Best SAT Vocabulary Flashcards: Princeton Review 500 Essential WordsIf this article is relevant to your SAT prep goals, be sure to sign up for my SAT prep mailing list to download your FREE Time-Sensitive Urgent Report on the Critical Reading section!

If you’re serious about improving your SAT score, you have to find some way to learn the most common SAT vocabulary.

Vocab study has additional rewarding benefits beyond the SAT like improving your college and scholarship applications as well as simply making reading more fun and enjoyable for you!

One of the best ways to get a lot of SAT vocab practice done in a short time is to find a great SAT word list and learn it with flashcards. The question is – what’s the best SAT vocabulary practice system?  

Update: The Princeton Review box set of flashcards is still one of my favorite SAT word lists, but I have since found several other excellent SAT vocabulary books, lists, and supplements and I’ve also made my own hi-def video course on SAT vocab! I’ve made sure to include the complete list of books and links below:

What’s the best SAT Vocab word list and why?

I have tried many SAT vocabulary-building books, games, programs, and more, but one of my favorite sources of SAT vocabulary practice is The Princeton Review’s “Essential SAT Vocabulary,” a 500-flashcard box that you can purchase on for less than $20.

What do I love about this SAT vocabulary list in particular? Well, I know I disagree pretty openly with a lot of the stuff the “big-name” companies do, like the incredible amount of money they charge for private SAT tutoring and classes, but they do have access to some large-scale resources that I don’t have.

One of those things is the ability to rank the most-commonly-seen vocabulary words on the SAT… a surely a labor-intensive task that seems like it requires a lot of employees, a lot of computer power, and a lot of connections with the College Board. I like to piggyback on that and take advantage of their great vocab flashcards, without paying a giant corporation $100/hr for private tutoring that I can find online for 1% of the price.

These type of SAT-focused word lists are so great because they picked the right words to study. 

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What I used to do with my students was make a list at each lesson of words taken directly from the SAT that were unfamiliar to them. This was alright because I have a good “sense” for what words will be more useful than others and could customize their vocab homework, because when it comes to the SAT, some words will definitely show up more than others.

For example, I would much rather teach a student the meaning of the word “expedient” (efficient and effective; in some cases, immoral) than “sesquipedalian,” which means “using long words.”

The first word is common and versatile and has an excellent chance of showing up in many sections of the SAT, but the second word is rare and extremely specific – it has a very small chance of appearing on the SAT and even if it did, it would only show up in the hardest SAT sentence completion questions.  

The Princeton Review Vocabulary Flashcards are highly relevant to the SAT:

What I love about the Princeton Review’s “Essential SAT Vocabulary” 500-card set: every time I pull a card out of it, it is solid gold in terms of being a word that I would want all my students to learn, while still being a word that most of them wouldn’t already know.

This flashcard set is also right at the crossroads of “words appear frequently” and “not too easy, not too hard.” Basically, learn these vocab words cold and your SAT score will go up, especially in the Critical Reading section. Plus you’ll be able to use and understand these words for the rest of your life, which is really a lot cooler (and can take you further) than getting a high SAT score.  

What’s in this SAT Vocabulary card set?

The cards are clean and attractive – in fact it was the packaging that first attracted me to this box set. They have a nice cream, red, and white color scheme that for some reason makes me feel like studying. The box is very sturdy-seeming cardboard and I throw it in my backpack frequently; it’s holding up well so far (a couple of months of use now).

The cards themselves are very thin paper and definitely need to be protected and kept safe in the box, because they could tear, blow away, get wet, or whatever else, and they are probably not very durable. Then again, I have never bought vocabulary flashcards based on their “durability!” I’m far more interested in the quality of the word list, the accuracy of their definitions,  and how well they help me learn the words, right? And that’s where this set shines.

The SAT vocab word and the part of speech are on the front of the flashcard, and the definition is on the back. Also on the back is a sentence that uses the word in-context (awesome) and potential synonyms, which are also usually SAT vocabulary words, so you get double or triple bang for your buck (in terms of studying) if you can just make a habit of memorizing those extra few words.

There are also 50 blank cards (in addition to the 500 vocab words – if I understand correctly, because I definitely haven’t counted by hand) that you can use to add your own choices of words. They are preprinted with the same formatting as all the rest with blanks for word, part of speech, definition, sentence, and synonyms. Nice touch.

You might ask how to keep track of which cards you’ve learned and which you haven’t, since there is no included organizational system. I recommend holding onto the little piece of cardboard that comes in the box and using it as a divider between words you’ve studied and words you haven’t. Then you can pick cards alphabetically or at random, as long as put them on the “learned” side of the cardboard once you study them.

The set is inexpensive and portable and you could just leave it in your mom or dad’s car.The drive to and from school can be an excellent time to learn four new vocab words. These simple flashcards offer a straightforward, proven way to build your SAT vocabulary and improve your score.  

These are the best SAT prep vocabulary cards out there, period:

After a great deal of experience building and teaching SAT vocab words, I recommend The Princeton Review’s “Essential SAT Vocabulary” 500-flashcard set as my current favorite tool on the market for learning common SAT vocabulary words.

It saves you from making up your own list and presents the vocab in an attractive yet no-nonsense fashion. It also allows a degree of customization in the form of preformatted blank cards.

The vocab practice you get from spending a few minutes each day will pay off enormously in the long run. Because it tests top SAT vocab words in a way that other products can’t claim to, I recommend this product to all of my students unconditionally!

I highly recommend all high-school students own a copy of this box set. Order these SAT flashcards today.

UPDATE – Additional SAT Vocab Resources: In the years since first writing this article, I’ve found other books and SAT word lists that I love and I’ve also made my own hi-def video course on SAT vocab – although this box set of flashcards has always remained among my all-time favorites! 

Here are my five current favorite SAT vocabulary books and resources.

Don’t forget to be working on your overall SAT Critical Reading skills as well as committing extra time to personal free reading lists if you truly want to master SAT vocab and reading at a deep level, to max out your chances for high-level college and scholarship acceptances.

Additional Resources:
Conquer SAT Vocabulary Video Course

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