Vocabulary Builder
Real SAT Word Lists
Word lists have two main advantages: they are easy to find and easy to use. However, each advantage hides a significant disadvantage. We’ll examine their ubiquity first (yes, that’s a good word to look up!). SAT vocabulary lists are everywhere. But most are created simply by reusing a GRE or LSAT list or by simply compiling what seem to be “hard” words the SAT might use.
The following list of 92 words is different. It was constructed by counting how many times words appeared on publicly released SAT tests between 1995 and 2002. Our sample consists of words used as answer choices in Analogies, Sentence Completions, and Vocabulary-in-Context items. These 92 words or word groups have appeared at least four times since 1995. While past appearance is no guarantee of future appearance, the following list will at least give you an idea of the level of vocabulary difficulty on recent SAT tests.
We eliminated one major disadvantage to SAT word lists: unlike many—if not most—of the lists out there, ours is based on an actual frequency analysis of recent SAT tests. Unfortunately, we can’t help you with the other disadvantages.
Like we said, lists are easy to use. You just cover up one side, and you’re off! Use the definitions to name the words or, using the words, provide definitions. What could possibly be wrong with that? Allow us to list the many disadvantages.
Why Not to Use Word Lists
  1. Lists (including the one following) cannot provide all possible meanings for the words they provide. Only a dictionary can do that, and SAT vocabulary questions often turn on secondary or even tertiary (again, a good SAT word!) meanings.
  2. When you learn from a list, your memory of the order in which the words appear in the list can interfere with your memorization of their definitions.
  3. Furthermore, this “false context” of order is the only one a list can provide. “True contexts,” such as “words that all mean ‘hatefulness,’” are impossible, since you can’t reshuffle a printed list.
  4. There’s a tendency to look at any list as “everything you could ever possibly need to know,” and thus a temptation to eschew (look it up!) all other methods for building vocabulary. In that case, you’re only as good as your list. Our list is as good as it gets, but it’s still only 92 words.
  5. Even the best list can only help you learn the words it contains, since you’re learning individual words.
Given these disadvantages, we strongly suggest that you do not study directly from the following list. We suggest, rather, that you turn this list into the nucleus of your flashcard collection. Skim this list quickly: we’ll meet you on the other side for a discussion on the great advantages of creating and using flashcards.
Real SAT Vocabulary List
Word or Word Group Definition
abandoned v: to give oneself up to (e.g., evil); to cast off or reject
accusation (accuse) n: an indictment, a charge of an offense; the act of accusing
ambiguity (ambiguous) n: hesitation, doubt; an uncertainty; an instance of double meaning
analyze (analyst) v: to examine critically in order to bring out key elements or structure; to ascertain the elements of something
antagonize (-ism, -istic, -ist) v: to struggle against
apology (apologize, apologetic) n: an acknowledgment of fault or failure
architect (architecture) n: a designer of any complex structure or plan
astute adj: shrewd, crafty
blueprint n: a plan or program of action
boundary n: something that marks the limit or dividing line, or that limit itself
canvas n: a type of cloth used in sails, tents, to paint onv: to solicit support or votes
comic (comedy, comedian) adj: causing or intended to cause laughter
compassion (-ate) n: sympathy, pity
compete (competition, competitive) v: to strive for an objective
complex (complexity) n: a group of related elementsadj: formed by combination; intricate or not easily analyzed
comprehensive adj: large in scope; all-inclusive
compromise n: a joint agreement between two partiesv: to come to terms by mutual concessions
condemn (condemnation) v: to declare to be wrong or evil
conflict n: a battle, a fightv: to fight or to battle
confusion (confused) n: the state of being perplexed
consensus n: agreement or unity of opinion
contemporary adj: occurring at the same time
contempt (contemptuous) n: the act of despising someone or something
convention (conventional) n: an agreement; a norm or generally accepted rule, practice, or behavior; an assembly of people
conversation n: a spoken interchange; a talk
corrective (correct, correction) n: something that counteracts harm; something that restores health or proper behavior
