Bloomberg BusinessWeek.com offers regular tips to SAT learners from Vivian Kerr of Veritas Test Prep, including a recent roundup of strategies for vocabulary learning. Kerr's strategies include many we've discussed here, including thinking about context associations (chunking), and looking for morphological clues from English and other languages.
A final tip Kerr offers, however, is one that helps tease apart the way your brain begins to accumulate knowlege on words from context clues. (We've written about this slow and steady accumulation process in "Do I Know You? Word Knowledge Limbo.") When you are confronted with a word you don't know while taking the SAT, Kerr suggests, try to determine whether you can attach a positive or a negative connotation, or "charge" to it. This can help you narrow the field of answers and make your guess more likely to strike true. Here, she describes this idea:
Use Word Charge. Although some words are considered “neutral,” most words, especially adjectives and adverbs, have a positive or negative word charge. This means they “sound” like their definition. Let’s take a quick quiz. Write down whether you think the following words have positive or negative definitions based on how they sound.
How did you do? You may have surprised yourself by getting 4 or 5 correct!
(Answers to quiz: 1. negative 2. negative 3. positive 4. negative 5. positive)
Practice this approach when you play the Challenge here on Vocabulary.com, which is great not just for word learning but also SAT question strategy.