The Reading sections of the SAT test your ability to grasp concepts presented in words, sentences, and paragraphs. One of the things that makes this difficult is the strategic placement of certain unfamiliar words. These words are used in such a way that they affect the meaning of the entire phrase, sentence, or passage. Knowing their meanings, then, becomes extremely important. (If you doubt this idea, find a sentence completion question that you can't answer. Open a dictionary and look up all the unfamiliar words contained in the question. Then go back to the question and see if it hasn't gotten easier.)
The best way to improve your Reading score is to improve your vocabulary, and to be aware of the land mines that lie waiting for you at every turn in the test. The English language is filled with contradictions, exceptions to rules, pairs of words that look alike but have opposite meanings, or sound alike but have nothing to do with each other. Every SAT takes advantage of these quirks in the language. They exploit the confusion that's already there, hoping to lure you into wasting time, choosing the wrong answer, or just leaving a blank and moving on to the next trap. Here's an example:
The word condemn means to harshly criticize. The word condone means to excuse or approve of. See the problem?
Again, the English language is filled with pairs of words just like these. And remember this key fact about the SAT: each question is designed to lead you to the wrong answer. How better to do that than by sprinkling the test with these confusing words? What makes this tendency especially challenging is that the creators of the test know exactly what kinds of mental mistakes students are prone to making when under pressure. And so they plant incorrect answers that will look okay to the tired, the frustrated, and the uninformed.
Word of the Week
AVARICE (AH-ver-iss) noun — greed
Looks like: Ava rice
Picture: A woman named Ava seated at a
table, her arms around a mound of rice.
She won’t share the rice with anyone
because she’s greedy.
Other form: Avaricious (adj)
Sentence: Success can lead
to either great generosity
Word of the Week entries are excerpted from 500 Key Words for the SAT, and How To Remember Them Forever!