You may know that studying vocabulary is the number one way to increase your Critical Reading score on the SAT—but have you found the vocab study plan that’s right for you? Here are some tips to make the most of your memorization strategies!
1) Use flashcards!
I hated them as a student and preferred to keep a vocabulary journal—but as a tutor, I totally understand why they’re useful. First of all, there’s something to be said for the physical act of writing down words, their definitions, and sentences of your own devising to help personalize those words. It’s been proven that you’re more likely to remember something you write down (and then read aloud) because you’re channelling that information through your mind and body. The physical act of writing and speaking, as well as manipulating the flashcards, helps integrate the new vocabulary into your long-term memory. Having someone else quiz you is also very wise. There’s a free app for the iPhone and iPad called Quizlet that can help you make flashcards, if you insist on going digital.
Also make sure to enroll in our Conquer SAT Vocabulary video course for more in-depth flashcard tips from a perfect-scoring pro tutor!
2) Don’t be a robot!
Allow yourself to feel the words. As an actor, robotically reciting lines over and over again does little to no good, because when the time comes to say the line with the emotion it requires, you draw a blank. The same is true for vocabulary that’s memorized without any personal connection to it. When you memorize a word, imagine a scenario in which you might say or write the word. Think of how it applies to your life—does it describe you or someone you know? Making it personal makes it memorable. Taking the time to create your own sentences also does wonders for retention.
3) Allow yourself to forget and (re-)remember.
Maybe start with making 10 flashcards and studying them. The next day, make 10 more and study those. Return to the first 10 on the third day to see what you’ve forgotten. The process of forgetting and (re-)remembering may seem counterintuitive, but what it’s doing is deepening the neural pathways where learned information becomes ingrained. Imagine you forgot a loved one’s birthday. After being reminded, you’re less likely to forget, right? Apply this lesson to vocabulary.
4) Label words as “Learned,” “Reviewing,” or “Learning.”
Words you come across that you don’t know are marked as “Learning.” Once you begin to get a feel for their meanings, you’re then “Reviewing” them. When you can recall their definitions on the spot time and again, mark them as “Learned.” This allows you to concentrate on new words and review them, while also returning to that which you’ve already mastered just to be certain you haven’t yet lost it.
5) Practice daily.
The great American poet, novelist, and essayist, William Carlos Williams, had a pretty demanding day job. He was a pediatrician and delivered thousands of babies. In his autobiography, reflecting on how he was able to write dozens of books amounting to thousands of pages, he writes that “Five or ten minutes can always be found.” Make this your mantra! Being busy’s no excuse. Five or ten minutes can always be found. Even if you learn one word a day, at least you’re learning. If you have to, get your vocab on your smartphone. Use it to get smarter!
By developing a daily vocab practice, you’re doing yourself a huge favor. Reward yourself when you complete your vocab study. You deserve it.
For more pro tips on SAT vocab, enroll in this video course!
Conquer SAT Vocabulary Video Course