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Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Top 100+ SAT Vocabulary Words You Should Know

100+ SAT Vocabulary Words - magoosh

While you may have read that the new SAT doesn’t test vocabulary, this is only partly true. In this post, we’ll look at how SAT vocabulary still crops up on the test, particularly in the Reading and Writing sections. No, you won’t have to define “splendiferous” anymore, but you will need to know, as the test-maker the College Board puts it, “.” What’s that mean? In short, these are words that are likely to crop up in college readings.

To help you master these “high-utility” words, we’ll look at how the SAT tests vocabulary in different sections before zooming in to look at some of the most important words to know for test day, what they mean, and how to use them in context. Finally, you can test your knowledge with our SAT vocab words quiz and download the for future reference.

All of this will give you a boost on test day—not just in terms of Words in Context questions (more on this in a second), but also in terms of your overall reading comprehension and writing abilities. (It won’t hurt your score, either!)


 

Table of Contents

SAT Vocabulary in the Reading Section

Here’s the good news: the post-2016 SAT doesn’t test vocabulary in and of itself. You won’t be asked to define words. And some of the more intense SAT vocab questions haven’t been around since your parents had to take the test. (For example, analogies like ? Come on, we can’t all grow up Kennedys.) On the other hand, having a broad knowledge of words with several different meanings is still important (don’t worry, “regatta” only has one).

Why is it important to know words with different meanings? Because vocabulary is primarily tested (and most directly tested) through the SAT’s Words in Context questions. Yep, in context. This is great news, because it means that you’ll have plenty of clues to help you figure out the answer. However, you’ll have a huge leg up on SAT Reading if you already know the definitions of some of these words.

The College Board provides a great example of what this question is testing. They write:

“Think about the word ‘intense,’ which is a pretty good representative of high-utility academic words and phrases. Maybe you associate this word with emotion or attitude, as in ‘He’s an intense person,’ or perhaps with determination, as in ‘She put forth intense effort in order to do well on the quiz.’ However, neither of these quite matches how ‘intense’ is used in the following excerpt from a longer passage.”

In that instance, they explain:

“… ‘intense’ is more about degree: the clustering of jobs, innovation, and productivity is, according to the author, likely to be denser, or more concentrated in fewer large cities and city-regions, in the coming decades. While prior knowledge of what ‘intense’ often means could be useful here, you’d also have to read and interpret the context in order to determine exactly how the word is being used in this case.”

On the other hand, looking at practice questions, you’ll see that possessing a little more, uh, intense vocabulary (wait, that’s not right) will definitely help you on test day. Take a look at a sample SAT Reading question, also from the College Board:

magoosh sat vocabulary

“Directly” isn’t that tough of a vocabulary word. On the other hand, “frankly” and “mediation” push the level of this question up a little higher. It’s here, in the answers to SAT vocabulary questions, that you’ll find vocabulary study really pays off. That’s not to say that knowing SAT vocab words won’t help you on the rest of this section (and in writing too, for that matter). It’s just that these are the questions that directly test vocabulary.

Tips for Mastering SAT Vocabulary in the Reading Section

  • Develop your knowledge of synonyms as you read materials for school or pleasure. Look up words you don’t know, and define them in terms of words you do know.
  • If you see a word used in a new context (for example, did you know that “keen” can mean to wail in grief when used as a verb?), take notes on the new usage and try to use it in a sentence.
  • As you learn vocabulary words, pick two to three a day to use in conversation. Using words aloud (and defining them if your audience asks you to) is one of the best ways to remember them!
  • Check out the Vocabulary Builder book!
  • Don’t cram—it’s a lot of stress (and it won’t work, anyway)! Slow and steady wins the SAT vocabulary race.

sat vocab words

SAT Vocabulary in the Writing Section

If anything, knowing the definitions of vocabulary words is almost more important on the Writing section (well, okay, it’s as important) as knowing it on the Reading section. Why? Because here, you’re asked to select the best word for a given context. You’re not looking for a synonym; instead, you’re going to find the best word to create the desired meaning.

