SAT Vocabulary Building by Dr. Steve Baba
You do not need to learn every word in the dictionary to improve your SAT score. Every bone in your body has a name, but the names of your bones will not be on the SAT for two reasons. It would give an unfair advantage to students interested in human anatomy, and the question would be too difficult. Just as easy questions that everyone can answer will not be on the test, questions that no one can answer will also not be on the test for the same reason; they do not measure anything since everyone would get the same score.

There are about 10,000 words that are likely to show up on the SAT - other words are too hard or too easy. While 10,000 words is a lot, you probably know half of the words already. Also, many of the words are related to each other through common roots such as subsonic and supersonic. If you know what supersonic means, you should be able to figure out what subsonic means and vice versa.

Five or ten hours of vocabulary work cannot compare to a lifetime of studious vocabulary building, but all is not lost. You can review, remember and clarify words you once knew and learn a few new words. Unless you have a photographic memory, you will not be able to memorize 1000 new words from a list in a few hours. What you can do is review words that you barely remember, and a few of the new words may stick.

If you are tempted to skip vocabulary building because there are too many words, just remember that you don’t need to know all the words to answer vocabulary questions correctly. Consider the following sentence completion question.

Because of his _ and effort, John Doe was a success.
a. laziness
b. nationality
c. xyyxxyx (a word you don’t understand)
d. sleeping
e. beauty

Even without understanding xyyxxyx, you can rule out all of the other answers - as long as you know 4 of the 5 words - and answer the question correctly.

Vocabulary words are on the SAT, GRE and other standardized tests for a reason - people with better vocabularies perform better in college and later in life. If your vocabulary is weak, you will understand less. Your ability to express yourself is limited by your vocabulary - if your vocabulary is weak, you will be understood less. If you overuse simplistic words, such as "cool" or "great," people will be unimpressed. Even if you are a computer science genius, other computer science geniuses with better verbal skills will be hired and promoted ahead of you.

If you improve your vocabulary, you will (1) improve your SAT score, (2) enter a better college, (3) earn better grades and learn more in college and (4) perform better in your career. If you need to invest more time building your vocabulary, read the following vocabulary-building books, which have examples of words used in context and illuminating explanations:
Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder, 558 pages, $5.99 (publisher’s list price).
1000 Most Important Words by Norman Schur, 245 pages, $5.99.
Click on the above titles to view Amazon.com’s description. Amazon.com pays me a pittance, as an Amazon associate.
In addition to answering more vocabulary questions correctly, answering quickly leaves more time for reading comprehension questions, which have vocabulary embedded in the passages.