Can You Pass This SAT Vocabulary Drill Without Any Mistakes in 7 Minutes?

Torrance Grey

Image: Witthaya Prasongsin/Moment/Getty Images

About This Quiz

The SAT doesn't drill you on word meanings for the fun of it. Nor do they expect college, or life, to be full of pop vocab tests. They know you're going to need that vocabulary! Every book you read, paper you write, meeting you attend, interview you go on--they all depend on the ability to comprehend and effectively use language. If you're composing an email, writing a review, or introducing a speaker, a broad vocabulary leaves a lasting impression. For more substantial works or longer speeches, command of the language gives you access to nuance and persuasion that are unavailable with a more limited repertoire. A bigger vocabulary also increases our ability to think in the abstract, understand complex issues and participate in civic life. And it can be passed down! Studies show that young children who are exposed to a variety of words learn to read and comprehend faster, giving them needed confidence for school. A good vocabulary is not a panacea, but there are very few areas of life that it doesn't touch. 


Improving vocabulary doesn't have to be tedious. While reading, notice where the author chooses a synonym to avoid repetition. When looking up a word, don't skip the etymology, the history of where that word comes from. It can lead some interesting places. "Disaster" and "astronomy" both come from the Greek word for "star," a legacy which hints at where people used to place the blame for the mishaps and catastrophes in their lives! Of course, testing your skills with quizzes like this one also gives your brain a chance to flex its muscles. So let's get started!

If your friend is "tactful," his choice of words can be described how?

To be "tactful" means to show skill and consideration in choosing words and actions, with the aim of not embarrassing or offending someone. "My coworkers had the wrong information at the meeting, so I needed to find a tactful way to correct them."

When you are attempting to "mitigate" a problem, what are you trying to do?

If you mitigate a situation, you diminish its impact or cushion the blow--usually if you can't prevent it entirely. "We can't stop the river from flooding, but the sandbags will help mitigate the damage."

Someone asking if your business is "lucrative" wants to know what?

A lucrative business or field is one which produces a good amount of profit. "She began showing her work in galleries across the state, and her artistic career became as lucrative than her day job."

A group that has reached a "consensus" has done what?

"Consensus" comes from the same Latin root as "consent." A consensus is a general agreement on a course of action or a set of policies. "After many members disagreed with a 10 percent increase in dues, the club reached a consensus; they would raise dues 5 percent and hold a fundraiser to make up the rest."

If you don't want to "reproach" someone, what do you dislike the idea of doing?

To reproach someone is to express disapproval or disappointment. "My mother didn't reproach us in front of the teacher, but we knew we'd hear about it later!"

Which of these phrases is the best definition of "sequester"?

To "sequester" is to keep separate or apart. Writers often sequester themselves when working, and a judge may sequester a jury if there's a chance they could hear gossip or news about the case.

What does "allude" mean?

"Allude" means to refer indirectly, allowing someone to pick up on your meaning without directly saying what you mean. "He didn't announce an agreement, but alluded to the many successful meetings they'd had."

If you heard something "peculiar," what did you hear?

"Peculiar" means strange or bizarre, often in a way that is unique to the individual or place. "He had a peculiar habit of rearranging all the eggs in the carton after removing a couple to cook."

If an experience was "exhilarating," how would you describe it?

Something that is "exhilarating" is exciting, thrilling, invigorating! An action movie, a roller coaster or a fast dance would all qualify. From the Latin "ex," meaning out, and "hilarare," or to cheer, an exhilarating experience draws out joy and makes us feel alive.

Someone known for their "candor" is known for what?

Candor, a blunt and forthright honesty, is related to the word "candid," "outspoken" and "sincere," as well as the word "candle"! This kind of honesty shines like a flame, and people with candor feel no need to hide it! "I appreciated her candor, and knew she didn't mean to hurt my feelings."

Which of these words is similar in meaning to "boon"?

"The rain was a boon to the farmers." A boon is a benefit, or a gift, sometimes unexpected. An older use of the word is as a synonym for "favor" -- to grant a boon was to honor a request, often made by someone with less power.

Someone who can't "adapt" is unable to do which of these?

Change is the only constant, according to the ancient philosopher Heraclitus. The ability to adapt--to adjust to a new situation, environment, or challenge, is the best way to sail through those changes.

What is a "penchant"?

A "penchant" is a strong like or tendency. "His penchant for untested recipes resulted in unique, delicious meals some nights ... and last-minute pizza deliveries on others."

Which word could be used in place of "surfeit"?

A "surfeit" is an overabundance. "So many people wanted to help, we had a surfeit of donations, and had to ask for more volunteers to drive them to the flood zone."

A "vicarious" experience is best described how?

A "vicarious" experience is one you get by watching someone else do something and imagining how it feels. "The movie gave the audience the vicarious thrill of whitewater rafting without ever getting wet."