While this may seem like it’s about grammar rather than vocabulary, it’s actually not. In the College Board’s words,

“It’s worth noting here that these language use questions aren’t directly about grammar, usage, or mechanics. Instead, these questions try to get you to think about how language should be used to accomplish particular writerly aims, such as being clearer, more precise, or more economical.”

Take a look at the following passage, excerpted here from an SAT practice test.

magoosh sat vocabulary

Now take a look at its corresponding SAT vocab question. Don’t let the form of the question scare you! Which of these is the best word for “satiated” in the context of the passage?

magoosh sat vocabulary

Now, can you answer this question without knowing what the three harder vocabulary words (“satiated,” “complacent,” and “sufficient”) mean? Possibly…but probably not. It’s key to know definitions of words in advance so that you can spend your time figuring out the context, rather than trying to figure out what the words mean on test day.

Tips for Mastering SAT Vocabulary in the Writing Section

  • Look back at your old schoolwork and where you may have used more complex vocabulary. Evaluate whether you used these words correctly and, if so, if there are other words that could have worked better. (If not, look ’em up!)
  • Strive to be as precise as possible in your own writing and everyday speech. Think about how using this kind of precise language changes the meaning of what you want to say and how it’s interpreted.
  • As you read, look for examples of vague language or expression and come up with alternatives that the author could have used to make her meaning clearer.
  • Practice for the SAT…and then practice some more!

sat vocab words

100+ SAT Vocab Words

So now that you know the importance of learning SAT words, let’s get right to it! Here are the 100+ most important SAT vocabulary words you’ll need for test day.

