No Time to Prep for SSAT Vocabulary? Try These 6 Hacks

Bonus Material: Top 50 Word Parts for Learning SSAT Vocab Quickly

When it comes to the SSAT Verbal Section, we encourage our SSAT students to work on the following:

  • Strategies
  • Vocabulary building

We’ve outlined our favorite strategies for succeeding on SSAT Verbal in another post

But when it comes to vocabulary building, the test prep path might not feel so straightforward. The key to building a robust vocabulary? Time. 

And time is exactly what many SSAT students don’t have enough of

We’ve already discussed some general tips for mastering SSAT vocab. Now we’re here to offer our expertise in building your SSAT vocabulary quickly and effectively within a limited timeline.

You’ll also get access to our Top 50 Word Parts for Learning SSAT Vocab Quickly, which you can grab below.

Here’s what we cover:


6 Hacks for Learning SSAT Vocab Quickly

1. Learn by word parts

This is the most essential hack for quickly and effectively building your vocabulary, whether you’re prepping for the SSAT or English exams.

Every word in the English language consists of specific parts:

  • Prefixes
  • Roots
  • Suffixes

By learning the general meaning of these word parts, you can infer the general meaning of a vocabulary term, as in the following examples.

Vocabulary WordWord Part and MeaningGeneral Meaning of WordActual Meaning of Word
ambivalentambi: both sidesBoth sides of somethingHaving or showing simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings toward something or someone
vociferousvoc: voice, speakSomething to do with speaking or voiceMarked by insistent outcry
lucidluc: light, clearHaving the quality of clarity or lightnessClear; intelligible; coherent

Notice how knowing the word part and its meaning for each of these three terms does not necessarily create a precise definition. But it allows one to get fairly close, which can be helpful when eliminating answer choices on SSAT Verbal (both synonyms and analogies). 

We’ve compiled the top 50 word parts you should know for the SSAT here:

We also recommend that students check out Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder for a full range of word parts, associated vocabulary terms, and definitions.

2. Learn by category

As you build your SSAT vocabulary, try grouping new words into categories.

This has 2 benefits:

  1. It trains your brain to think in terms of synonyms (valuable for the Synonym questions on the SSAT Verbal section)
  2. Learning by category can help you work through large numbers of words relatively quickly

Here are some examples of word categories based off of common SSAT vocabulary:

  • Positive feelings or qualities (i.e., “elated” and “benevolent”)
  • Negative feelings or qualities  (i.e., “malignant” and “virulent”)
  • Difficulty (i.e., “arduous” or “onerous”)
  • Light (i.e., “translucent” or “lucid”)
  • Dark (i.e., “obscure” or “furtive”)
  • Wordy (“verbose” or “loquacious”)

3. Learn by visual or auditory memorization

For some students, new vocab terms are more likely to stick if they have visual or auditory elements. 

If you are a visual learner, try associating new words with specific colors or images. Your flashcard for “serene” might be blue, for example, or you might draw a picture of a clear window next to the word “translucent.” Some students might also wish to create a memory palace, a memorization technique utilized by ancient Greeks.

This can be an especially valuable trick when paired with category learning, discussed in the previous tip. 

Auditory learners might want to record themselves reading full sentences incorporating new vocab terms or work through flashcards by reading words and definitions out loud.  

4. Learn by speed rounds

Students only have thirty minutes to work through 60 questions on SSAT Verbal. To prepare for this time crunch and build a robust SSAT vocabulary in a short amount of time, practice learning through speed rounds.

Have a friend or family member test you with flashcards, for example, in 1-minute, 3-minute, and/or 5-minute speed rounds. See how many words you can get right in these shorter increments, and try to beat your record on subsequent rounds!

To take things up a notch and practice for the Synonyms section, try Synonym speed rounds. When a flashcard with a given word appears, instead of providing the definition, offer a word with a similar meaning.

5. Learn by repetition

Yes, repetition is vital when it comes to developing vocabulary! It is particularly essential if you are working with a shorter test prep timeline.

When learning new SSAT vocabulary terms, return to these words several times throughout a given day. 

And once you feel that you truly know a word, don’t relegate it to the back of the flashcard stack! Keep cycling through familiar words on a daily basis so that they don’t lose their grip in your memory.

These repetition rounds do not have to be intensive. Spend three minutes flipping through flashcards on the bus, for example, over breakfast, or right before falling asleep.

6. Learn by cross-definitions

When looking up definitions for new words and adding these to flashcards or vocabulary banks, consider using vocabulary terms you’ve already learned in these definitions! This improves your capacities to:

  1. Recognize new words in different contexts
  2. Learn by synonyms
  3. Solidify new vocabulary terms

Here are a few examples of cross-definitions:

torporDullness; apathy; a state of mental and physical inactivity
lucidClear; intelligible; coherent; filled with light
virulentFull of malice; harsh or strong; malignant

Notice how apathy, coherent, and malignant are all SSAT vocabulary words in themselves that surface in the definitions for torpor, lucid, and virulent.


Download our Top 50 Word Parts For Learning SSAT Vocab Quickly

We recommend incorporating all of these strategies into your vocabulary practice.

Yet of the hacks in this post, the most effective is the first one: learning by word parts. We’ve compiled the top 50 word parts you should know for learning SSAT vocabulary on a limited timeline.

Here’s what you get in this free download:

  • The top 50 word parts that surface in SSAT vocabulary
  • Their definitions
  • Three example words per word part

Kate_Princeton Tutoring_AuthorBio Kate M.

Kate is a graduate of Princeton University (B.A. in English Literature and Interdisciplinary Humanities) and Boston University (M.F.A in Creative Writing). Over the last decade, Kate has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay.