How Important is Vocabulary for the ACT® or SAT®?

How Important is Vocabulary for the ACT® or SAT®?
Find out how important vocabulary is for the ACT and SAT and what you should really focus on.
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How Important is Vocabulary for the ACT® or SAT®?
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Most college and university prep websites and blogs will tell you that you need to focus on studying vocabulary if you want to get a high ACT/SAT score. However, the truth is that vocabulary study is not only unnecessary but also a pitfall that can sidetrack you from studying what you really need to know to pass either of these tests. The recently updated SAT test does not directly test vocabulary by asking students to complete sentences. The ACT test also doesn’t ask students to identify word definitions; instead, it requires students to read an entire passage and understand the context of what is being said rather than analyzing single, complex words.

If you are serious about getting good grades on your upcoming test, consider the following tried and proven study tips. They will help you make the most of your study time so you can learn what you need to know without stressing yourself out.

Focus on Reading

Reading comprehension makes up one-third of the SAT and one-fourth of the ACT. This means you’ll need to spend a significant amount of time boosting your reading skills in order to pass either test. 

The best books for improving your reading skills are nonfiction history books and books that would typically be assigned by a high school English teacher. Don’t expect to read even one of these books in a single sitting, but do train yourself to read for long periods of time, think about what you read, and put the text into your own words. If you have a friend who is taking the ACT or SAT with you, quiz each other on what you are reading. Make sure you can identify the author’s point of view, understand inferences throughout the text, and answer questions about what the text is saying.

Brush Up on Understanding Graphs

Both tests use graphs to display information. You’ll be required to look over a graph carefully and then select the best answer to a question. If you aren’t used to reading graphs on a regular basis, it’s time to get some practice. Bear in mind that the graphs you’ll encounter on your test won’t just provide you with the answers but will, in some cases, offer information that you’ll need to deduce the answer by inference.

Get Comfortable with a Calculator

Both the SAT and the ACT allow for the use of a calculator. There are rules governing which kind you can use for each test, so check out the stipulations and then buy a calculator that meets the test guidelines. Practice using the calculator on a regular basis so you’ll be able to use it quickly and easily on the big day.

Use Practice Tests

UWorld offers a plethora of ACT and SAT practice tests that are formatted to look just like the real exams. This means that you’ll not only get practice answering test questions but also get used to seeing the test format you’ll be using when you sit for the actual exam.

Taking plenty of practice tests is a good way to identify weak areas and brush up on them. UWorld also offers excellent explanations on challenging topics that will not only help you understand why you made mistakes but also what you can do to improve your score. Furthermore, you’ll be able to track your performance so you can see how you are improving in different areas.

A great vocabulary is an excellent skill to have. It will serve you well no matter what you decide to study after your test. However, if you have a limited amount of time to prepare for the ACT or SAT test, you don’t need to put an emphasis on studying vocabulary words and their definitions. Your primary focus should be on reading and understanding passages in context. You’ll also want to pay attention to the point of view an author is trying to convey. Studying graphs, practicing using a calculator, and taking practice quizzes to improve your reading, writing/vocabulary, science, and math skills are also wise strategies that will help you master either test you opt to take.

More than one million students around the world study with UWorld to master difficult test concepts, review important information, and prepare themselves for high-stakes exams. If you are looking for comprehensive, affordable ACT/SAT test prep that lets you study anywhere at any time, get in touch with us to check out our study plans or take a free practice quiz.

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