The New SAT: Language of the Test - List #4

How can you perform well on the new reading section of the SAT if you don’t fully understand the language being used in the directions and in the questions? Learn this list of 25 words that are based on our analysis of the words likely to appear in question stems, answer options and test directions.

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Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. disagree
    be of different opinions
    To disagree is to have a different opinion than someone else over an issue. The SAT often asks you to read about issues and people who disagree over them and to identify the sides in the debate, and to decide whether one side in the debate would agree or disagree with a certain statement. Tracking disagreements can start with looking for words that are opposites, antonyms, or nearly opposites, from one another -- so look for the words that go against each other first.
  2. introduce
    bring before the public for the first time
    To introduce is to present something for the first time. This is a word you'll see a lot of on the SAT referring to the first few paragraphs of a passage, where the main ideas are raised for the first time, establishing what the passage is about. Over the course of a passage, new people or ideas may be met, and they will be introduced too. The way things are introduced can be a clue as to how the author feels about the subject being introduced.
  3. explain
    make plain and comprehensible
    When you try to make something understandable to someone, you are explaining it to them. Sometimes what we say is unclear, and we have to reword it, or use a lot more words, or examples from the real world, to try to argue a point. These are all ways of explaining. On the SAT reading passages, it's good to keep track of things that need explaining and the efforts to explain them. Knowing how those two things fit together will help you see the organization of a reading passage.
  4. explanation
    making something plain or intelligible
    An explanation seeks to take an idea and make it easier to understand. An explanation can start with things you know your reader understands, and relate those ideas to the difficult ones you are trying to explain. The SAT contains ideas and explanations of those ideas; look for those patterns in the readings, because there are often questions about them.
  5. information
    a collection of facts from which conclusions may be drawn
    Information is the total of the facts and data we have on a topic. Information is not limited to words or descriptions, but can also be taken from graphs and charts and other representations. On the SAT information can be presented to you in any of its many forms, including those charts and graphs, and you have to use the information given to answer the questions. Resist the temptation to rely on background knowledge as you work your way through the Reading Test.
  6. fact
    a piece of information about events that have occurred
    A fact is a piece of information about something that actually took place. Facts can be used to support a theory about something in the world, as a type of evidence. On the SAT, you may be asked to identify facts in a reading passage that support a specific conclusion you have drawn or to support a central claim in an argument. Be on the lookout for facts and how they are used as evidence in arguments.
  7. factor
    anything that contributes causally to a result
    Factors are things that matter in what you are considering. Telling the difference between what counts and what doesn't is important on the SAT. Is the factor you are considering related to what the passage is talking about? Sometimes you will see the word factor used as meaning "cause" on the SAT. For example, you may be asked to identify one of the factors that contributed to a specific outcome in a reading passage.
  8. define
    explain the meaning of a word
    To define a word is to give its meaning. Define can also mean to make something that is confusing a little clearer. On some parts of the SAT you will be asked to choose a word that best defines a word from the accompanying reading passage. On other parts of the test you may see define pop up in an answer choice connecting a word to what it means.
  9. predict
    tell in advance
    Psychics claim to predict the future, which means they say they can tell you what is going to happen in advance, before it actually happens. On the SAT, we predict that you will see the word predict on the Reading Test, most likely in an answer option. A passage may predict a particular outcome. An example of foreshadowing may predict an event in a literature passage. Or, scientists may predict or make an educated guess about the results of an experiment (in a science passage).
  10. challenge
    take exception to
    The verb challenge means to question whether something is right or true. The SAT reading passages sometimes present opinions that are in conflict with one another, and challenge is a word for this kind of disagreement. In a paired passages section, for example, you may conclude that one passage challenges the point of view expressed in the other passage.
  11. compare
    examine and note the similarities or differences of
    On the SAT you will examine the similarities and differences between two ideas or two passages, and when you do this, you compare them. These ideas could be different approaches to the same problem or different opinions on the same issue. You may, for example, compare a central claim in a text with a graphic representation of data that accompanies that text, trying to determine if the data supports the claim or refutes it.
  12. likely
    having a good chance of being the case or of coming about
    Likely is one of those words test writers love to use, including SAT test writers. It usually shows up in the expression most likely. For example, you may see a question like "On which of the following points would the authors of both passages most likely agree?" You can't talk to the authors and definitely find out the answer, so you are expected to make an educated guess based on the evidence in the passages. You can only be expected to figure out the "most likely" answers on the
