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 Jun 18, 2020
SAT Vocabulary List

This is a 750+ word list of the most important vocabulary on the SAT. This list was generated primarily through a careful analysis of words that have appeared on real SAT & PSAT Reading and Writing tests. I’ve also added in other words that appeared often on Old SAT Reading sections. This list should help you with Reading passages and questions, obviously, but also diction and idiom questions on the Writing & Language Test.

While this vocabulary list was designed for SAT students, ACT students can also work through this list if you have the extra time and energy. Expanding your lexicon is good for everyone!

Download SAT Vocab List

Note that base words can appear in different forms in standard usage, for example: magnanimity, magnanimous; cynical, cynicism, cynic, cynically; zealot, zealous, overzealous; etc. I have combined these definitions into one “base word” that can help you figure out the definitions of the others (for example, only “cynical” is listed below).

I did not include definitions because 1) it’s a lot of work for me to write 750+ definitions and 2) it’s better for you to get the definitions yourself. It’s part of the learning process J I recommend using Easy Define (http://www.easydefine.com/) for getting the definitions of these words. Just copy/paste each column and you’ll get the list of definitions.

Words that look like this have multiple shades of meaning, so be thorough when looking up definitions!

I will update this list as the College Board releases more tests.

How to Study Vocabulary

Instructions for finding the definitions of the words are given above. See below for methods & apps for learning these words.

Frequency – I recommend two study sessions, 10-15 minutes each per day, preferably every day though an occasional skipped day is fine. Increase the frequency to 3-4 sessions if you really have to cram short term.

Number of New Words Per Day – If you have >3 months until your next SAT, 10-15 new words per day is a fine pace, especially since you likely already know many of these words. Otherwise, divide 750 by the number of days you have until the test – this is approximately how many new words you’ll need to learn per day. As the days go by, you’ll have to add new words while also reviewing words you’ve already learned to ensure they stick with you. (Note: Anki, a program I discuss below, staggers word frequency for you automatically!)

Study Methods

There is a panoply of apps, websites, and the like that can help you learn words. Here are my favs:

  • Index Cards – This is a good option if you prefer the “old school” method, but it will require you to write down all the words and definitions yourself.
  • Quizlet – A solid website & mobile app for setting up your vocab lists. Be careful when searching for my vocab list on this site – these lists are almost solely Old SAT lists. Better to make your own.
  • Anki – If you want to go hardcore with your studying, use this program. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but the benefits are immense: Anki staggers word frequency to ensure you’re focusing on your weakest words while periodically reviewing your strong words. Super high efficiency studying!

Watch this video for some more explanation on the options available and how to use the Vocab List:

I’m Rob Schombs, cofounder of Brilliant Prep and your test prep tutor. I earned a BA in Chemistry (2006) and an MA in Science and Technology Studies (2009) from Cornell University. I've been teaching the SAT & ACT since 2010.