WordDefinitionUsed in Sentence
abolishto officially put an end to Abraham Lincoln is perhaps best known for his efforts to abolish slavery.
abruptsudden or curtAlthough she was trying to be nice, her response was still abrupt.
agitationanxiety; the fast stirring of a liquidThe night before the big game, I was in a state of agitation.
alterationchange from a previous normAfter we missed the bus the third time, our homeroom decided that serious alterations in the schedule were needed.
ambiguous open to more than one interpretation; unclearMy teacher's instructions about the paper were ambiguous; nobody knew what to write.
ambivalenthaving mixed feelingsDue to his ambiguous instructions, I had ambivalent feelings about my teacher despite his warm manner.
arcanedifficult to understandI fell asleep moments after I opened the arcane and academic book.
aromatichaving a pleasant smellSmelling aromatic oils can be a good way to reduce stress.
assumptionan idea accepted as fact without proof My mother made the assumption that I wanted to go to State, but she hadn't talked to me first.
begrudgingto envy; to give relucatntlyI begrudged my sister her new laptop, since I hadn't had a new one in three years.
belligerent war-like, inclined to fightIt is hard not to provoke my cat, who is belligerent with all other animals.
biasinclination for or against a group of people or a particular outcomeThe scientific study seemed compelling at first, but eventually scientists found that it showed numerous biases.
characterizedescribe distinctive features; to be typical ofI shouldn't have been surprised that Jess was so spontaneous, since that was characteristic of her.
condescensiondisdainMy father loves to deliver lectures at the dinner table, not realizing how condescending they can make him sound.
consequentlyas a resultI got a C on the midterm; consequently, my final grade will not be higher than a B.
conserveprotectThe importance of conserving our natural environment has become increasingly clear.
contentiouscontroversialRebecca would have become student body president if some of her proposals hadn't been so contentious.
conventionalaligned with general beliefsJake, who won the election, had much more conventional beliefs, in line with what most students thought.
conveyexpressI tried to convey my disappointment to my parents without telling them directly.
corroborateconfirm; supportLucy said that she'd been in the house all day, and her sister corroborated this statement.
corruptdishonest for personal gain Politicians are known for being corrupt, but I think some of them must have more altruistic goals.
counterargumentan argument opposing an idea set forth elsewhereWhile I thought I made a strong case, my debate opponent's counterarguments were just too good.
curtail cut shortMy neighbor had been talking for two hours and eventually, I had to curtail her.
depleteuse upI was only two blocks from home when I realized that I had completely depleted my car's gas supply.
dismaydisappointment and distressMy father was dismayed that I wouldn't attend his alma mater, but I'm happy with my decision.
ebullienthighly enthusiasticLuke laughs a lot at everything; he's always been ebullient.
eloquentwell-spokenVery few presidents have been known for their eloquence, even though they give many speeches.
emergingbeginning; newThe emerging music scene had few followers at the beginning but soon became very popular.
empatheticfeeling sympathy When I volunteered at the hospital, it was hard not to be empathetic to the patients there.
engagementparticipation; an appointmentOne component of our grades would be based on our engagement in class discussions.
enigmatic mysteriousThe enigmatic guy seemed compelling at first, but once the mystery was gone, so was my interest.
entrenchedsolidly establishedIt can be difficult to get rid of deep-rooted, entrenched beliefs, since we often take them for granted.
enumerateto listI didn't think I was late that much, but my mother enumerated many occasions on which I had been.
ephemeral short-livedMy interest in the boy band was embarrassing but thankfully ephemeral.
equivocalvagueMy mother's answer to my question about how she'd met my father was equivocal, and I could tell she was embarrassed by the story.
esotericknown only to a select groupI thought I should have known the book they were discussing, but later I discovered it was esoteric.
exertioneffortRunning a marathon would take so much exertion that I just don't feel up to it.
exhilaratingwildly excitingThe day I got my college acceptance letters was exhilarating.
exoneratefree from blameMy aunt thought I'd taken the car until she saw me in the living room; I was then exonerated.
fastidiousnit-picky, fussing over detailsThere are some typos in my essay; I just hope the teacher isn't too fastidious.
fluctuateto change irregularlyMy grades fluctuated for a while when I was a freshman, but they're consistent now.
foreshadowto allude to coming eventsLooking back, my early interest in dancing foreshadowed my life in my teens.
fundamentallycentrallyFundamentally, I don't believe that certain human rights are up for debate.
garnergatherBefore submitting my applications, I had to garner several letters of recommendation.
garruloustalkativeMy grade would have been better but I was too garrulous in class; my best friend sat beside me and we could never shut up.
gregariousflocking, sociableSometimes I wish I were more gregarious, but I prefer having one or two close friends instead.
hastento do something quicklyRealizing the deadline was the next day, I hastened to put together my application.
hypotheticalbased on a hypothesis; theoreticalHypothetically, I'd love to travel the world, but I don't have the time or money right now.
imperativeabsolutely necessaryThe principal insisted that taking an interest in our classes was imperative to our success.
indifferentexpressing no opinions on a matterThe school newspaper reporter wanted to interview me about the issue, but I wasn't a good source because I was too indifferent.
indigenousnative to a certain areaPlanting indigenous plants is one way to begin setting up a carbon sink.
indiscriminatewithout considerationThere were so many random people at the party that it felt like Tom must have handed out invitations indiscriminately.
