Will You Pass This Difficult SAT Vocabulary Test?



By: Zoe Samuel

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

There are more words in common use in the English language than in the vast majority of languages, with current versions of the dictionary clocking in a little north of 170,000 words. You can't possibly know all of them, and in a normal day, you probably only use a couple thousand different words at most - and overwhelmingly, most of us limit the majority of our speech to the most popular 1,000 words in the language on a normal day. It's surprisingly easy to stay within just those words if you want to make a game of it, though it does get old eventually. After all, you can enjoy a lot of nuance and variety by taking a stroll through the other 169,000 words, no matter how daunting their numbers may be.

However, the SAT has no time for any concerns about there simply being too many words to know them. You just have to figure it out. Of course, the framing of SAT questions is usually designed to give you no help whatsoever, so you're relying entirely on a combination of brute force learning, etymological knowledge, intuition, and vaguely remembering that time your aunt might have used a similar word and you asked her what she meant.

How much of all that have you retained in the intervening years? It's time to find out!

Which of these means to become less active, less intense, or less in amount?

Just as "amoral" means "not having morality," the prefix works the same way here. For example, "The tsunami came but then the swell abated."


Which of these means kind or generous, implying from a position of superior power or strength?

Benevolence is the opposite of malevolence. For example, "It was technically a dictatorship, but under Good Queen Jane, it was a benevolent one."


Which of these means one who appreciates beauty?

An aesthete is a person who appreciates beauty. It is usually used to refer to non-human beauty, for example, someone with great taste in interior design.


Which of these means to be unstable; to rise and fall, particularly used to refer to stock markets or temperatures?

The word "fluctuate" has the same root as "fluid." For example, "The market fluctuates wildly when the government is unstable."


Which of these means one who loves long words?

A sesquipedalian loves long words. For example, "If you want to be a successful lexicographer, you probably want to be a sesquipedalian."


Which of these means to maintain or assert, as in an opinion, or to compete?

Contend means to compete, but also to assert a claim. For example, "The contender contended that he was here to contend."


Which of these means to use up, as in both money and energy?

Expending means using up, with an implication of exhausting the supply. For example, "We shall expend no more money in the search for the missing bunny."


Which of these means thrilling, exciting, stimulating; making you take action?

Galvanizing means to coat something in zinc. It also means to motivate someone to act. For example, "Seeing how good she looked after a week, galvanized her to keep up her new workout."


Which of these means publicly shameful or humiliating; publicly ridiculous?

Ignominy is a word that hasn't changed since it was Latin. An example of use: "After his business collapsed, he faced the ignominy of having his tanning bed repossessed."


Which of these means respect, regard, giving way to someone?

Defer means to put off, as in military service. It also means to bow to someone else, as in, "I defer you your opinion."


Which of these means to​ foster the growth of something, as in a garden or relationship?

Cultivation means growing something, either a relationship or a real thing. For example, "I cultivated John for 10 years before I asked him to invest."


Which of these means to belittle, to slander, or to speak down to someone?

Disparagement means saying mean things about someone. It can mean things that are not true or things that are. For example, "After you leave the company, you have to commit not to disparage it."


Which of these means extremely bad, offensive, or wrong?

If it's bad, then it's just bad. If it's egregious, it's a worst-in-class screw-up. For example, "Putting Legos in the oven in hopes of making them look different was a truly egregious mistake."


Which of these means of or relating to old age?

Geriatric means of old age. It's also still (for some reason) the word applied to pregnancies occurring in women who are a good 35 years away from being themselves geriatric!


Which of these means to foment, encourage, or stir up?

Inciting is not like just fomenting or exciting. It has a negative connotation. For example, "He incited the crowd to turn against the honest man."


Which of these means legally void and ineffective?

Null means nonexistent or void. For example, "Since he lied on the form, his submission is null."


Which of these means to openly express an opinion, perhaps in an annoying way?

Opining means giving an opinion. However, it also has a connotation of being a bit irritating. For example, "He opined that it wasn't fair that she wouldn't date him after he repeatedly kicked her dog."


Which of these means a subtle difference in meaning?

Nuance means shades of grey. For example, "The typical debate on cable news lacks nuance, and is mostly people shouting nonsense."


Which of these means involving amounts of something?

Quantity and quantitative have the same root. For example, "It's a quantative method that takes many factors into account."


Which of these means a tenet, basic truth, assumption, or rule?

Principle is not the same word as principal, though they are homophones. An example, "The principal was a woman of principle."


Which of these means a person's usual mood or feelings?

Temperament means someone's equilibrium. It is a facet of personality but not the same thing.


Which of these means to make visible, to reveal?

Unveiling doesn't always mean literally, like a bride. It can also mean revealing, for example, "They unveiled plans for a building in the shape of a banana."


Which of these means never having happened before, historic?

Precedent means a thing that happened before that provides a guideline on how to react to a thing happening now. Hence, if it is unprecedented, that's the opposite situation.


Which of these means derived from experience, observation, or an experiment?

Empirical and experiment actually share an etymology in Greek, but you have to go way back. An example: "The empirical evidence provided by the milliner pointed toward him having the largest head in the world."


Which of these means to remind, to draw forth or call up, as of a memory, image, person, etc.?

Evoking means to call forth, as in a memory. For example, "The shape of the clouds evoked the image of her mother making porridge."


Which of these means being everywhere at once?

Uber is the German word for over, and ubiquitous has it for a root. For example, "The Uber app has become ubiquitous in many cities."


Which of these means skilled at dealing with people?

Tact and honesty are not exact opposites, but tact means knowing when and how to be honest. For example, "It would not be tactful to tell him that his toupee was on backward throughout the​ entire presentation."


Which of these means to stimulate or incite?

Spurs are designed to make horses go faster - that is, to spur them. For example, "Excessive use of your spurs may spur your horse to throw you into a patch of poison ivy."


Which of these means having practical intelligence or knowledge?

Savvy is a very useful thing to have; it means you aren't easily bamboozled. For example, "Thanks to his street savvy, he knew that the woman asking him to spare a dollar to fund her software start-up was, in fact,​ a lunatic."


Which of these means the act of keeping something?

Retention is the noun that goes with the verb "to retain." It means to keep something. For example, "They moved to Idaho but retained an apartment in Chicago."


Which of these means to put into law, and to formally declare?

Promulgate means to legalize but also to put forth. For example, "He promulgated the idea that the night sky was really a blanket with Christmas tree lights stuck to it."


Which of these means capable of being molded or changed?

Malleable comes from the Latin word for hammer. For example, "Sadly, all politicians are malleable when it comes to their morality."


Which of these means capable of making a lot of money, profitable?

If it's lucrative, it means you can make a lot of money. For example, "Truly, this is a lucrative proposition."


Which of these means the practicality or possibility of something?

If it's feasible, that means it's something you could do. For example, "Before we release funds for the bridge, we must complete a feasibility study."


Which of these means to make worse or increase the severity of something?

Exacerbating something means to make it worse. An example of correct use would be, "Burning coal is exacerbating global warming."


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