Vocabulary Words

Abhor — to hate
Animal cruelty is a dreadful thing, and I abhor anyone who engages in it.

Bigot — narrow-minded, prejudiced person
When you say that you dislike a group of people because of the color of their skin, you sound like a bigot.

Counterfeit — fake; false
The saleswoman fortunately identified that twenty-dollar-bill as counterfeit; otherwise, the store would have been paid with illegal currency.

Enfranchise — give voting rights
The Civil Rights movement did a great deal to enfranchise American citizens who were not able to exercise their right to vote.
(to disenfranchise is to take away a person’s right to vote)

Hamper — hinder; obstruct
My inability to understand their language hampers my ability to speak with French people when I travel to Paris.


Lost keys….!

A thousand apologies, students, but I misplaced my keys and my phone this evening. I got up to the classroom at 7:38, and I am still here (8:00), but I’m afraid you might have thought we were not meeting since the door was locked and I was not there. I will post more test-taking hints and suggestions, and I will put up more vocabulary words as well — don’t forget to read chapter 5 in the study guide, and let’s add chapter 6 too.

The Essay Prompt

Although the essay composes a relatively small percentage of your overall score, mentally it can affect your entire test-taking experience, so to speak. As the first element of the SAT that you encounter, it can help or hinder the rest of your test, based on your perception of your performance.

As with the rest of the test, vocabulary is key.

Your first step with the writing prompt is to read the prompt, any associated quotes or text, and understand what the question is asking.

Second, prewriting. Your prewriting should take up no more that 5-8 minutes — you have 25 minutes for the essay, and while it is vital to be organized in your approach, you need to leave yourself enough time to make a clear argument.

Although my daughter (a junior in high school) implored me not to tell you to have three points to discuss (apparently many teachers decided that 3 is a magic number), it is a pretty good rule of thumb for timed writing assignments. But you start with your thesis — what are you going to say? Do you agree with the prompt? Disagree? See merit on both sides? Let’s say you agree. You need to have 2 or 3 reasons why you agree — those are your SUPPORTING ARGUMENTS. Each argument needs a separate paragraph.

Obviously, it will not be enough to simply state that you agree. You need your reasons, and then you need to support those reasons with examples. It is almost impossible to get a high score on the essay section if your essay in under 300 words. Understand that the graders do not value MORE words over WELL-WRITTEN words, but it is pretty difficult to make a clear and strong argument without developing it. And in order to develop your points, you have to write enough to make your argument clearly.

The SAT graders like to see examples that support your reasons, and like to see examples that come both from your life experiences AND from books that you have read — novels or textbooks. The graders want to know that you have material that you can draw upon in order to make your case. Schools are usually not interested in students who do not read, or who cannot think concretely about their life experience and how it relates to abstract concepts.

KEEP YOUR WRITING ORGANIZED. If you are using one paragraph to explain how Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations illustrates the value society places on wealth and the appearance of wealth, then do not switch subjects and begin talking about how wealth can be helpful from a charitable standpoint. If you are critiquing a shallow society, don’t start talking about how wealthy people can be helpful as well IN THE SAME PARAGRAPH. Remember that an essay has several pretty hard-and-fast rules:

1. Must have a clear thesis, or argument that you are making
2. Must have several paragraphs that explain why you are making that argument  (your supporting points)
3. Must have a separate topic sentence for each paragraph — the topic sentence tells the reader what the paragraph will be discussing, and it should not include information that is NOT related to the topic sentence4. Must have examples and details to explain your points
5. Must have a conclusion — the conclusion should explain what you just argued. It should be similar to the thesis but not identical to it


Textual Cues and Clues, Part 2

So we made through the book’s example — let’s try one from the practice test.

Although it stayed in business for several months, the company was actually ____________ and met its financial obligations only by engaging in _____________________ activities.”