Which of these is a synonym for "tenuous"?

A "tenuous" connection is a very slight, thin one. "Their tenuous friendship didn't survive the move, and they lost touch with each other." This adjective is, unsurprisingly, related to the word "tentative."

When you say something is "ubiquitous," you're describing it how?

"Ubiquitous" comes from the Latin word "ubique" meaning "everywhere." A song that plays in every store you go into, a very trendy hairstyle, a Starbucks two blocks from the Starbucks you just left--these things aren't literally everywhere, but they sure feel like they are!

Someone calls your friend "garrulous." What do they mean?

"Garrulous" means talkative, but often not in a friendly, outgoing way. Garrulous people tend to ramble, talk about trivial things or bore their audience. "Loquacious" means they use speech to good effect, and "talkative "or "chatty" can imply someone who is friendly and enjoys conversation.

A good "orator" has mastered what skill?

A good orator is a successful public speaker. Speeches, eulogies, sermons, presentations - some people would rather crawl under the table than deliver these; some are happy to jump on the table and start working the crowd! It might seem like a gift certain people are born with, but almost anyone can learn to be comfortable with a mic in their hand. Check out a local Toastmasters club, or start with small gatherings and work your way up!

A "pithy" remark could also be described as which of these?

A pithy remark is to the point. Why waste words?

Is "adroit" a compliment or not?

"Adroit" means skillful or even masterful in the use of the hands, such as an adroit poker dealer shuffling cards faster than you can see; or in navigating situations, like a diplomat adroitly steering to conversation away from controversial topics.

The job listing is looking for "industrious" employees. Who should apply?

"Industrious" means hardworking and diligent, whether or not one is employed in a field usually thought of as an industry. The humble honeybee is often referred to as "industrious."

What does "incontrovertible" mean?

Debate is fun! But within every topic, there may be certain facts that are so well proven that they are not up for dispute. "Incontrovertible" refers to those points about which there is no controversy.

In a spy novel, the heroes look for a "nondescript" car to borrow. What are they seeking?

Something which is "nondescript" is lacking in distinctive features. It can't be easily remembered or — as the word itself suggests — described. Needless to say, this one is rarely a compliment.

A "genial" character has which of these qualities?

We value friendliness so highly, we seem to have an endless supply of words for it! "Cordial," "affable," "amiable" ... the list goes on. "Genial" shares a root with the word "genius," and making people feel welcome and at ease does seem to be a valuable skill.

"Empathy" is the ability to do what?

Empathy is the ability to relate to what someone else is feeling, to understand what it would be like to feel those emotions yourself. It's closely related to "sympathy." With sympathy, you can feel bad for what someone is going through, while empathy puts you in their shoes.

An article that mentions "disaffected" youth is discussing which group?

Someone who is disaffected no longer supports those in authority, whether actively rebelling or simply withdrawing. Don't confuse it with "unaffected" or "not affected," as our second answer option suggests. That's a different concept.

What would be a simpler way to say "winsome"?

"Winsome" comes from the old English root "wynn" meaning joy or delight. It is often used to describe something that is charming or delightful, usually in a childlike way. We think this appealing adjective should make a comeback!

Your friend describes a movie as "inane." Is she recommending it?

"Inane" means silly, pointless, meaningless. In the example above, spending two hours in the cinema lobby playing air hockey would probably be a better use of your time (and it seems like there is no shortage of movies like this!)

Which of these comes closest to the definition of "eminent"?

An eminent person is well known and respected, especially in their field or profession. An eminent scientist or lawyer might not get mobbed in an airport, but at a conference or convention, they'll be shaking a lot of hands.

Which of these would be used to "exculpate" someone?

"Exculpated" means cleared from blame. Not just in courtrooms, either - those crumbs all down your co-workers shirt could exculpate you from the accusation of eating all the break room cookies!

If something happens "sporadically," what does that mean?

Something which happens sporadically doesn't follow any set schedule; it occurs occasionally. It can also be used to describe something, such as diseases or outbreaks of violence, that show up in isolated incidents rather than as part of a pattern.

Which of these would be another word for "figurative"?

Figurative expressions use the language of symbols, imagery and cultural reference. "He's in the hot seat" is figurative if everyone is grilling him on a failed project. It's literal if he left his car in the sun all day!

Someone is "elated" if they are reacting in what way?

Woot! You just got into the college of your choice! You got a raise! You have a date this weekend! Your team just sailed through the semi-finals! Any of these things might make you elated--overjoyed and not shy about expressing it. Go you!

To "calibrate" is to do what?

Sometimes estimates work just fine, and sometimes your measurements need to be exact. When it's the latter, it's good to calibrate your instruments to give a precise reading and not one that's off a few degrees, or pounds, or inches.

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