obscure vocabulary words. However, the New SAT will still be testing vocabulary, only a little bit differently.


The new test will test vocabulary through what they call words in context. What does that mean? Well, according to the new SAT website:

Words in Context questions measure your understanding of how word choice influences meaning, shapes mood and tone, reflects point of view, or lends precision or interest. The Writing and Language portion measures students’ ability to apply knowledge of words, phrases, and language in general in the context of extended prose passages.


Basically, the key to the new SAT section is context. The test is asking you to look at the connection between different vocabulary words and the sentences that surround them. It’s asking you to take into account the tone and the point of view of the passage too. English words, like language itself, are ever changing. Many words have multiple meanings to begin with, and the definitions are only made more expensive when you add in things like tone and perspective. So, the new SAT is not asking for a particular definition to a particular word. It is not asking you to memorize rare words like ignominious or alacrity. It is not asking you for definitions, but to pick between definitions. It is asking you to do what we all naturally have to do daily when we read books or talk to each other, which is understand words in context.


So how do you study these new words in context? One way, of course, is to look at lists available from online resources. This one from scholastic is a pretty good starting point: .

Another way, a more naturalistic learning style, is through practice. Read difficult articles on your own and test yourself on word meanings. Quiz yourself online. Or, you can always come see us.