indispensablevitalI've found that keeping my planner up to date is an indispensable practice.
indistinctunclearHer voice was indistinct and so I missed most of what she said.
infrastructurethe organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or projectOne major challenge to foreign aid is distributing it, since infrastructure—including roads and local organizations to help with distribution—can be lacking in remote areas.
keeneager; incisive; to wailHe had a keen wit, but sometimes his observations hit too close to home.
magnanimous kind-hearted, likely to forgiveI'd really insulted her, but luckily she was magnanimous and we were soon friends again.
malevolencehostilityI don't think that political campaigns have to be characterized by malevolence, even though many politicians see their opponents as enemies.
melodramaticexaggeratedI wasn't sure how worried I should be, since his stories were always a little melodramatic.
menacinginspiring fearThe grey sky was menacing, and I was sure it would rain later.
modificationchangeI always revise my essays because I find that modifications are usually necessary to make my ideas clear.
naïveinnocent; likely to believe anythingI used to think it was easy to get into a top-10 school, but I was a little naïve.
neglectfail to care forI've never been able to keep a plant alive, mostly because I tend to neglect them.
nullinvalid; related to zeroWe spent years researching the problem only to find that our hypothesis was null.
obsoleteno longer usefulMy dad thought I could use his old word processor without realizing that the technology was totally obsolete.
omnipotencehaving unlimited powerDavid acted like his position as editor gave him omnipotence and was always a little mean to his "subordinates."
opaquenot transparentI really prefer my tights to be opaque, because I hate how shiny the transparent ones can be.
oppressto keep in a state of hardshipWhile we thought our allowances were low, it wasn't as though we were being oppressed.
ornatehighly decoratedMy sister loves having a really ornate holiday season, but I think it's better to be more subdued.
pantheonthe group of gods of a peopleI didn't know about the Greek pantheon until I read about legends containing Zeus.
pendingawaiting decisionEven after three days, I could see that my status hadn't been decided and was still listed as "pending."
preclude to prevent from happeningTo preclude my tendency to procrastinate, I set aside the same hour every day to study.
profuseexcessiveShe thanked me so profusely that it was embarrassing and, after a minute, I had to ask her to stop.
regressionreturn to an earlier stateMy uncle saw my low grade as a regression, but I just saw it as a step in the learning process rather than a set-back.
reinforcestrengthen; back upI studied for the SAT in different ways to reinforce my knowledge.
renderto provide; to makeI was on the fence about which school to attend until one offered me a full scholarship, rendering my indecision a thing of the past.
renounceto declare the abandonment of something formallyAfter the club refused to let Julie in, I renounced my membership in it due to the unfairness of the decision.
repealto revokeOur school tried to pass a strict dress code but soon repealed it when students ignored the guidelines.
reposerestWhen the competition was over, I was exhausted and in desperate need of repose.
reproachexpress disapprovalMy mother's behavior is always perfect, completely beyond reproach.
restorativepossessing characteristics that allow it to return health or well-beingI felt so much better after the restorative massage.
reticentnot saying muchMy cousin can be reticent sometimes, but I know his mind is going a mile a minute.
revererespect deeplyI wouldn't say I revere my teacher, but I do like her a lot.
samplinga representative groupIt turned out that the three people we'd used weren't a representative sampling of the whole group.
scopethe extent to which something is relevantThe comments on my essay were all good except for one which called the evidence "out of scope."
secessionformally withdrawing from membershipThe South's secession from the United States in the 19th century was unprecedented.
selflessunselfishMy sister is entirely selfless and always helps me with anything I ask for.
simulateimitateThe program was meant to simulate what it was like to be in space, but I didn't feel like I was there at all.
soporificcausing sleepThe archane book was so boring that I found it soporific.
spawnproduce, often in terms of offspringHer idea, while later disproven, spawned many more hypotheses that changed the face of science.
spectaclea visually impressive performanceThe play used red and black scenery covered in glitter, making the performance into more of a spectacle than a simple play.
stimulatebuild interest inThe simulation was not at all realistic and failed to stimulate my interest in the subject.
subsequentfollowingWhile I didn't do well on my first paper, I used my teacher's advice on the subsequent essays and got better grades.
supremacypredominance; the state of being in control of all othersOur principal was so kind that nobody ever challenged her supremacy in the school.
synchronizedoccurring at the same timeOur answers were synchronized, as though we'd practiced speaking together.
tenaciousnot giving in easilyI knew that to get into the school of my dreams, I'd have to work long and hard; I'd have to be tenacious.
underminemake less effectiveHer argument seemed compelling, but when I left her house I thought of six examples that would undermine it.
urbanerefined, of the cityGoing to college in New York seemed like a great idea; I thought I'd come back more sophisticated and urbane.
venerabledeserving of respectMy grandfather didn't speak much, but he was wise when he did, making him a venerable figure in our family.
verboseusing too many wordsIf you used all these words in the same sentence, you would definitely be verbose.
vitalitybeing strong and energeticI was exhausted and weak, but a nap soon restored my vitality.
warrantjustification; to justifyAndrew didn't think the punishment was warranted and argued against it successfully.
yieldto produce; to give wayThe apple crop was great this year and yielded way more than we thought it would.

