Introduction to the SAT Reading Test
The most common and dangerous mistake on the SAT Reading Test is not being aware of the difference between knowing what a word means, and thinking you know what a word means.
Knowing a word means that you can define it. There's no in-between, like sort of knowing what the word means, or kind of knowing what it means, or being able to use it in a sentence.
If you can't define a word in a few secondsif you aren't "dictionary-sure"you don't know what it means!
Trying to Figure Out What a Word Means Is Usually a Huge Waste of Time
Many students try to figure out the meaning of words they don't know or can't remember on the SAT. They may have been told, for example, to use Latin or Greek "roots" to "decipher" a strange word.
This sometimes works on easier questions, but more often it's a big waste of time. Some students will puzzle over a particular word for as much as 15 seconds or more. What's worse, after spending time wrestling with a difficult word, you can't be sure whether you've correctly deciphered what the word means.
If you can't define a word in a few secondsleave the choice as a "maybe" and move on! On sentence completions you can sometimes deduce what a word within the sentence means. And, as you'll learn shortly, once you know the meaning of a word you're looking for, you can work backward from the choices to the definition.
Otherwise, don't labor over difficult words. You'll need the time for the words you do know, and for the reading passages.
Beware of Easy Words with Hard Second Definitions
Sometimes, usually on the hard sentence completions, you'll see a simple word that seems out of place. Be very, very careful: it's possible that the word is being used in a different sense from the one you usually associate it with.
For example, the word distant means far away. If we say a person is distant, however, we don't mean that he or she is literally far away; we mean he is reserved, or lost in thought. The word qualify means to meet some standard, but it can also mean to make an exception to a general statement. Or take the word guarded. It can mean closely watched, but it can also mean cautious.
Sometimes parts of speech will be a clue. All the choices on a questionwhether sentence completions, or vocabulary-based reading questionswill be the same part of speech.
For example, consider the word pedestrian. You know what it means as a noun, but do you know what it means when used as an adjective? (It means ordinary, common, uninspired.) Or take the word champion. Again, as a noun the meaning is easy, but do you know what it means when used as a verb? (It means to stand up for something, as in fighting for a noble cause.)
The following drill will hone your skill at spotting easy words with hard second definitions.
Don't start second-guessing whether every easy word on the SAT Reading Test has a hard second definition. On the sentence completions, easy words with hard second definitions will show upif they show up at allonce, at most twice, on the hard questions. These words can show up several times, however, on the vocabulary-in-context reading questions.
Second Definition Drill
The following words have all appeared on SATs in the context of their second definitions rather than their more common first definitions. See if you can match the easy word with its hard second definition. Use process of elimination; some of these are very hard words. You'll find the answers at the end of the article.
|Easy Word||Hard Second Definition (scrambled)|
|1. conviction||A. calm|
|2. buoyant||B. endanger|
|3. slight||C. seriousness|
|4. complex||D. certainty|
|5. composed||E. insult|
|6. eclipse||F. equivalent|
|7. parallel||G. seize|
|8. diversion||H. cheerful|
|9. detached||I. entertainment|
|10. gravity||J. network|
|11. appropriate||K. uninvolved|
|12. compromise||L. surpass|
More on: SATs and Other Tests
From The RocketReview Revolution: The Ultimate Guide to the New SAT and the PSAT by Adam Robinson. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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