critic (critical, criticism, criticize) n: one who judges the truth or value of any matter
debate (debatable) n: strife or contention in argumentv: to argue, discuss, quarrel over
deceit (deceitful, deceive) n: misrepresentation or concealment of the truth; an instance of such behavior
defend v: to protect or uphold
defined (definable, definition) adj: having a specified outline or form
demand n: a request, especially if urgentv: to ask for or require
deride v: to laugh mockingly at; to scorn
desert v: to abandon
destroy (destruction) v: to ruin or put out of existence
determined adj: resolved upon; resolute
digress (digression) v: to deviate from or to stray; to depart from the main point in argument
discredit n: a lack of reputation; a loss or lack of confidence or trustv: to injure the reputation of; to disbelieve
disease n: illness
disregard v: to pay no attention to
distort (distortion) v: to twist; to misrepresent
document v: to prove by evidence
dominate (dominance, dominant) v: to master; to prevail
doubt (doubtful) n: uncertaintyv: to hesitate to believe; to be uncertain
elect (election, electorate) v: to choosen: chosen, selected
emotion n: a state of mind; a strong feeling
endurance (endure) n: the ability to last or hold out
enhance v: to raise the level of
evaporate (evaporation) v: to convert into gas; to disappear
exclude (exclusive) v: to keep out; to deny entry to
expand (expansion) v: to spread out; to give full expression to
generosity (generous) adj: magnanimity; liberality in giving
hedonism (hedonist, hedonistic) n: the love of pleasure as the chief goal of life
hypocrisy (hypocrite, hypocritical) n: the practice of falsely professing a belief to which one’s own actions do not conform
hypothesis n: a proposition or assumption put forth as the basis for further investigation
illusory (illusion) adj: deceptive
imitate (imitation) v: to mimic or copy
integrity n: completeness; free from moral corruption
investigate (investigation, investigator) v: to examine a matter thoroughly; to make a systematic search
isolation (isolated) n: unconnected with anything else
lubricate (lubricant) v: to make slippery or smooth in order to minimize friction
manual adj: pertaining to hands, especially labor done by handn: a book of instruction
measure n: a size or quantity determined by measuring; something assessed by judgment or observationv: to ascertain size, quantity, or distance; to regulate or restrain
modest (modesty) adj: having a moderate estimate of one’s ability; not exaggerated or excessive
narrate (narrative, narrator) v: to tell a story
navigate (navigable, navigation) v: to find one’s way
neglect (negligence, negligent) v: to pay no or insufficient attention to
novel (novelty, novelist) v: new, originaln: a usually long prose narrative
obey (obedience) v: to comply with or submit to
observe (observable, observation) v: to watch carefully; to adhere to (e.g., a custom)
offense (offensive) n: an attack; a breach of law, duty, or manners
oppose (opponent, opposition) v: to set oneself against; to confront with objections
perplex (perplexing, perplexity) v: to confuse; to torment
persistent (persistence) adj: enduring; persisting in an action
persuade (persuasive) v: to successfully talk someone into an action or belief
plot n: a small piece of ground; a plan; a conspiracyv: to plan, especially a conspiracy
preserve v: to keep from harm
progress (progressive) n: advancement; developmentv: to proceed; to move by stages; to move forward
prohibitive (prohibit) adj: having the quality of preventing something from happening
prosaic (prose) adj: commonplace, dull
protagonist n: the chief person in a work of fiction; the leading person in a contest
restrain (restraint, restrained) v: to prevent from doing something; to limit
revise (revision) v: to look over repeatedly, as in a plan or piece of writing
satisfactory (satisfy) adj: sufficient, adequate
scrutinize v: to inspect closely; to examine methodically
stimulate (stimulant, stimulation, stimulus) v: to rouse to action; to animate
supplant v: to cause the downfall of; to remove from a position
suppress v: to cause an activity to cease; to cause a person to become powerless
surreptitious adj: obtained by suppression of the truth; acting stealthily or secretly
universal adj: applicable in all cases; including or affecting all members of a particular group; pertaining to the universe
varied adj: of different sorts or kinds
venerate (venerable, venerability) v: to regard with deep respect; to pay honor to something
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