Tag: test prep

SAT/ACT vocab words from Harry Potter Spells

Harry Potter: Expecto Patronum with Legos

It probably comes as no surprise that I'm a huge Harry Potter fan.

One of the things that I loved the most about the series was how J.K. Rowling was able to weave her love of words into the magical world of Hogwarts. So I'm happy to report that all of those hours you spent playing Harry Potter: Spells on your iPhone can be counted as studying!

Here is a sampling of the SAT/ACT vocabulary words that you can learn from Harry Potter Spells:


The Confundo spell confuses or confounds people - just like how the lecturer confounded her audience with her convoluted logic or the ragtag football team confounded sports pundits by beating the top-ranked team.


The Crucio spell causes excruciating pain, probably similar to what it might feel like to be literally crucified on a cross or figuratively crucified by the press.

Reward yourself for studying

Let's face it. Studying for the SAT or the ACT is not always fun.

Sometimes, you just need some extra motivation to get yourself to hit the books. And there's absolutely NOTHING wrong with that.

In fact, rewarding yourself for studying or in fact, rewarding yourself for tackling any challenging task, has been proven to help you make progress. The hard part is doing it effectively.

Here are two things to keep in mind:

The Key to SAT, ACT, or GRE Essay Writing Success: Practice, practice, practice!

I fully admit that this blog is based on my own experience.

SAT, ACT, or GRE Essay Writing

I took the GRE a few years ago and I had a plan for how I would prep for both the Verbal and the Quantitative sections. But I figured that I didn't need to practice for the Analytical Writing section because I wrote all the time - at my job and as a hobby - so why would I need to practice writing? It was in the bag!

BIG mistake. I did well on the Verbal and Quant sections, but I bombed the Writing section.

Well, I didn't totally bomb it, but I certainly didn't get the score that I needed. The essay writing sections on the SAT, ACT, and GRE test your ability to think quickly and to produce clear and concise commentary in a very compressed amount of time. And these skills only come with practice!

Here are some things to keep in mind:

Learn SAT/ACT vocab with just 3 post-its

This post isn't a joke. Take out 3 post-it notes. Write the following three words on them, one per post-it.

  • Defenestrate
  • Elucidate
  • Egress

Now take the post-its and stick them around your room:

  • Defenestrate goes onto your window.
  • Elucidate goes onto your lamp.
  • Egress goes onto your door.

In case you're wondering whether or not I've gone crazy, I promise you that I haven't! Here's why:

SAT/ACT Vocabulary with Post-Its
  • Defenestrate means to throw someone or something out of a window. It's often used in reference to throwing politicians out of office - so imagine elected officials being forced to climb out their windows to flee the protesters storming the building.

  • Elucidate means to shed light on something, to make things more clear - just like how your lamp makes things in your room more clear.

  • Egress can be used as both a verb or a noun - either an exit or to exit - just like how your door is an egress (n) to your room and you can egress (v) your room through the door.

Use word-image pairings to remember definitions

I have tutored students for the SAT and I have also taught English as a second language. The question that I got all the time from my students was:

“How on earth will I ever remember all of these new vocabulary words?”

My answer? With a little creativity!

One thing I find helpful is to associate a new word with an image. So for example:

Word-Image Pairing Strategy

The first time I learned the word pompous, I immediately thought, "That's my guidance counselor!"

He thought he knew everything there was to know about the college application process even though his info was about 20 years out of date. And he wouldn't ever let us forget it, pontificating endlessly about all the things he thought we were doing wrong but that we were actually doing right, because hello? It was the 21st century!

Thank goodness I switched guidance counselors because I would never have gotten into the college I did had I listened to him. But I guess, I have him to thank for always remembering the definition of the word pompous.

Here are some other word-image pairings that have worked for me: