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250+ SAT Vocabulary Words Every High School Student Should Know 

250+ SAT Vocabulary Words Every High School Student Should Know

The SAT is one of the most popular college-preparatory tests administered by the College Board. Millions of high school students decide between the equally popular ACT or the SAT (some even take both) to improve their chances of gaining admittance into their dream colleges. While both tests are designed to determine how ready a student is to take on college-level material and subjects, there are slight differences between the two. One of the primary differences between the SAT and ACT is that the latter seems to favor students who have strong writing and reading skills, leading many to incorrectly assume that the former doesn’t touch much on vocabulary.

Dictionary in the table

When searching for study tools and resources, it can be difficult to know what areas on which to focus. IvyCollegeAdmit encourages students to break down their preparation into different areas. For example, since a good portion of the SAT focuses on your ability to recall the definition of words and/or pull meanings from context, it’s helpful to dedicate a portion of your preparation to vocab specifically. While it’s not plausible (one of the SAT vocab words!) to study EVERY word that might appear on the test, we’ve narrowed down more than 250 of the most common and popular SAT words to better help you prepare.

How does the SAT test vocabulary?

In 2016, the SAT test underwent some significant changes. Ever since these modifications, vocabulary has been treated with less importance. The most obvious manifestation of this change is that the newer version of the SAT has fewer vocabulary-related questions than the older version.

While some students might be making a dramatic gesture of success with their fists, this lack of stress on vocabulary doesn’t mean you can go without preparing for vocabulary for the SAT. If you’re aiming for a high or even a perfect score, studying common vocab words will still be an important part of preparing for the SAT.

SAT Vocabulary Words

In general, most of the vocabulary words found on the SAT test are medium in difficulty. They’re tested within the context of passages, assessing the ability for students to pick out the meaning with a certain context. While this makes it easier to remember a meaning than just being prompted with a word, you’ll still have to harbor an understanding of the various nuances of a particular word to perform well.

Context clues are more common in the current SAT, making pure memorization not as important. In the past, you would have to remember more difficult words and remember definitions with only a short sentence as a prompt. This minimal context really made vocabulary a difficult portion of the SAT. Fortunately, the current version offers students much more context and clarity as to the use of the words.

What words should I study for the SAT?

While it’s impossible to know all of the words you’ll come across on the test, there have been enough iterations of the test for the public to get an accurate grasp on the types of words being used and the accompanying level of difficulty. Although students will undoubtedly find some words easier than others, the SAT vocabulary doesn’t really jump around in terms of difficulty. While reading SAT-related material, practicing with official study guides, and taking previously-administered tests is helpful for preparing for SAT vocabulary, the best practice is to simply read through common questions and their definitions. Below, we’ve provided you with over 250 SAT vocabulary words that every high school student should know.