sat vocab words

SAT Word List PDF (100+ SAT Words to Study on the Go)

Don’t know all those SAT words yet? You will soon! Here’s a PDF version of the word list—print it out and review on the bus or during any spare moments!

sat vocab words

SAT Vocab Quiz

Think you know your SAT vocab? Put it to the test!

If you’re studying for the SAT, you may not realize just how important SAT vocabulary is! Our experts have gathered the top 100+ SAT words you should know to make learning them easier. Test out your knowledge of those SAT vocab words in context with this quiz!

 10%

Question 1 of 10

1. Less venerated than his brother John, Robert F. Kennedy nevertheless had a vital impact on American life and justice in the 1960s as Attorney General and later as a Congressman and presidential candidate. Although his service was ephemeral, his impact was not. As Attorney General, Kennedy was known for his unceasing exertion when it came to battles he believed in, including the fight for civil rights. Some accused him of fluctuating in his personal convictions, but what they saw as inconsistency was in fact his willingness to learn and revise his opinions. Not as gregarious as his famous brother, Kennedy nevertheless was able to accomplish a great deal quietly due to his refusal to yield.

As used in sentence 1, “venerated” most nearly means
 
 
 
 
 

Question 1 of 10

Question 2 of 10

2. Less venerated than his brother John, Robert F. Kennedy nevertheless had a vital impact on American life and justice in the 1960s as Attorney General and later as a Congressman and presidential candidate. Although his service was ephemeral, his impact was not. As Attorney General, Kennedy was known for his unceasing exertion when it came to battles he believed in, including the fight for civil rights. Some accused him of fluctuating in his personal convictions, but what they saw as inconsistency was in fact his willingness to learn and revise his opinions. Not as gregarious as his famous brother, Kennedy nevertheless was able to accomplish a great deal quietly due to his refusal to yield.

As used in sentence 2, “ephemeral” most nearly means
 
 
 
 
 

Question 2 of 10

Question 3 of 10

3. Less venerated than his brother John, Robert F. Kennedy nevertheless had a vital impact on American life and justice in the 1960s as Attorney General and later as a Congressman and presidential candidate. Although his service was ephemeral, his impact was not. As Attorney General, Kennedy was known for his unceasing exertion when it came to battles he believed in, including the fight for civil rights. Some accused him of fluctuating in his personal convictions, but what they saw as inconsistency was in fact his willingness to learn and revise his opinions. Not as gregarious as his famous brother, Kennedy nevertheless was able to accomplish a great deal quietly due to his refusal to yield.

As used in sentence 3, “exertion” most nearly means
 
 
 
 
 

Question 3 of 10

Question 4 of 10

4. Less venerated than his brother John, Robert F. Kennedy nevertheless had a vital impact on American life and justice in the 1960s as Attorney General and later as a Congressman and presidential candidate. Although his service was ephemeral, his impact was not. As Attorney General, Kennedy was known for his unceasing exertion when it came to battles he believed in, including the fight for civil rights. Some accused him of fluctuating in his personal convictions, but what they saw as inconsistency was in fact his willingness to learn and revise his opinions. Not as gregarious as his famous brother, Kennedy nevertheless was able to accomplish a great deal quietly due to his refusal to yield.

