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Build Your SAT Vocabulary: Essential Words You Must Know

Discover the secrets of SAT vocabulary with this comprehensive guide, designed to help K-12 students excel in their SAT exams. Explore the word lists and build your essential SAT vocabulary!
ACT vocabulary words you must know

When you think of the SAT, the first thing that probably pops into your head is vocabulary (right after “stress,” of course). That makes sense because knowing a wide range of particular words is a big deal for the SAT test. Yet, it might seem tricky to figure out which terms to learn. Some of them aren’t used in everyday conversations. Still, if you spend time researching and understanding this SAT-specific vocabulary, it’ll definitely help you to score better. 

To help you on this journey, we’ve put together useful tips for learning and remembering a needed vocabulary, along with a list of words you’ll encounter on your SAT exam.

The Importance of SAT Vocabulary Words 

SAT vocabulary is more than just a collection of words; it’s a key component of the exam that can impact your overall score. Understanding and mastering SAT vocabulary words is essential for success in the reading and writing sections. They are a big portion of your SAT score.

If you believe SAT vocabulary is super hard, here’s some good news: all the words are actually of medium difficulty. They are mostly tested in the context of reading passages, where you’ll see them used in whole paragraphs, not just in isolated sentences. This will give you more context to understand the meaning, making it easier for you even if you don’t know the word.

How to Master SAT Vocabulary? Best Ways to Learn and Remember New Words 

Learning words is one thing; sending them to a long-term memory is another. Often, students grasp new words quickly, but they vanish from their memory with the same speed. So, how can you make sure you don’t forget important words when facing them on your SAT exam? The proven approaches are: 

  • Contextual learning.  One of the most effective ways to learn new words is by encountering them in context. Learn how and when you can apply it. Otherwise, you will quickly forget the definition: your brain likes to link things. Let it do that! 
  • Flashcards and word lists. A classic approach to vocabulary building. Create a word list, put it on the flashcards (real ones or online), and learn them. Besides, there are countless apps that will provide you with a ready-to-use list of the SAT vocabulary. 
  • Practice tests.  Regularly taking SAT practice tests is essential for your progress. These trainings often include challenging vocabulary, exposing you to real test conditions and questions. In other words, rehearse your SAT exam! 
  • Mnemonic tricks. Mnemonic refers to helping your brain remember things through patterns. Known since Ancient Greek, associations or vivid mental images can make it easier to memorize complex words. Besides, it’s a good way to test and improve your imagination. 
  • Gamify your learning. Remember how easy it was to engage in some activities in childhood once you were a part of the game? Well, as adults, we are not that different, at least in terms of engagement. So make your learning fun, get together with friends, and the process, as well as the results, will surprise you. 
  • Read a lot. Reading is the best way to get proficient in different aspects of language. Besides, this way, you can build a vocabulary that will give you a lot of benefits for the SAT exams in general. 
  • Write the new words down. It is a basic yet important tip. Memorizing words is way easier if you write them down. Apparently, our brains create new pathways and absorb information differently if we put it on the page. Use this knowledge to your advantage. 
  • Befriend dictionary. Not only is it the best way to find new, exciting words to expand your lexicon, but it is also a great booster for your understanding of how vocabulary works. Some dictionaries are heavy:) Still, the impact on your knowledge will be the same. 
  • No random words. It is easy to get carried away when immersed in new terms. Isn’t it exciting? You don’t have to answer that. But if your goal is to prepare for the SAT, prioritize only the words you can find in your exam. Leave the random advanced vocabulary learning for later after you pass your test successfully. 

SAT Vocabulary List: 92 Top Words You Need to Know

Many students are anxious because they think they need to “guess” what words will be in their SAT exams. But there’s good news: the SAT word list doesn’t change a lot from year to year. Plus, we’ve made a list of these words for you. So, no need to stress! Let’s get straight to the list instead. 

