The New SAT: Ace the Verbal Section

Tuesday, January 19, 2016 -- Scott Sterling

The approach to vocabulary has changed in 2016’s redesigned SAT test. Gone is the rote memorization of high-dollar words that rarely appear in common speech. Instead, the College Board has decided that vocabulary will be addressed in context and focus on words that usually have multiple meanings.

Believe it or not, this opens up a lot more studying options than the previous approach. Methods of preparation that not only aid with vocabulary but also the other facets of the SAT verbal section can replace endless note cards.

Read widely

Because vocab is now contextual, your most effective preparation is to read. A lot. And because the words might have multiple meanings, you need to read from various sources.

For example, if you only read National Geographic, you will probably only encounter certain words’ scientific meanings. Finding the same word in The Economist or Time might give you more practice.

Forget the hard words

Linguists divide words into three tiers based on their amount of usage. Tier 1 words are the most common while Tier 3 are rarely used outside of specialized circles. The new SAT focuses on Tier 2 words, which are considered challenging but frequently seen. These words might also have multiple meanings, adding to their rate of usage.

Those SAT vocab lists filled with obscure words are now obsolete. That’s not to say notecards or flashcards are a useful study tool to gain familiarity with Tier 2 words; just make sure to put all of a word’s meanings on the card.

Use all of the tools the College Board provides

Test preparation companies are figuring out ways to modify their offerings for the new SAT test, and many of these resources are very useful preparation tools. However, the College Board has also released some information about what the new verbal questions look like, which offers the best insight into how the new test’s verbal section will really be presented.

One of their main examples focuses on the word “intense”, a classic Tier 2 word. It gives a passage from a non-fiction source and asks which meaning of “intense” is used. All four of the possible answers are accepted meanings of the word, but only one is correct in context.

In other questions, test-takers will be given a passage to that must be used to justify their answer about the meaning of a word. Practicing contextual reading from a variety of sources is very helpful for developing this skill.

Looking for an online tool to help your students prepare for the new SAT exam? Check out Edmentum’s solutions for College and Career Readiness with Plato Courseware and Study Island!

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