Does Vocabulary Matter Anymore on the SAT or ACT?

Vocabulary is less important than ever on the SAT. The Analogies question type, beloved by many but dreaded by many more, dropped from the test back in 2005. Sentence Completions, the last remaining true vocabulary question type, were removed in the latest revision in 2016. Combine that with the addition of charts, tables, and graphs to many Reading and Writing passages for a greater emphasis on graphical literacy in place of an esoteric lexicon. These changes have brought the current version of the SAT in line with the ACT in that regard.

However, vocabulary still matters to a certain extent on both tests. Certain reading questions include words most high schoolers find difficult, while others continue to test the meanings of words and phrases in context. In addition, some multiple-choice grammar questions challenge understanding of more common vocabulary that still stumps many test takers.

More important, the passages on both the SAT and ACT come from advanced texts that employ high level vocabulary. Students who struggle with too many words will surely miss the underlying meanings of these passages, which means they’ll likely miss many of the accompanying questions. A strong grasp of the English language leads to improved reading speed and comprehension.

Despite testing changes, that elusive college-level vocabulary that so many students neglect to develop before the tests still matters a lot in, where else, college. Teens taking the SAT or ACT may as well plan ahead to build the vocabulary they’ll need before they get there to reap the benefits on the tests themselves.