Abateto become less intense or widespread
Abstractexisting in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence
Abysmalvery bad
Accordinglyto be in accordance with
Acquisitionthe process of gaining possession of something
Adaptto make (something) suitable for a new use or purpose; modify
Adepthaving skill in a particular area
Adequatesatisfactory or acceptable in quality or quantity.
Adventthe arrival of a notable person or thing.
Adversarialinvolving or characterized by conflict or opposition.
Advocatea person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy.
Aestheticconcerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty.
Affordhave enough money to pay for.
Agitatecampaign to arouse public concern about an issue in the hope of prompting action.
Allowlet (someone) have or do something.
Alludesuggest or call attention to indirectly; hint at.
Altercationa noisy argument or disagreement, especially in public.
Ambiguousopen to more than one interpretation; not having one obvious meaning.
Ambitioushaving or showing a strong desire and determination to succeed.
Ambivalencethe state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone.
Analogouscomparable in certain respects, typically in a way that makes clearer the nature of the things compared.
Annihilatedestroy utterly; obliterate.
Anomalysomething that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected.
Anticipateregard as probable; expect or predict.
Antipathya deep-seated feeling of aversion.
Apexthe top or highest part of something, especially one forming a point
Apprehensionanxiety or fear that something bad or unpleasant will happen.
Articulatehaving or showing the ability to speak fluently and coherently.
Artificialmade or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, especially as a copy of something natural.
Assertiona confident and forceful statement of fact or belief.
Austeresevere or strict in manner or attitude.
Authenticitythe quality of being authentic.
Avenuea way of approaching a problem
Avidhaving an eager desire for
Basicforming an essential foundation or starting point; fundamental.
Bearcarry or conduct oneself in a specified manner
Benevolentwell-meaning and kindly.
Biasinclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair.
Bittersweetarousing pleasure tinged with sadness or pain.
Bolstersupport or strengthen.
Boostencourage (something) to increase or improve
Brawla rough or noisy fight or quarrel.
Brevitythe concise and exact use of words in writing or speech.
Candidtruthful and straightforward; frank.
Candorthe characteristic of being honest
Capitalizeto take advantage of
Captureto take possession of
Civicrelating to citizens or a city
Clinicalemotionally attached
Cloutspecial power or advantage
Coarselacking sophistication or refinement
Coincideto occur simultaneously
Commissionan instruction, command, or role given to a person or group.
Comparableability to be compared
Competentefficient and qualified
Complacentsatisfied; no desire to improve
Complementto make complete or perfect
Concedesurrender or yield
Conceiveto come up with
Condoneto allow or overlook
Conduciveto be suitable to bring something about
Conductto manage or control; to behave in a particular way
Confideto trust someone with secrets
Confineto limit something
Consensusa majority agreement
Constituteto make up parts of something
Contemplatethink deeply and at length
Contendto assert or maintain an opinion
Contradictto be in contrast with
Controversialgiving rise or likely to give rise to controversy or public disagreement.
Conventionalfollowing accepted standards
Conveyto transfer information
Convictionbelieving firmly in something
Corroborateto provide evidence for a claim
Counteractto work against
Counterargumentan argument used to diminish another
Counterproductivehaving the opposite of the desired effect.
Culminationthe climax
Cultivateto foster
Decreeto declare something formally
Deferenceregard; respect
Deficientnot a sufficient amount
Demonstrateto provide evidence for something
Demurraise objections or show reluctance.
Depleteto use something over time
Desolateempty, barren
Deviseto develop a plan
Dilemmaa problem
Diligencecareful and persistent work or effort.
Diminishmake or become less
Direextremely serious or urgent
Disdainstrong dislike
Dismaystress, hopelessness
Disparageto talk down to
Dispatchto send a messenger or message
Diversificationthe process of becoming diverse
Doctrinea position or theory
Dominionauthority and power
Drearydull, sad
Dubiousquestionable, doubtful
Eccentricodd or peculiar
Egregiousvery bad
Eloquentfluent or persuasive in speaking or writing.
Eminentdistinguished or superior
Emitto release, discharge
Emphaticusing emphasis, expressive
Empiricalbased on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic
Endowto bestow or equip
Endureto sustain or withstand against
Entailto include or involve
Entrenchedfirmly established and difficult or unlikely to change
Enumerateto count
Envyjealousy to an excessive degree
Erraticnot even or regular in pattern or movement; unpredictable.
Establishto enact or to found
Evokebring or recall (a feeling, memory, or image) to the conscious mind.
Exacerbateto make something worse
Excelto be successful at something
Exertto put something into use
Exhilaratingexciting, stimulating
Expendto use up
Exploitmake full use of and derive benefit from
Facilitateto make a process easier
Feasibilitythe possibility of something
Ferocityviolence, viciousness
Fiscalof or relating to money
Flourishto grow, prosper (esp quickly)