As used in sentence 4, “fluctuating” most nearly means
 
 
 
 
 

Question 4 of 10

Question 5 of 10

5. Less venerated than his brother John, Robert F. Kennedy nevertheless had a vital impact on American life and justice in the 1960s as Attorney General and later as a Congressman and presidential candidate. Although his service was ephemeral, his impact was not. As Attorney General, Kennedy was known for his unceasing exertion when it came to battles he believed in, including the fight for civil rights. Some accused him of fluctuating in his personal convictions, but what they saw as inconsistency was in fact his willingness to learn and revise his opinions. Not as gregarious as his famous brother, Kennedy nevertheless was able to accomplish a great deal quietly due to his refusal to yield.

As used in sentence 5, “gregarious” most nearly means
 
 
 
 
 

Question 5 of 10

Question 6 of 10

6. Less venerated than his brother John, Robert F. Kennedy nevertheless had a vital impact on American life and justice in the 1960s as Attorney General and later as a Congressman and presidential candidate. Although his service was ephemeral, his impact was not. As Attorney General, Kennedy was known for his unceasing exertion when it came to battles he believed in, including the fight for civil rights. Some accused him of fluctuating in his personal convictions, but what they saw as inconsistency was in fact his willingness to learn and revise his opinions. Not as gregarious as his famous brother, Kennedy nevertheless was able to accomplish a great deal quietly due to his refusal to yield.

As used in sentence 5, “yield” most nearly means
 
 
 
 
 

Question 6 of 10

Question 7 of 10

7. After his brother’s death, Kennedy did not immediately go into politics, [7] guessing that he could only stimulate voter interest because of his family. However, the broad width of problems facing working Americans consistently inspired him to action, and he ran for a Senate seat the following year. Try-hard and fierce, Kennedy fought ceaselessly for social justice as well as an end to the Vietnam War. His selfish nature made him particularly empathetic and sensitive to the suffering of others. Politicians today would do well to follow in his footsteps.
 
 
 
 
 

Question 7 of 10

Question 8 of 10

8. After his brother’s death, Kennedy did not immediately go into politics, guessing that he could only stimulate voter interest because of his family. However, the broad [8] width of problems facing working Americans consistently inspired him to action, and he ran for a Senate seat the following year. Try-hard and fierce, Kennedy fought ceaselessly for social justice as well as an end to the Vietnam War. His selfish nature made him particularly empathetic and sensitive to the suffering of others. Politicians today would do well to follow in his footsteps.
 
 
 
 
 

Question 8 of 10

Question 9 of 10

9. After his brother’s death, Kennedy did not immediately go into politics, guessing that he could only stimulate voter interest because of his family. However, the broad width of problems facing working Americans consistently inspired him to action, and he ran for a Senate seat the following year. [9] Try-hard and fierce, Kennedy fought ceaselessly for social justice as well as an end to the Vietnam War. His selfish nature made him particularly empathetic and sensitive to the suffering of others. Politicians today would do well to follow in his footsteps.
 
 
 
 
 

Question 9 of 10

Question 10 of 10

10. After his brother’s death, Kennedy did not immediately go into politics, guessing that he could only stimulate voter interest because of his family. However, the broad width of problems facing working Americans consistently inspired him to action, and he ran for a Senate seat the following year. Try-hard and fierce, Kennedy fought ceaselessly for social justice as well as an end to the Vietnam War. His [10] selfish nature made him particularly empathetic and sensitive to the suffering of others. Politicians today would do well to follow in his footsteps.
 
 
 
 
 

Question 10 of 10


 

sat vocab words

About Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Rachel is a High School and Graduate Exams blogger at Clemmonsdogpark. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University, an MA from the Université de Paris VII, and a PhD from University College London. She has taught test preparation and consulted on admissions practices for over eight years. Currently, Rachel divides her time between the US and London. Follow Rachel on , or learn more about her writing !


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