(a) insolvent………..fraudulent
(b) prudent………….speculative
(c) autonomous…………subordinate
(d) bankrupt…………….charitable
(e) stable……………….manipulative

Clue words here include:

Although — this word indicates that something is wrong — it means that even though the company looked like it was stable (it stayed in business for several months), it wasn’t. Although is a SIGNAL word — it signals that something is going to disagree.
actually — means that even though something looks one way, the reality is that the appearance is wrong.
only — means that something is wrong here

“Although it stayed in business several months” tells you that the next part will CONTRADICT, or go against, what seems to be true — that the business functions. So “the company was actually _____________________” or the company was actually NOT FUNCTIONING.

So stop right there. We know that the word for the first blank needs to be a word that means that the company has no money, or isn’t running properly. Let’s look at the options.

(a) insolvent
(b) prudent
(c) autonomous
(d) bankrupt
(e) stable

Option (a), insolvent — remember when we discussed prefixes? “in” and “im” can often mean “not” in relation to the rest of the word. So “insolvent” means “not solvent,” and “solvent” means “has enough money.” So “insolvent” means “does not have enough money.” So the company was not functioning, or didn’t have enough money — option (a) is a possibility.

Option (b), prudent — this means “to behave properly and wisely.” So if the blank should be something that means “not functioning,” and “prudent” means “behaves properly and wisely,” then  the word does NOT fit and we can cross off choice (b).

Option (c), autonomous — words that have the prefix “auto” often mean “by oneself” or refer to the speaker. So in this case, “autonomous” means “self-supporting.” In the case of this sentence, option (c) CANNOT work, because the business is not functioning and is NOT self-supporting. So we can cross off answer (c).

Option (d), bankrupt — this means not only do you have no money, it means that you cannot pay your debts to others. So if the answer should reflect that the company is NOT FUNCTIONING, “bankrupt” CAN fit, because a company that owes money that it cannot pay is NOT functioning. So option (d) is a possibility, along with option (a).

Option (e), stable — this means reliable and dependable. Again, this is the OPPOSITE of NOT FUNCTIONING, so we can cross off answer (e).

We have answers (a) and (d) as possibilities, so let’s look at the second blank to figure out which is correct.

Using option (a)’s first word in the first blank, and second word in the second blank, we have “the company was actually insolvent and met its financial obligations only by engaging in fraudulent activities.”

Answer (a)’s second word is “fraudulent,” which you will notice has the word “fraud” in it. “Fraud” refers to a deception or a lie. So could that sentence be true? Is the company actually “insolvent” (has no money) and did it meet its financial obligations by engaging in “fraudulent” (or deceptive, lying) activities? Does it make sense that a company with no money lies to get money? Yes, it does. So option (a) is still a possibility.

Answer (d) would make the sentence look like this: “the company was actually bankrupt and met its financial obligations only by engaging in charitable activities.” So answer (d)’s second word is “charitable,” which has the root word “charity” in it. “Charity” means something that relies on gifts to survive, so to engage in “charitable” activities means the company GIVES MONEY to others in order to meet its financial obligations. So does it make sense that in order to pay its debts, a company gives away money to charities? No. It cannot give money as gifts to pay its bills. That makes no sense. So answer (d) is incorrect, and the answer would be (a). 

Prefixes and root words can serve as excellent clues to the meanings of words, but you can still see that if your vocabulary is too small, you will either spend a lot of time guessing on the SAT, or you will spend all of your testing time trying to figure out what the words mean. Memorizing definitions is simply something you will have to do in order to do well on the test. 

Textual Cues and Clues

As you will notice as you read Chapter 5, the SAT expects you to be able to identify difficult words and apply them to complex sentences. These can be a bit discouraging, but you should look in the sentences for cue and clues as to what the test wants from you.

The sentences will often use specific words to indicate that the first word will be contrasted with, or even opposite to, the second word in the set.

For example, “Despite their _______________ proportions, the murals of Diego Rivera give his Mexican compatriots the sense that their history is ___________________ and human in scale, not remote and larger than life.”

