How To Improve Vocabulary & Reading Comprehension

vocabularyTo some high school students, learning new vocabulary is instilled as a natural instinct and memorization is no problem.  To most high school students, memorizing vocabulary seems to be an unsuccessful battle between a lack of motivation and easy confusion.  When under the pressure to learn hundreds of vocabulary words for tests like the SAT or ACT, students ability to retain vocabulary words is under stress and the information is easily mixed up in a student’s memorization efforts.  There is no denying how important vocabulary is in achieving your very best score on standardized tests.  Even our SSAT students are required to retain a plethora of English vocabulary words.  Like our PSAT students, some SSAT students are just getting started on learning the depth of the English language.  Regardless of what kind of student you are, not everyone can know all of the words, all of the time.  The best way to learn vocabulary is to make vocabulary a part of your day-to-day life.  Improving your vocabulary skills will, in turn, help your reading comprehension.  Here’s how…

Word of the Day Challenges

Begin by learning a new word every day to improve your test prep success.  Make your vocabulary test prep part of your every day life in a variety of ways, such as:

  1. Buy a Word of the Day calendar
  2. Subscribe to the Word of the Day at
  3. Follow SAT Preparation Group on Facebook, Google+, or Tumblr for interactive, daily Vocabulary flashcards and questions

Get Lost!

  1. Make a list of different subjects you’re passionate about and GET LOST in academic research.
  2. Research online journals, articles, and accredited websites (such as .edu or .org) to research a variety of information.
  3. Reserve books at your local library to help teach you about things you’re interested in or show you a fine example of a book genre you’re passionate about.
  4. In all cases, read about something you’re passionate about and pay attention to new words and word roots.

Keep a Journal

In your word of the day challenges, reading, and research, keep a journal of any words you didn’t already know.  In your journal, write down the vocabulary word, three synonyms, and a definition in your own words.  Then draw a picture that correlates with a sample sentence using the vocabulary word.  This will help you remember the word.  As you get closer to taking the SAT, ACT, or SSAT, study your vocabulary journal regularly.

Vocabulary Journal Entry Example:

Rectitude (noun) – a person who thinks and acts on good values; a good person.

Synonyms:  Integrity, Moral, Righteous

Sample Sentence:  “My friend Maddie is a good example and a model of rectitude behavior.”


Building a strong repertoire of vocabulary words is just one way of improving test scores for tests like the PSAT, SAT, or ACT.  Likewise, building your vocabulary skills will ensure a more noticeable SSAT score for entrance to the college or your dreams!  Understanding more about words, word-roots, and word meanings will help you, as a student, to decipher unfamiliar words on the test.

While there are plenty of ways to challenge your vocabulary, these are three easy ways to implement vocabulary learning into your every day life while improving your reading comprehension.  By improving your vocabulary and reading skills, your reading and writing scores for tests like the SAT, ACT, or SSAT will dramatically improve!

