Reading and Dictionary Use
You’ll need a good dictionary in order to:
- Flesh out your 92 word flashcard definitions
- Create new word flashcards
- Create new word-part flashcards (a good dictionary contains
entries for roots, suffixes, and prefixes)
You’ll also need to use a good dictionary in conjunction
with the last and least painful method for building vocabulary:
Everyone has interests. Somewhere, either online or in
print form, you can find well-written prose on your topic of interest.
Some suggested sources for good prose include the New York
Times, the Washington Post, Harper’s,
the Atlantic Monthly, the Nation,
the Economist, and the Wall Street Journal.
Make sure you read a little bit every day, whether for schoolwork,
for pleasure, or just for SAT preparation. Get in the habit of noting
all unfamiliar words. Try to work out their meaning through context
clues, word parts, or your knowledge of foreign languages. But don’t stop
there: at the end of every day (if you have an iron will) or every week
(if you’re like the rest of us), look these words up in the dictionary and
make new flashcards for them. Take every opportunity to lock down the
meanings of unfamiliar words. This can and should be the beginning of
a lifelong practice that will enrich your life.
What makes for a good dictionary? Here’s a good rule of
thumb: if the dictionary is big enough to act as a doorstop, you’re
probably okay. Two suggestions: the American Heritage College
Dictionary and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. For
those who want the near-ultimate, purchase the New Shorter
Oxford English Dictionary as a book or on CD-ROM. The ultimate
is the multivolume (or multidisc) Oxford English Dictionary,
which costs hundreds of dollars and is definitely overkill for SAT preparation.
The OED is catnip to philologists—can
you figure out the meaning of this word from the lists above? The
more words a dictionary has, and the more it has to say about each
word, the better it is.