Fluctuateto rise and fall in an irregular pattern
Fomentto stir up or instigate
Foreseeablecapable of being anticipated
Franklyclearly, directly
Fundamentalthe most basic component
Galvanizingstimulating, exciting
Geriatricrelating to old people, especially with regard to their healthcare.
Hostiledangerous, harmful
Ignominiousdeserving or causing public disgrace or shame.
Impartto bestow or transmit
Impartialitytreating all rivals equally
Imposingimpressive in size or appearance
Impositionan unwelcome and unfair burden
Imprudentrash, not cautious
Inciteto stir up or excite
Indifferenceemotional detachment
Indulgeto give into something
Inferto guess through reasoning
Innovativenew or novel
Insatiableunable to be satisfied
Inversionthe reversal of something
Invoketo appeal to or call upon
Irreconcilableincapable of being resolved
Lamentto mourn
Maliciousspiteful, harmful
Malleablecapable of being changed
Melodramaticexaggerated or extravagant
Modesthumble and simple
Modifyto alter, tweak, or change
Momentoussignificant in a historical context
Novelinnovative, new
Nuancea subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound.
Nullineffective, legally void
Objectivitythe quality of being objective; impartial
Obsoleteuncommon or rare
Onsetthe early stages of something
Opineto formally state an opinion
Ornatehighly decorated
Oustto force out of
Paramountmost important, superior
Peculiarbizarre, strange
Perishto pass away; to die
Persecuteharass or annoy persistently.
Petulantirritable, pouty
Pinnaclehighest degree
Pitiablearousing pity
Plausiblepossibly true
Postulateto assert
Potenthaving a strong influence
Pragmaticuseful, practical
Precedentan example from the previous time
Predecessora person or thing that comes before another
Prescribeto command orders
Principlen. basic truth, assumption, or rule
Prohibitto ban
Promulgateformally declare
Prosecuteto put on trial
Provocativearouse, inspire
Qualitativemeasuring the quality of something
Quantitativemeasuring the amount of something
Quirka strange trait or characteristic
Ramifyto form branches
Rashdone without regard to consequences
Readilywithout delay
Reconsiderationthinking again
Reforman improvement
Refuteto prove to be incorrect
Reinforceto support
Reluctantlysomewhat unwillingly
Renounceto give up
Reproachto critique
Repudiateto refuse to acknowledge as true
Retentionthe continued control or possession of something
Savvypractical knowledge
Scandalousmorally offensive
Scorna feeling of disdain
Scrupulouscareful, thorough
Scrutinizeto examine critically
Secreteto release or produce
Sheervery thin
Simplenot complex
Sinisterevil, ominous
Solidaritycommon purpose amongst a group
Sparinglyin a restricted manner
Spawnto generate
Spurto incite
Squalidsordid, run-down
Starkvery plain
Staticchangeless; motionless
Subordinateto be lower in rank
Subsequentlyhappening after something
Substantialvery large in degree or amount
Substantiateto make stronger with evidence
Subtledifficult to detect
Surmountto overcome
Susceptibleto be vulnerable
Tactfulcapable of dealing with people
Tautpulled tight
Teemingto be full of
Temperamentusual feelings or mood
Tentativenot certain or fixed
Transparenteasy to perceive; see-through
Treacherousunstable and dangerous
Tremendousvery great in amount, scale, or intensity
Ubiquitousfound everywhere
Unadornedplain, undecorated
Undermineto weaken gradually
Underscoreto emphasize
Undulateto move in a wavy pattern
Unjustnot justified
Unmitigatedtotal, utter
Unprecedentedentirely new
Unveilto reveal
Urgetry earnestly or persistently to persuade (someone) to do something
Validatecheck or prove the validity or accuracy of
Viabilityability to work successfully
Vitalabsolutely necessary; essential
Vowa solemn promise
Warrantjustification or authority for an action, belief, or feeling
Yieldproduce or generate (a result, gain, or financial return).

Tips for studying and memorizing SAT vocab words

1. Rehearse with flashcards – Flashcards are an incredibly effective way of studying and memorizing vocabulary. Not only does this method make it easy to keep the material organized, but it’s also a convenient way to study on the go and for any length of time. While writing out your own flashcards could be a helpful exercise, many students will opt to use online resources like Quizlet to organize SAT vocab words. You can even download apps to study this content on your phone.

Rehearse with flashcards

2. Practice with friends – If practicing on your own gets too tedious, meet up with some friends or hop on the phone to quiz each other. You can help each other with new memorization techniques and encourage each other to study more. The extra competition will light a spark of enthusiasm too.

dictionary in a table

3. Use SAT study guides – There are countless SAT study guides designed to help students prepare for the exam. These resources can be found both online and offline and for free or by payment. When using these guides, just make sure they’re up-to-date to reflect the most recent changes made to the SAT.

students reading in the library

IvyCollegeAdmit is here to help

With an excellent track record of helping students get into some of the best colleges in the country, the IvyCollegeAdmit team knows what it takes to successfully prepare and score excellently on the SAT. We wouldn’t be admissions experts (which we are!) without a deep understanding of this college-prep exam. Feel free to connect with us today to learn about what we offer.




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