Learn Word Roots and Prefixes

Root or Prefix Meaning Examples
a, an not, without atheist, anarchy, anonymous apathy, aphasia, anemia
ab away from absent, abduction, aberrant, abstemious
ambul to walk ambulatory, amble, ambulance, somnambulist
ante before anteroom, antebellum, antedate antecedent, antediluvian
anti, ant against, opposite antisocial, antiseptic, antithesis, antibody, antichrist, antinomies, antifreeze, antipathy, antigen, antibiotic
audi to hear audience, auditory, audible, auditorium, audiovisual, audition
be thoroughly bedecked, besmirch, besprinkled
auto self automobile, automatic, autograph, autonomous, autoimmune
bene good, well benefactor, beneficial, benevolent, benediction, beneficiary, benefit
cede, ceed, cess to go, to yield succeed, proceed, precede, recede, secession, exceed, succession
chron time chronology, chronic, chronicle chronometer, anachronism
cide, cis to kill, to cut fratricide, suicide, incision, excision, circumcision
circum around circumnavigate, circumflex, circumstance, circumcision, circumference, circumorbital, circumlocution, circumvent, circumscribe, circulatory
clud, clus claus to close include, exclude, clause, claustrophobia, enclose, exclusive, reclusive, conclude
con, com with, together convene, compress, contemporary, converge, compact, confluence, concatenate, conjoin, combine
contra, counter against, opposite contradict, counteract, contravene, contrary, counterspy, contrapuntal
cred to believe credo, credible, credence, credit, credential, credulity, incredulous
cycl circle, wheel bicycle, cyclical, cycle, encliclical
de from, down, away detach, deploy, derange, deodorize, devoid, deflate, degenerate, deice
dei, div God, god divinity, divine, deity, divination, deify
demo people democracy, demagogue, epidemic
dia through, across, between diameter, diagonal, dialogue dialect, dialectic, diagnosis, diachronic
dict speak predict, verdict, malediction, dictionary, dictate, dictum, diction, indict
dis, dys, dif away, not, negative dismiss, differ, disallow, disperse, dissuade, disconnect, dysfunction, disproportion, disrespect, distemper, distaste, disarray, dyslexia
duc, duct to lead, pull produce, abduct, product, transducer, viaduct, aqueduct, induct, deduct, reduce, induce
dyn, dyna power dynamic, dynamometer, heterodyne, dynamite, dynamo, dynasty
ecto outside, external ectomorph, ectoderm, ectoplasm, ectopic, ectothermal
endo inside, withing endotoxin, endoscope, endogenous
equi equal equidistant, equilateral, equilibrium, equinox, equitable, equation, equator
e, ex out, away, from emit, expulsion, exhale, exit, express, exclusive, enervate, exceed, explosion
exter, extra outside of external, extrinsic, exterior extraordinary, extrabiblical extracurricular, extrapolate, extraneous
flu, flux flow effluence, influence, effluvium, fluctuate, confluence, reflux, influx
flect, flex to bend flexible, reflection, deflect, circumflex
graph, gram to write polygraph, grammar, biography, graphite, telegram, autograph, lithograph, historiography, graphic
hetero other heterodox, heterogeneous, heterosexual, heterodyne
homo same homogenized, homosexual, homonym, homophone
hyper over, above hyperactive, hypertensive, hyperbolic, hypersensitive, hyperventilate, hyperkinetic
hypo below, less than hypotension, hypodermic, hypoglycemia, hypoallergenic
in, im not inviolate, innocuous, intractable, innocent, impregnable, impossible
infra beneath infrared, infrastructure
inter, intro between international, intercept, intermission, interoffice, internal, intermittent, introvert, introduce
intra within, into intranet, intracranial, intravenous
jac, ject to throw reject, eject, project, trajectory, interject, dejected, inject, ejaculate
mal bad, badly malformation, maladjusted, dismal, malady, malcontent, malfeasance, maleficent
mega great, million megaphone, megalomaniac, megabyte, megalopolis
meso middle mesomorph, mesoamerica, mesosphere
meta beyond, change metaphor, metamorphosis, metabolism, metahistorical, metainformation
meter measure perimeter, micrometer, ammeter, multimeter, altimeter
micro small microscope, microprocessor, microfiche, micrometer, micrograph
mis bad, badly misinform, misinterpret, mispronounce, misnomer, mistake, misogynist
mit, miss to send transmit, permit, missile, missionary, remit, admit, missive, mission
morph shape polymorphic, morpheme, amorphous
multi many multitude, multipartite, multiply, multipurpose
neo new neologism, neonate, neoclassic, neophyte
non not nonferrous, nonabrasive, nondescript
omni all omnipotent, omnivorous, omniscient
para beside paraprofessional, paramedic, paraphrase, parachute
per through, intensive permit, perspire, perforate, persuade
peri around periscope, perimeter, perigee, periodontal
phon sound telephone, phonics, phonograph, phonetic, homophone, microphone
phot light photograph, photosynthesis, photon
poly many polytheist, polygon, polygamy, polymorphous
port to carry porter, portable, report, transportation, deport, import, export
re back, again report, realign, retract, revise, regain
retro backwards retrorocket, retrospect, retrogression, retroactive
sanct holy sanctify, sanctuary, sanction, sanctimonious, sacrosanct
scrib, script to write inscription, prescribe, proscribe, manuscript, conscript, scribble, scribe
sect, sec cut intersect, transect, dissect, secant, section
semi half semifinal, semiconscious, semiannual, semimonthly, semicircle
spect to look inspect, spectator, circumspect, retrospect, prospect, spectacle
sub under, below submerge, submarine, substandard, subnormal, subvert
super, supra above superior, suprarenal, superscript, supernatural, supercede
syn together synthesis, synchronous, syndicate
tele distance, from afar television, telephone, telegraph, telemetry
theo, the God theology, theist, polytheist
therm, thermo heat thermal, thermometer, thermocouple, thermodynamic, thermoelectric
tract to drag, draw attract, tractor, traction, extract, retract, protract, detract, subtract, contract, intractable
trans across transoceanic, transmit, transport, transducer
un not uncooked, unharmed, unintended
veh, vect to carry vector, vehicle, convection, vehement
vert, vers to turn convert, revert, advertise, versatile, vertigo, invert, reversion, extravert, introvert
vita life vital, vitality, vitamins, revitalize




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