  13. paragraph
    one of several distinct subdivisions of a text
    A paragraph is a few sentences about one particular aspect of the general topic in a reading passage. You can easily spot a paragraph since there is extra space at the beginning of a paragraph. SAT questions often refer to the paragraphs by number, although the reading passages are organized by line numbers as well. A question may ask you to look at the second paragraph, the final paragraph, etc. However, most often, the question will ask you to look at specific lines within a paragraph.
  14. include
    have as a part; be made up out of
    When you include something, you incorporate it into a larger something. On the SAT, you may be asked why an author most likely chose to include certain details in his or her argument; it will be your job to infer why that decision was made. The opposite of include is exclude, which means rule out or prevent from joining.
  15. example
    an item of information that is typical of a class or group
    An example is something used to prove a point. On the SAT you may be asked to identify examples that support an argument's claim. Examples can also be used to highlight properties -- a fire engine, a strawberry, and a stop sign are all examples of red things.
  16. emotion
    any strong feeling
    Emotion isn't about book smarts or facts but about how you feel. Authors of arguments will often use emotional appeals to persuade their readers. The SAT can ask you to put your finger on exactly what parts of a reading passage can trigger certain emotions in a reader, whether that emotion is patriotism, anger, love or many others.
  17. experiment
    the act of conducting a controlled test or investigation
    An experiment is an investigation of a theory. An experiment is careful and controlled to make sure the test is done properly. The SAT has descriptions of experiments of all kinds, but the common factor is the scientists who conduct these experiments have set up ways to research an aspect of life and have an idea they are examining to see if it is true. Experiment can also be used non-scientifically, to mean to try things out, like when an artist experiments with a new style.
  18. identify
    recognize as being
    To identify something is to recognize it. When writing the SAT essay, you may identify a rhetorical device in the related reading passage and describe it. However, on the SAT Reading Test, test writers will most likely identify something and then ask you to interpret or analyze it. For example, they might identify an interesting example of word choice and then ask you to try to figure out why it was used and its effect on the reader.
  19. relationship
    a state involving dealings between people, parties, or ideas
    Some questions about the reading passages on the SAT address how one part of the passage relates to another, or how two different passages relate to one another. Does idea number 2 provide evidence for idea number 1? Does idea number 2 cause the reader to doubt the conclusion reached in idea number 1? Or, the question could be more general. For example, a question could ask: "Which statement best describes the relationship between the passages?"
  20. yield
    give or supply
    This isn't the yield on the road sign that's a triangle. Yield is a word that means to produce. If a field yields corn, it has produced it. Yield is a word that is concerned with outcomes, with results. Yield can be about physical results, like the corn, or more abstract, like a discovery yielding scientific opportunity. On the SAT, you will most likely see yield in a variety of contexts (e.g., yield value, yield data, yield products, etc.).
  21. phrase
    an expression consisting of one or more words
    A phrase is a bit of text that is made up of more than one word. A phrase can be as short as two words or as long as a sentence. On the SAT, the word phrase is usually used to refer to the text that the question will be asking about. For example, a question could begin, "The author uses the phrase 'x y' to most likely...". You will most likely see this word in questions that quote the phrase itself.
  22. value
    the quality that renders something desirable
    When something is important or has worth for someone, it has value. In SAT questions, you may see expressions containing value -- such as "moral values" or "traditional values." Values can be personal, like someone whose moral values tell them not to steal, or shared (we all agree that money has value). Value can also mean prizing or holding something dear, as in "I value our friendship."
  23. describe
    give a statement representing something
    When you describe something, you are using language to create a representation in the mind of your reader. Decriptive words can range from physical traits like round or yellow to emotional states like amused or angry,/i>. Being able to describe something (to point out the characteristics of a given thing) comes up a lot on the SAT, and you will often be asked to pick a word or phrase that best describes a character or event.
  24. description
    a statement that represents something in words
    A description uses language to illustrate the physical or emotional characteristics of a person or thing. Descriptions add up to paint a picture inside a reader's mind of what something looks or feels like. Descriptions usually involve adjectives, adverbs or phrases that involve them. On the SAT it is good to recognize the difference between descriptions and regular phrases: "He left." reports an action, but "He left angrily" describes that action.
  25. difference
    the quality of being unlike or dissimilar
    Difference has many meanings, but they all describe things that are not the same. On the SAT Reading Test, similar and different will often be used when comparing paired passages or differing points of view on an issue. On the math side of things, the number that is the result of a subtraction problem is called "the difference" because it is the difference between two values.

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