I have tried several different vocabulary books with my SAT students, and SAT Vocabulary for Dummies is one of the best.
This book speaks to high school student in just the right tone- fun and informal, without being condescending. One thing I learned early on in my tutoring career was that anyone over the age of 25 should not attempt to speak to high school students in their language because, unless you are actually in high school, the slang you use will be out of date and you will come off as condescending or just pathetic. Much of the SAT literature suffers from this problem, but Suzee Vlk’s book hits just the right note- whimsical, and unabashedly nerdy.
The book is organized in three parts. Part I features words by category. This simple device of using semantically related categories rather than alphabetical order promotes learning because we learn by building connections. Vlk cleverly gives the pronunciation of each word as a rhyme, rather than using the incomprehensible system used in dictionaries. For example, the pronunciation of emaciated is rhymes with he may he waited. The definitions themselves are also well done. They are clear and concise, short enough to put on an index card for rote memorization, but long enough to accurately convey the meaning.
But SAT Vocabulary for Dummies is much more than a dry word list. The book is chock full of humor, interesting trivia about the words, and fun sentences that put the words in context. The corny jokes (Did you hear about the restaurant on the moon? Great food, but no atmosphere) help infuse the book with personality. Call-out boxes with fascinating bits of etymology help keep students interested (for example, one callout box features words you may hear in a gym, and another features words that sound like dirty words but aren’t). Short exercises at the end of each chapter reinforce the words and make perfect homework assignments.
Part II teaches words in the context of a brief story, which I have found to be a highly effective. Of course, this can be taken too far, as we have seen with Kaplans horrible practice of highlighting vocabulary words in the context of reprinted, 19th-century literature. Turning a vocabulary lesson into an assignment to read Wuthering Heights is like making medication more palatable by chopping it up and mixing it with garlic. But Vlk’s short stories are light and readable. A good tutoring technique is to assign students to make their own short paragraphs or stories incorporating each of the words.
Finally, Part III tests each of the word lists with sentence completions. I appreciate this format because that is exactly how students will be tested on the words on the actual test.
My only complaint about the book is that the words were not chosen based on the frequency with which they appear on the test. Some of the words are not likely SAT words, but the vast majority of them are.
Tragically, Suzee Vlk died while finishing this book, so if it does get updated it will lose some of Vlk’s unmistakeable tone and style. For now, the 2003 version is still relevant, and I routinely use this book with SAT students with great success. This review was provided courtesy of homeandofficesupplies.net, and you can go to their website by clicking here.