Starting Prep Early: SAT Vocabulary Strategies

Earlier this year we joined SAT aficionados and college counselors on Twitter for the bi-weekly #CampusChat. The topic was SAT vocabulary and it sparked a zany hour of interesting words being used in fun context. By our estimation the prize for most interesting use of SAT vocab was taken by Suzanne Schaeffer (mostly because of her fun digs at Bell Curves founder @akilbello). If you’re interested you can see the full twitter transcript here.

This chat got the juices flowing over in BC central and sparked us to ask our teachers for recommendations for short-term (less than 6 months) and longer term vocab acquisition tools and tricks. In this blog we’ll address some of the long term vocabulary strategies that parents can use to help their children develop college-ready vocabularies.

Encourage Reading

Although it sounds cliche, the best way to acquire new words is to encounter them. Students who begin reading early and often acquire more words more rapidly than those who avoid reading or start later. Parents should help children develop an early fondness for books. One of our teachers -who also has a full-time job as a parent- claimed that she duped her child into loving reading by simply letting him see her reading every day. A math teacher and vocal denouncer of all things verbal, she plans to help her child develop the skills she lacks by modeling good behavior. Children often lose interest in reading- perhaps because so many adults (as well as two passages featured on the SAT) mistakenly imply that only academic or scholarly reading will develop vocabulary. Bell Curves co-owners Akil Bello and Clayton Harding are avid comic book readers who keep the office well-stocked with tales of superheroism. Often overlooked, these comics are simply chock full of names and words which borrow liberally from the always-SAT-popular Latin roots. Set children on their literary path by helping them find genres and authors they like, and they’ll branch out on their own from there.


Use adult words

There’s no need to eschew advanced vocabulary in everyday speech with children; when a child is first acquiring words, it makes little difference to them if they learn the word ‘cool’ or ‘imperturbable.’ Young children are at their peak in acquiring language, so start early. Furthermore, research indicates that it take over a dozen exposures to a word to truly be comfortable with its definition. So, to create erudite scholars, make sure you loquaciously employ your multifarious lexicon early and often.


Play word games

Games like Scrabble and Boggle offer great opportunities to create interest in words and their uses. Furthermore, our teachers suggested playing “Word detective” and challenging young linguistic Holmes’ to find vocabulary words used in everyday life, such as in product names (Crest, Zenith, and Accord), in movie or song titles (Insidious, Despicable Me, and Inception). Check out our Facebook page where were keep an album of words we’ve found in the wild.


Hope that helps!


Bell Curves hires some of the brightest minds anywhere to teach our SAT and ACT prep classes. We extensively train that talent in our teaching methodology and then work together to continually refine our courses and tutoring offerings.


  • (646) 414-1586
COPYRIGHT ©2002 - 2020 BELL CURVES LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. All tests names are registered trademarks of the respective testing companies, which do not endorse and are not affiliated with Bell Curves.
BELL CURVES - 25 West 36th Street, 8th Floor - New York, NY 10018 Bell Curves is an educational services and test preparation company. It delivers high-quality consulting services, test preparation programs, and self-study resources to students throughout the country.
Equal Opportunity Employer - Privacy Policy - Refund Policy