Tips for Sophomores and Juniors

By Lisa Nelson and Sally Walsh


Why developing your vocabulary still matters.

The good news for high school students is that the College Board has promised that the dreaded vocabulary section of the SAT where students needed to identify the correct meaning of words is no longer part of the test.  Instead, the test’s new approach to vocabulary is for students to show understanding of words in context. Students may feel relieved that they no longer have to memorize long lists of difficult words (a poor strategy to learning new words) but they should not think that developing a robust vocabulary has less importance, both for testing and for preparation for college-level work.  Since students will be reading long passages containing difficult vocabulary and asked to show comprehension of the passage’s meaning, learning new words remains an important component of preparing for standardized tests.

What can a high school student do to meaningfully increase their vocabulary?

According to an article by Compass Educational Group  ( the following are a few ways to improve your vocabulary:

1.  Read, read, read.  The single best way to develop your vocabulary is to read across a variety of subjects but particularly reading about something that engages you.

2.  Use a thesaurus instead of a dictionary to learn meanings of new words. The synonyms are easier to remember than longer, more precise dictionary definitions.

3.  Write it down.  Writing down definitions in the margins or a notebook helps your brain remember the new words.

4.  Use your words.  The only way you can really know that you know a new word is to use it in writing or speech.