  1. Abandon – give up completely
  2. Abate – lessen
  3. Abject – entirely without pride or dignity
  4. Aberration – deviation from the norm
  5. Beguile –  charm or enchant
  6. Berate –  scold or criticize
  7. Bereft – deprived or lacking
  8. Blandishment – a flattering statement used to persuade someone
  9. Bias – prejudice
  10. Bombastic – inflated
  11. Bovine – cow-like
  12. Braggart — a person who boasts about achievements
  13. Cacophony – a harsh, discordant mixture of sounds
  14. Catalyst – a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction
  15. Cavort – dance around excitedly
  16. Censorious – critical of others
  17. Circumlocution – using many words, particularly in an evasive way
  18. Circumscribe – restrict within limits
  19. Clamor – a loud and confused noise
  20. Clout – influence or power
  21. Demur – show reluctance; raise objections
  22. Denigrate – disparage
  23. Despot – a tyrant
  24. Diaphanous – light and translucent
  25. Dirge – song of lament for the dead
  26. Discomfit – make someone uncomfortable
  27. Disparate – different from one another
  28. Disrepute – state of disgrace
  29. Eclectic –  wide-ranging
  30. Edict – an official order
  31. Ebullient – cheerful and lively
  32. Epicureanism – pleasure is the most important aspect of life
  33. Effluvia – unpleasant odor
  34. Fortuitous – happening by chance
  35. Fractious – irritable and difficult to control
  36. Garrulous – talkative
  37. Grandiloquent – pompous or extravagant in language, style, or manner
  38. Gratuitous – uncalled for; unnecessary
  39. Grotto – small cave or cave-like structure 
  40. Hapless – unfortunate
  41. Injunction – a court-ordered command
  42. Inoculate – to vaccinate against a disease
  43. Insidious – slowly harmful or sneaky
  44. Instigate – to provoke action
  45. Insurgent – a rebel against authority
  46. Interlocutor – a conversation participant
  47. Illusion – magic tricks performed for entertainment
  48. Litigant – a person involved in a lawsuit
  49. Maelstrom – a powerful storm or chaotic situation
  50. Maudlin – overly sentimental or self-pitying
  51. Maverick – an independent-minded nonconformist
  52. Mawkish – overly sentimental in a sickly way
  53. Maxim – a concise statement of truth or principle
  54. Mendacious – inclined to lie
  55. Meretricious – attractive but lacking value
  56. Pandemic – disease prevalent over an entire country 
  57. Paradigm – a typical example or model
  58. Pariah – an outcast
  59. Paucity – scarcity; a lack of
  60. Pejorative – expressing strong disapproval
  61. Penchant – a strong liking or tendency
  62. Penurious – extremely poor
  63. Pert – attractive and confident
  64. Pernicious – harmful or destructive
  65. Precision – attention to detail
  66. Prestidigitation – Magic tricks performed for entertainment
  67. Recalcitrant – stubbornly uncooperative
  68. Relegate –  demote to a lower position
  69. Remiss – negligent or careless
  70. Reprieve – cancellation of punishment
  71. Reprobate – morally unprincipled person
  72. Rescind – revoke or cancel
  73. Ribald – improper or lewd
  74. Rife – widespread or prevalent
  75. Sedition – conduct or speech inciting people to rebel
  76. Sinecure – position requiring little or no work 
  77. Toady – a sycophant or flatterer
  78. Torpid – lethargic; sluggish
  79. Travesty – a mockery or parody
  80. Trenchant – sharp and forceful in expression
  81. Trounce –  defeat decisively
  82. Truculent – aggressively argumentative
  83. Turpitude – moral wickedness or depravity
  84. Ubiquitous – found everywhere
  85. Umbrage – offense or annoyance
  86. Usury – lending money at unlawful rates
  87. Vituperate – strongly blame or insult someone
  88. Vociferous – outspoken and vehement in speech
  89. Wanton – deliberate and unprovoked; sexually unrestrained
  90. Winsome – attractive or charming
  91. Yield – surrender or give way to pressure
  92. Yoke – tie two things together

Use these words in some of the learning methods we offered earlier. Either flashcards or contextual learning will benefit you a lot. 


Mastering SAT vocabulary words is a significant step toward your success in the exam. Remember that building your lexicon takes time and consistent effort. Don’t get discouraged if progress seems slow at first; that’s normal. With dedication and the right resources, you can conquer the SAT vocabulary section and boost your overall score. To improve your SAT practice, consider getting a tutor who can resolve any doubts you have. With additional help, you can structure your learning time better and get the results you want. 

As you prepare for the SAT exams, keep in mind that your efforts will pay off not only in terms of test scores but also in your overall language proficiency. A strong vocabulary will give its benefits in college and beyond. 



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