You have to choose words to fill in those blanks, which sounds difficult, but the sentence is helping you. Look at the words in bold type:

Despite — Means, “even though their proportions are __________”
And — indicates that the word in the blank will be similar to “human in scale,”
Not — means that the word in the blank will NOT BE similar to “remote and larger than life

So let’s look at AND — it means that the second word is similar to “human in scale.” This means, “normal size.” A MURAL is a large painting, so the sentence is saying that even though the MURAL is large…so that first blank SHOULD BE a word that means “large.” MURALS are large. The second blank should be a word that means “human in size” and the OPPOSITE of “remote (distant) and larger than life.”

Your choices are:

(a) monumental (a vocabulary word from list 1!)…….accessible
(b) focused………prolonged
(c) vast……..ancient
(d) realistic…..extraneous
(e) narrow…….overwhelming.

So we know that the first blank means something like “large,” and the second blank is a word that means something “normal-sized,” because the sentence tell us it is “human in size” and NOT “remote and larger than life.”

Let’s look at the first choice in a, b, c, d, and e.
(a) is “monumental,” which means “very large.” Since we need a word that means “large,” (a) is a good answer SO FAR. (b) is “focused,” which means “very specific,” and also “narrow,” neither of which means “large.” So you can cross out answer (b) since the first choice does not fit.

(c) is “vast,” which means “very large,” so option (c) is also a possible choice. Option (d) is “realistic,” which means “normal size” and thus “not large,” so we can eliminate answer (c) since we need an answer for the first blank that DOES mean “large.” Option (e) is “narrow,” which also does NOT mean “large,” so we can eliminate option (e).

Now we have TWO possible correct answers JUST BY LOOKING AT THE WORDS FOR THE FIRST BLANK. We can eliminate the wrong answer by looking at the word that goes in the SECOND blank.

Options (a) and (c) are both correct for the first blank. The second blank needs to have a word that means “normal size” and not “remote or larger than life.” The second word in answer (a) is “accessible,” which means “something that normal people can understand or reach.” So there is the word “normal,” so maybe this one is correct. Answer (c) has the second word “ancient,” which means “very old.” Remember that the word “not” in the original sentence means, “opposite of,” so is “ancient,” or very old, the opposite of “remote and larger than life”? Does “ancient” mean “normal size”?

It does not. So we managed to cross out 3 answers because the first word in (b), (d), and (e) did not mean “large,” and now we can cross out (c) because its second word does not mean “normal size.” That leaves us with (a), which is the correct answer.

As can you see, knowing what the words mean is VITAL to being able to do well on the SAT. If you cannot understand what the sentence means, or if you do not know what the answer words mean, you will be seriously confused on the test. That can be discouraging, so you should be studying our vocabulary words daily as well as looking at practice questions and looking up any words you don’t understand. 

You should also be reading the articles that I link to this website — read to understand, and if there are words you don’t recognize, WRITE THEM DOWN and LOOK THEM UP. Add them to your vocabulary list — treat the vocab list like a life-list for words. Whenever you see a word you don’t recognize, learn it. 

Further reading…

Thursday night

I am sorry about having to cancel class this evening. Should the class continue in its present form, we will be working on the vocabulary words that are listed on this blog (posted last week) and working on sentence completion.

In the SAT Study Guide, please become familiar with Chapter 5. We will be going over the concepts and practice questions in that section, should we continue to meet.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that you continue to accumulate vocabulary words if you plan to take the SAT. The test uses complex words in the questions and in the comprehension passages, so you must be prepared.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Linked is an article from CNN. It offers a good opportunity to analyze political issues, and should also give you some good vocabulary words.

Tuesday’s class

On Tuesday, 17 September, we will have Vocabulary Quiz #1, and I will give you Vocabulary Word List #2. We are a class behind due to Thursday’s absences — bring your SAT Study Guides and your questions about grammar and vocabulary.

If you are studying, reviewing, or taking a practice test and you encounter a word that you don’t recognize or understand, reply to one of the vocabulary posts and I will answer your question. You can also bring it up in class.