Sentence completion vocab lists: the new and better way

September 10, 2006 at 12:06 am 13 comments

Posted by Dee

As promised, I am writing today about preparing for the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT exams. Specifically, I’d like to write about some comments I have concerning preparing for the reading comprehension sentence completion section of these exams.

I’d like to preface by saying that I HATE the oft-given advice of studying endless short lists of vocab months in advance. This is an incredibly time-consuming and inefficient technique! Instead, and yes, your parents and teachers will hate me for saying this, I am indeed a fan of cramming. I had vocab lists in my hand until literally one minute before entering the building where my PSAT test was being administered.

BUT, these were no ordinary vocab lists! I strongly recommend against using the conventional, two-column vocab lists, with the left column for the vocabulary word with a full-length definition on the right. These lists are, again, terribly time consuming and inefficient! Instead, the vocab lists I use are based on the premise that these SAT and PSAT exams DO NOT test your knowledge of vocabulary. “Huh?” you might be saying to yourself. “I thought the whole point was to test our vocab.” Here’s where students are mistaken.

The SAT never asks you to define words, rather it asks you to identify and pick out an appropriate word from five choices to fill into a sentence. The vocab lists I used were tailored to reflect this.

For example, instead of writing the word “bilious” in the left-hand column with a corresponding, full-length definition of “pertaining to bile; suffering from or caused by trouble with the bile or liver; peevish, irritable; extremely unpleasant or distasteful,” in the right-hand column, I would group similar vocab words under colloquial terms.

So, the word “bilious” was grouped under the common word “cranky” along with similar SAT vocab words like “bearish,” “cantankerous,” “choleric,” “irascible,” “ornery,” “perverse,” “acerbic,” “astringent,” and “churlish.”

This is a much better system because it allows you to associate words together rather than memorize definitions. Remember, the SAT doesn’t test definition-memorization! It does test your ability to identify words, so if you learn the vocabulary through associating it with a common, easily remembered word, you’ll have a higher success rate. It definitely worked for me, and not only did I get a high enough SAT score to get me into a top school, but I was easily a National Merit finalist too.

See the AdmitSpit Store for ordering the “SAT/PSAT Vocabulary Association Guide.”


Entry filed under: ACT, Finalist, National merit, PSAT, Reading comprehension, SAT, Sentence completion, Testing, Vocabulary.

More on the PSAT/NMSQT test PSAT/NMSQT score cutoffs…

13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ellen Pelan  |  September 13, 2006 at 6:05 pm

    please send list

  • 2. Amin Ali  |  September 17, 2006 at 11:58 pm

    Hi, I’m a junior planning on going to Georgia Tech. I read your article and it seemed really helpful. I really like the idea about how you group similar words into categories instead of just definitions. I have a PSAT test coming up soon and I was hoping you could send me a copy of your list.

    Or if it is already posted, if you would direct me in the right direction to find it…
    Hope you get this before my test!

    Thanks in advance,
    Amin Ali

  • 3. Dee  |  September 18, 2006 at 4:11 am

    I’d love to send you a copy of my vocab lists. I think you’ll find them really useful.

    As I’m off at college right now myself, I don’t have immediate access to the lists. I think it’ll take me another week or so to send them out (several other students have requested them as well).

    I know the PSAT testing is usually around mid-October, so I’ll do my best to figure out the who’s, what’s, when’s, where’s, and how’s of shipping them out as soon as possible!

    (You may be wondering why I can’t just post the vocab lists electronically — apparently there are some legal and copyright issues involved that I need to figure out.)

    Definitely check back by September 25th for more comprehensive info regarding the new vocab lists though. I didn’t realize there’d be as much interest in them, so hopefully I’ll sort everything out soon.

    I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for the comment, Amin!

  • 4. Julia  |  September 24, 2006 at 9:23 pm

    Your article really help me. I also have the PSATs coming up so could you please send me a copy too?


  • 5. Denice  |  September 29, 2006 at 1:39 am

    Wow, I’ve been studying the old method. Could you please send me a copy?

  • 6. Cookie  |  September 30, 2006 at 1:41 am

    Your articles are really detailed and helfpul. I would really appreciate if you could send me a list as well. I’m going to take the PSAT on Oct.18th, so if it’s possible, please send me the lists before then.


  • 7. Mohammad  |  October 1, 2006 at 6:15 pm

    please send me the vocab lists.


  • 8. Victoria  |  October 9, 2006 at 12:12 am

    What a fantastic way to study. If you could send the list to me, it would be fantastic.


  • 9. Alexis  |  October 15, 2006 at 1:48 am

    Good thing I only made a couple of flashcards…good idea! I’d like a list as well. Thanks so much!

  • 10. Alexandra  |  April 7, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    I would love to get a copy of those vocabulary lists, but cannot seem to connect to the AdmitSpit Store. Is it still operational? Thanks so much!

  • 11. Tommy  |  July 22, 2007 at 1:42 am

    I am preparing for the SAT also, could you send me the list please.

  • 12. Nancy Brutt  |  September 28, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    I’m looking for a PSAT list for my daughter to help prepare her for the test. Please send me your list! Thanks.

  • 13. Seth  |  October 14, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    I’m cutting it pretty close here, but I would greatly appreciate it if you could send me the list.


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