ACT / SAT Pro Tip: Study Prefixes, Suffixes, and Root Words

Study the prefixes, suffixes, and root words so you can recognize more ACT / SAT words

Flickr user Brian Turner

Although you’re studying hard for both the ACT and SAT (or just one) and have a list of vocabulary words to review before the test date, it’s near impossible to know all the words that could be included on the test. So what do you do if you run into completely unfamiliar words? You take a look at the prefixes, suffixes, and root words! These word parts are much easier to understand when they are broken down and you can find the word origin. By knowing how to do that, you’ll introduce new words and terms into your English language vocabulary!

Why Study These for the SAT / ACT?

Context can go far when you’re trying to determine what an unknown SAT vocabulary word means. However, sometimes even with context, you can’t fully get to the actual meaning of the word. That’s where prefixes, suffixes, and root words come in.

Root words are the core part of a word, the basic meaning. Prefixes will come before the root word and change the overall meaning. Suffixes come after and can also change the meaning of the word or even the part of speech (noun, verb, etc). Learning just a few can actually help you figure out 10,000 words or more. So even if you don’t understand the meaning of the word originally, you can break it down to find out what it could mean. Every point counts when you’re taking your ACT or SAT tests so it’s important to study these parts of a word. 

Examples of Prefixes, Suffixes, and Root Words

If you can speak German, French, Latin, or Greek, you may actually have an easier time studying these words. Latin and Greek languages are used the most throughout these standardized tests. The languages have a lot in common, so deciphering during a test may be a breeze for you. However, even if you don’t speak another language, it’s still possible to master this skill. College Prep has a list of the common prefixes, suffixes, and root words used throughout testing. Study these vocab words and use context clues to pass your SAT and ACT tests!

Some common examples of root words would be:

  • anthro—human. (ie: Anthropology, the study of humans society past/present)
  • narco—sleep. (ie: Narcolepsy, a disorder that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep)
  • theo—God. (ie: Theology, the study of religions)
  • and vid or vis—to see. (ie: Video or Visual)

A few prefixes examples are:

  • hypo—beneath or below. (ie: Hypothermia, body below healthy internal heat level)
  • brev—short. (ie: Brevity, meaning brief)
  • and anim—life or spirit (ie: Animal, living/thinking creature)

For suffixes, you may see:

  • -able—capable of. (ie: Agreeable, capable of being agreed upon)
  • -ette—little. (ie: Kitchenette, small kitchen)
  • or -cede—to go or yield. (ie: Concede, to admit the truth of something after you denied it).

When you think about it, some of these may seem obvious to you!

Ways to Study

Cheat sheets for prefixes, suffixes, and root words are an excellent way to study this vocab tactic. With only 30 examples, you’ll be well on your way to being able to decipher words, even mid-test. Flashcards can be an excellent resource to ensure you have them down pat. Since the ACT and SAT tests are timed, it’s important to be able to quickly get through these words so you have time for other parts of the tests. 

Once you feel a bit more comfortable with deciphering the meaning of words this way, try it out on a practice SAT or ACT. Are you able to correctly figure out words you didn’t previously know? It’s a lot easier to guess what “malcontent” means if you know “mal” means “bad.” If you’re still struggling, keep practicing with your flashcards, but also consider printing out a few more cheat sheets. Different websites have different examples. By taking the practice tests, you’ll be more comfortable with the formatting of the questions. It won’t be a surprise to you when you take the real test and you can go through it more confidently. 

Even though some root words, prefixes, and suffixes have pretty clear meanings (we use them every day in our lives without realizing it, after all) study those as well. Deciphering words this way may be new to you and it can be easy to forget what was previously obvious when you left it out of your studying. So, it’s always good to review.

Knowing the meaning of vocabulary words will always help you in your life, career, and education. However, this is a valuable tip for your upcoming test, and taking advantage will help you far beyond the SAT or ACT. You’ll be able to easily figure out any unknown words for the rest of your life!

Interested in seeing how your ACT/SAT scores affect your admission odds? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool today!

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