ACT/SAT Vocabulary Words (Beginners Guide)

Crack open the dictionary and pick up a thesaurus, it’s time to talk about a new word–specifically many new words you should know for the ACT / SAT tests. Vocabulary has always been a large element of the ACT, but the newly redesigned SAT will feature a greater emphasis on words and definitions as well.

A pile of Scrabble tiles.

SAT Vocabulary Questions

Vocabulary questions aren’t always going to be as straightforward as: what is the definition of this word? Sometimes context clues will be provided to discover which meaning of the word (through prefixes, suffixes, and roots) is most relevant. For example:

“The recipe calls for condensed milk.”

Given the context of the sentence, the word “condensed” most likely means:

  • A: Shortened
  • B: Made denser
  • C: Concentrated
  • D: Compacted

C is the correct answer here! If you were correct, congratulations! If not, it’s time to study up and learn some new words!

We’ve found quite a few ACT and SAT vocabulary lists that will help you increase your lexicon. We’ll pick out a few from each list. Get ready, logophiles! Here we go.

Quizlet & College Board

  • Amicable: agreeable
  • Antagonist: opponent
  • Benevolent: friendly, helpful
  • Censure: to criticize harshly
  • Congregation: crowd of people
  • Digression: straying from the main point
  • Diligent: hard-working
  • Emulate: to follow an example
  • Ephemeral: momentary, fleeting
  • Fortuitous: lucky, fortunate
  • Frugal: thrifty
  • Hackneyed: overused, cliche
  • Hypothesis: theory requiring proof
  • Impetuous: rash, impulsive
  • Inevitable: unavoidable, certain
  • Jubilation: joy, exultation
  • Longevity: long life, long-lasting
  • Mundane: ordinary, common
  • Nonchalant: calm, casual
  • Novice: beginner
  • Orator: speaker
  • Ostentatious: displaying wealth
  • Precocious: talented beyond one’s age
  • Pretentious: pompous, self-important
  • Rancorous: hateful
  • Reverence: profound respect
  • Spontaneity: impulsive action
  • Superfluous: more than enough, excessive, unnecessary
  • Tactful: diplomatic, polite
  • Tenacious: persistent, resolute
  • Venerable: respectable due to age
  • Vindicate: to clear of blame
  • Wary: watchful, alert

Top 100 Common SAT / ACT Vocabulary Words


  • Analyze: to examine in detail
  • Compose: to write or create / constitute, make up
  • Correlate: have a mutual relationship or connection
  • Differentiate: to recognize what makes something/one different / make something appear distinct
  • Engage: to occupy, attract, or  involve / participate or become involved in
  • Evolve: develop gradually, especially from a simple to a more complex form
  • Infer: to deduce or conclude from evidence and reasoning
  • Precede: to come before something in time / come before in position or order
  • Relevant: closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand

Top 15 ACT Vocab Words

  • Allay: to lessen the intensity of, to calm
  • Apt: naturally disposed toward
  • Ascertain: learn or discover with confidence
  • Asunder: into parts or pieces
  • Assent: to agree or express agreement
  • Candid: openly straightforward and direct without secretiveness
  • Cede: relinquish possession or control over
  • Cite: make reference to
  • Conspicuous: obvious to the eye or mind
  • Contrived: artificially formal
  • Disposition: your usual mood
  • Ebb: fall away or decline
  • Elaborate: marked by complexity or richness of detail
  • Encumber: to hold back
  • Faction: a dissenting clique
  • Fad: an interest followed with exaggerated zeal
  • Fervent: characterized by intense emotion
  • Foreboding: a feeling of evil to come
  • Headlong: in a hasty or foolhardy manor
  • Heed: pay close attention to
  • Infallible: incapable of failure or error
  • Irksome: tedious or irritating
  • Keen: demonstrating ability to recognize or draw fine distinctions
  • Loath: strongly opposed
  • Merit: any admirable quality or attribute
  • Palatable: acceptable to the taste or mind
  • Perpetual: continuing forever or indefinitely
  • Prowess: a superior skill learned by study and practice
  • Rapt: feeling great delight
  • Render: give an interpretation of
  • Sanction: give authority or permission to
  • Scarce: deficient in quantity or number compared with the demand
  • Sublime: of high moral or intellectual value
  • Theory: a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the world
  • Undertake: enter upon an activity or enterprise
  • Vain: unproductive of success
  • Venture: to proceed somewhere despite the risk of possible dangers
  • Warrant: show to be reasonable or provide adequate ground for
  • Yield: give or supply

Top 1,000

There are over one million words in the English language, and while it may be a stretch to learn them all, make sure you study up and familiarize yourself with more obscure terms.

Check out how your ACT/SAT scores affect your acceptance odds with College Raptor!