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 PrefixMeaningExamples
a, annot, withoutatheist, anarchy, anonymous apathy, aphasia, anemia
abaway fromabsent, abduction, aberrant, abstemious
ambulto walkambulatory, amble, ambulance, somnambulist
antebeforeanteroom, antebellum, antedate antecedent, antediluvian
anti, antagainst, oppositeantisocial, antiseptic, antithesis, antibody, antichrist, antinomies, antifreeze, antipathy, antigen, antibiotic
audito hearaudience, auditory, audible, auditorium, audiovisual, audition
bethoroughlybedecked, besmirch, besprinkled
autoselfautomobile, automatic, autograph, autonomous, autoimmune
benegood, wellbenefactor, beneficial, benevolent, benediction, beneficiary, benefit
cede, ceed, cessto go, to yieldsucceed, proceed, precede, recede, secession, exceed, succession
chrontimechronology, chronic, chronicle chronometer, anachronism
cide, cisto kill, to cutfratricide, suicide, incision, excision, circumcision
circumaroundcircumnavigate, circumflex, circumstance, circumcision, circumference, circumorbital, circumlocution, circumvent, circumscribe, circulatory
clud, clus clausto closeinclude, exclude, clause, claustrophobia, enclose, exclusive, reclusive, conclude
con, comwith, togetherconvene, compress, contemporary, converge, compact, confluence, concatenate, conjoin, combine
contra, counteragainst, oppositecontradict, counteract, contravene, contrary, counterspy, contrapuntal
credto believecredo, credible, credence, credit, credential, credulity, incredulous
cyclcircle, wheelbicycle, cyclical, cycle, encliclical
defrom, down, awaydetach, deploy, derange, deodorize, devoid, deflate, degenerate, deice
dei, divGod, goddivinity, divine, deity, divination, deify
demopeopledemocracy, demagogue, epidemic
diathrough, across, betweendiameter, diagonal, dialogue dialect, dialectic, diagnosis, diachronic
dictspeakpredict, verdict, malediction, dictionary, dictate, dictum, diction, indict
dis, dys, difaway, not, negativedismiss, differ, disallow, disperse, dissuade, disconnect, dysfunction, disproportion, disrespect, distemper, distaste, disarray, dyslexia
duc, ductto lead, pullproduce, abduct, product, transducer, viaduct, aqueduct, induct, deduct, reduce, induce
dyn, dynapowerdynamic, dynamometer, heterodyne, dynamite, dynamo, dynasty
ectooutside, externalectomorph, ectoderm, ectoplasm, ectopic, ectothermal
endoinside, withingendotoxin, endoscope, endogenous
equiequalequidistant, equilateral, equilibrium, equinox, equitable, equation, equator
e, exout, away, fromemit, expulsion, exhale, exit, express, exclusive, enervate, exceed, explosion
exter, extraoutside ofexternal, extrinsic, exterior extraordinary, extrabiblical extracurricular, extrapolate, extraneous
flu, fluxfloweffluence, influence, effluvium, fluctuate, confluence, reflux, influx
flect, flexto bendflexible, reflection, deflect, circumflex
graph, gramto writepolygraph, grammar, biography, graphite, telegram, autograph, lithograph, historiography, graphic
heterootherheterodox, heterogeneous, heterosexual, heterodyne
homosamehomogenized, homosexual, homonym, homophone
hyperover, abovehyperactive, hypertensive, hyperbolic, hypersensitive, hyperventilate, hyperkinetic
hypobelow, less thanhypotension, hypodermic, hypoglycemia, hypoallergenic
in, imnotinviolate, innocuous, intractable, innocent, impregnable, impossible
infrabeneathinfrared, infrastructure
inter, introbetweeninternational, intercept, intermission, interoffice, internal, intermittent, introvert, introduce
intrawithin, intointranet, intracranial, intravenous
jac, jectto throwreject, eject, project, trajectory, interject, dejected, inject, ejaculate
malbad, badlymalformation, maladjusted, dismal, malady, malcontent, malfeasance, maleficent
megagreat, millionmegaphone, megalomaniac, megabyte, megalopolis
mesomiddlemesomorph, mesoamerica, mesosphere
metabeyond, changemetaphor, metamorphosis, metabolism, metahistorical, metainformation
metermeasureperimeter, micrometer, ammeter, multimeter, altimeter
microsmallmicroscope, microprocessor, microfiche, micrometer, micrograph
misbad, badlymisinform, misinterpret, mispronounce, misnomer, mistake, misogynist
mit, missto sendtransmit, permit, missile, missionary, remit, admit, missive, mission
morphshapepolymorphic, morpheme, amorphous
multimanymultitude, multipartite, multiply, multipurpose
neonewneologism, neonate, neoclassic, neophyte
nonnotnonferrous, nonabrasive, nondescript
omniallomnipotent, omnivorous, omniscient
parabesideparaprofessional, paramedic, paraphrase, parachute
perthrough, intensivepermit, perspire, perforate, persuade
periaroundperiscope, perimeter, perigee, periodontal
phonsoundtelephone, phonics, phonograph, phonetic, homophone, microphone
photlightphotograph, photosynthesis, photon
polymanypolytheist, polygon, polygamy, polymorphous
portto carryporter, portable, report, transportation, deport, import, export
reback, againreport, realign, retract, revise, regain
retrobackwardsretrorocket, retrospect, retrogression, retroactive
sanctholysanctify, sanctuary, sanction, sanctimonious, sacrosanct
scrib, scriptto writeinscription, prescribe, proscribe, manuscript, conscript, scribble, scribe
sect, seccutintersect, transect, dissect, secant, section
semihalfsemifinal, semiconscious, semiannual, semimonthly, semicircle
spectto lookinspect, spectator, circumspect, retrospect, prospect, spectacle
subunder, belowsubmerge, submarine, substandard, subnormal, subvert
super, supraabovesuperior, suprarenal, superscript, supernatural, supercede
syntogethersynthesis, synchronous, syndicate
teledistance, from afartelevision, telephone, telegraph, telemetry
theo, theGodtheology, theist, polytheist
therm, thermoheatthermal, thermometer, thermocouple, thermodynamic, thermoelectric
tractto drag, drawattract, tractor, traction, extract, retract, protract, detract, subtract, contract, intractable
transacrosstransoceanic, transmit, transport, transducer
unnotuncooked, unharmed, unintended
veh, vectto carryvector, vehicle, convection, vehement
vert, versto turnconvert, revert, advertise, versatile, vertigo, invert, reversion, extravert, introvert
vitalifevital, vitality, vitamins, revitalize




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