Questions on the SAT and ACT look like they’re floating in abstract space, but in fact, they are carefully constructed by test makers and educators to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the student. Streamline tutors train their students to look behind the question at the conceptual framework. This perspective is one of the core strengths that leads to successful strategy development and a confident approach to testing.

Looking behind the question takes the guesswork out of test prep. It gives the student the means to construct a straightforward, foolproof process for tackling any question that might come their way. Let’s look at an example.

As used in the second sentence, the word “land” most nearly means

  1. Soil.
  2. Forfeit.
  3. Secure.
  4. Beach.

A student unfamiliar with the SAT will get to this question and think, “Great! I know what that word means. Easy point!” Not so fast. These types of questions are called “Vocab in Context.”

Found on every official SAT practice test, Vocab in Context questions are designed to trip the unwary test taker in a few simple ways. Once you know how these questions are designed, you can recognize those traps from miles away.

The key to Vocab in Context questions is context. In the passage, the sentence is often employing a secondary definition that is less commonly associated with the word in question. Let’s look at the sentence where our word appears.

Certain names regularly rise and fall in popularity, while others land a spot on the list without any warning.

Our strategy for vocab in context is to go back to the text, cross out the word, and try to come up with a synonoym to put in its place. This process forces the student to tease out the intended meaning by analyzing the contextual evidence in the passage. Only then should the student look at answer choices, choosing the closest match to the definition they came up with. Before this point, the answers will likely lead you astray.

This method works — whether you recognize the vocabulary or not. That’s the confidence we want our students to walk away with: whatever happens, they’ve got this in the bag.

Give us a call at 410-366-0479 or visit our website to find out more.

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Ian Siegel

For more information about how to navigate the college tract, contact director of Streamline Tutors, Ian Siegel who specializes in college counseling, test prep, and academic coaching. You can visit his...