The SAT and Vocabulary, Part 3

Posted on May 31, 2010


Check (verb): to block

Words You Know, But Don’t Know You Know

One effective tactic used on standardized tests is to haul out words you don’t know. Another is to take words you do know and dress them up in clever disguises. If you don’t think you know a word, then for the moment, you don’t. And that’s good enough for the SAT.

Here’s an example: do you know the word opaque? It’s an adjective and means “not allowing light to pass through.” A pane of glass that’s completely painted is opaque. You may see this word on your SAT. Or you may see the word opacity. It’s the same word, but in the noun form. It doesn’t have the -que at the end, and you may just not be sure if it’s the word you know. So you might leave it alone, and that’s a point lost.

Another example is the word dissolution. It’s the noun form of the word dissolve. It’s also part of a little pattern in the language:

The other side of this coin has words you think you know, but may not. Many words have a common meaning and an uncommon one. Sometimes that happens when you use them as verbs instead of nouns, or as nouns instead of verbs. In these cases, the SAT will almost always be using the uncommon meaning. Here are ten examples you should know!

air (verb) — to announce publicly

champion (verb) — to support

check (verb) — to block

conviction (noun) — strong belief

founder (verb) — to collapse or become disabled

hamper (verb) — to make difficult

splinter (verb) — to break away from the main part

temper (verb) — to moderate or bring into balance

trigger (verb) — to cause to happen

wax (verb) — to grow larger

Remember, if a question hinges on what appears to be a very simple word, ask yourself if the word has an alternate meaning.