Posted by Ellen Bremen on Aug 17, 2012 in General, General College Success/Responses to Other College Entities | 11 comments
(A bonus Friday post! My second book review! This wasn’t a genre of books I intended to review, but stay with me and see why I enthusiastically put these gems in my queue!)
Full disclosure: I never took the SAT.
I took the ACT back in high school and didn’t do so well. I took the GRE before grad school and let’s just say that it’s a good thing that my grad school entry wasn’t contingent on a high score (Just to save face here, I did beautifully in grad school).
I’m a troubled test-taker and maybe some of you are, too. A while ago, I mentioned some books that are designed for skill building in the vocabulary portion of the SAT. Now before you say to yourself, “Wait a minute… I don’t need anything involving the SAT!” and get the heck out of this blog post, keep reading because this is the precise reason I wanted to highlight these little books by Direct Hits Education called Core Vocabulary of the SAT and Toughest Vocabulary of the SAT.
But, again, don’t get hung up on the word SAT in the title (unless you’re needing that right now…) because, believe me, I’m in no way needing a standardized test at this point in my life, and when I saw these books, my mind immediately gravitated to their other uses.
Before I get to that, let me tell you a little about why I’m enjoying these vocabulary books so much (because I’m thinking that you’re thinking I inhaled too much fertilizer from that garden I blogged about a while ago, right?):
-They are fun to read! Everything from the font to the conversational tone of these guides just invites you inside. These are nothing like any study guide I’ve ever seen before. There are tons of references to pop culture, history and current events, music, authors, movies… a student–or anyone–will make real connections to the vocabulary and actually retain it on a deeper cognitive level. Here’s an example:
Let’s take the word caustic: You get the definition, and then a nice reference to a character in the movie Ever After, and then another example of Simon Cowell who was famous for caustic barbs directed at inept (another word in the book) contestants.
-The books are short. I remember my ACT and GRE study guides as being akin to a small ottoman. These books are just over 100 pages and in multiple volumes. Easily digestible!
-You can find a list of quick definitions to refresh yourself toward the end, and even a quick test. Multiple layers of recall!
Now, on to why I think these books have so much value beyond SAT prep!
-We all need word capital! Communication boils down to words, doesn’t it? In our society, articulateness matters. I will tell you that in flipping through these books, I was reminded of some words that I haven’t used in a while (yes, I’m going to start bringing “aplomb” back into my verbal repertoire!) and new words (munificent–”very generous”) that I would love to know. I think that students and non-students, alike, would benefit from finding new and enjoyable ways to increase vocabulary.
-Other tests have vocabulary components, too. Many other types of standardized tests–I’m thinking particularly about teacher prep, such as West-B, Praxis, etc., also have reading comprehension components, to include vocabulary. SAT vocabulary prep books of this type can be extremely helpful for those types of exams and, of course, for future teachers, they can transition into great teaching tools.
-Students writing papers/speeches could really benefit from these references. Who keeps a physical dictionary around anymore? Granted, these volumes cover a certain number of words included in the SAT, and a dictionary covers much more. A dictionary is hardly as enjoyable a read, and in the Direct Hits books, we’re still talking a lot of strong words to build upon, and some excellent words to possess in one’s verbal and written infrastructure.
The second-to-last thing I’ll say about Direct Hits, in general, is that their blog is similar in tone to the books. Here is a post I found on The Hunger Games that pulls out more vocabulary references. Love it!
My last note: I did not do these books’ coverage of the actual SAT test justice because my review of them was through a college lens. The books definitely tackle the test, and particularly the Core volume digs into reasoning of words, meanings of “prefix,” “attitude,” etc.
I really appreciated the opportunity to take a look at these books, both professionally and personally. I’m realizing that even though I write all the time, and I’m in an academic environment, my own vocabulary could always use a dedicated boost.