Who Needs to Build Word Capital? We All Do! Here’s One Way…

Posted by on Aug 17, 2012 in General, General College Success/Responses to Other College Entities | 11 comments

The target? A wider, stronger command of your vocabulary! Who doesn't need that?

(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.



  1. Thank you Ellen for this thorough review of our books. We tell our students that these are not just “SAT words”, but tools to help a college student, and then later a professional, be an articulate speaker and writer. It is great to have that reinforced by a college professor.

    Learning high-level vocabulary can actually be fun. Thanks again for this “munificent” bonus post.


    • Claire and Ellen – I have posted this link to my facebook page, as I think this is of vital importance – regardless of one’s age or impending exploits. In this era of abbreviated writing styles and acronyms for texting, at best – and a complete disregard and apathy for good English, at worst – thank you so much for trying to fight the good fight, for the good cause!


      • Thank you so much! I was thrilled to review these books and can’t wait to use them as a teaching tool with my Communication students :-) .

    • My pleasure, Claire! I am just as excited to be able to find new resources for my students, and even for myself!


      • Susniirrpgly well-written and informative for a free online article.

      • thanks donkeytale, and thanks for getting my back at MLW; you are one of the good guys. Oh, donkeytale, meet neil bitch.He is one angry white man. I swear he would get banned even by Maryscott. But he too is one of the good guys :) Peace.

      • They have mentioned having more than one “campus,” with the current WAC still utilized, and another, larger, theater at another site. With unlimited parking.

      • Now that I look at it again, you guys are right. Either way, the movie is going to suck, and the game will probably reflect that. Might as well go with JPSARRI and wait for War for Cybertron 2.VN:F [1.9.17_1161](from 0 votes)

  2. Thanks for this, Ellen! Not only did I share it when you first posted it, but today, I came back and shared it in three Facebook groups I belong to (two writers’ groups and a speaker’s group). I’m sure they’ll appreciate it as much as I have.

    • Tara, that is awesome! I’m going to alert Claire Griffith (the publisher) immediately! She is going to be so excited and thankful for you spreading the word!

      Thank you for commenting!

  3. Tara, thank you for taking the time to share Ellen’s terrific post about our books. I love following her blog, especially since I have a college student that needs her excellent advice about communicating with professors. I am honored to have our books reviewed by her. It’s never too late to “build word capital.”

    Thanks again for commenting here,

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