This month my book club selected Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Bronte. We usually read New York Times bestsellers, but decided we needed a change. Wuthering Heights is a novel I’ve started a few times in the past, but never managed to get past the first few chapters. This time I was motivated to finish. After the first page, I was struck by how many SAT vocabulary words I could find in this piece of classic literature.
No Such Thing As SAT Words
I always tell my SAT prep students, “These aren’t SAT words; they are college-bound words.” My point is that vocabulary has a place and purpose beyond the SAT. Students shouldn’t cram vocabulary just for the SAT. Instead, they should acquire a large lexicon because it is the language they will encounter in college.
Not only will students find “SAT” vocabulary in classic literature, but they will also hear these words in class lectures and discussions on campus. Students will encounter these words in textbooks and primary research sources. The words students need to know to succeed on the Reading portion of the SAT will help them succeed in school long after the test is over.
SAT Vocabulary Building Strategies
Reading is the best long-term strategy for building a strong college-bound vocabulary. We work with our young children to teach them to read; we need to encourage our older kids to continue reading.
Reading won’t help build knowledge of SAT vocabulary without a little work. The student who skips over every challenging word and uses context clues to fill in the gaps may understand the overall meaning, but he or she is failing to build word knowledge. Ideally students will look up words as they read or keep a list of unfamiliar words to look up later.
Two weeks ago I finally got a Kindle. I love it! I can tap and unfamiliar word and the definition pops up on my screen. No more getting the dictionary or going to the computer to look something up.
2. Maintain Vocabulary From School
Most students have vocabulary as part of their English classes, but most only learn the words on a short-term basis. I remember vocabulary tests in high school. I would study Thursday night, take the test Friday and make an A, but by Monday I couldn’t define half the words. In school the vocabulary words fell off the face of the earth each week never to be seen again. I didn’t need to maintain that knowledge for subsequent tests, so I didn’t.
Looking at vocabulary building as a cumulative exercise helps. News words are added, but the old ones never disappear. Students who really learn the vocabulary from school will find themselves ahead when it comes to tests like the PSAT and SAT.
3. Follow A Plan For Consistent Word Acquisition
If you want your child to develop the type of vocabulary that earns points on the SAT, impresses English teachers, and puts them ahead of the curve for college, you must plan and practice. Yes, some students will have enough structure at school and others will be self-motivated. These students will probably do well in any situation. But the average teenager needs a clear plan and some accountability.
Based on my eighteen years helping students prepare for the SAT, I’ve developed a vocabulary building program ideal for students grades 7-12. Each week I’ll send you a list of 15 words that are frequently seen on the SAT. I provide short, clear definitions. To address different learning styles and to encourage correct pronunciation and usage I include and audio file of the words as well as an audio quiz. Add in a study schedule for each day of the week and a study tip and you’ve got My Vocabulary Success Coach. (Only $10 a month).
You may find many ways to build in consistency and accountability, but you can’t expect your child to build a strong vocabulary accidentally. It takes time and effort.
SAT Vocabulary In Classic Literature
It is no surprise I’m finding lots of SAT vocabulary in Wuthering Heights. The College Board clearly states that the foundation of a student’s SAT and college preparation includes a rigorous curriculum in all subjects including English. I’ve joked with my book club that I’ll bring a vocabulary quiz to our meeting. Here are the words from pages 1-4 so you can test your own knowledge: