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Using College-Level Words in Your Application Essay

Here’s an article on using SAT vocabulary words: You can use those big SAT words on your college essay, but do so gingerly. Well placed “big words” are effective and they can really make your essay stand out. Over-use of those words will make your essay seem disingenuous, another SAT word. Here are some tips to keep you sounding smart and genuine.

If you are going to use a word that you do not normally use, be sure you know the all of the meanings of the word and know how to correctly use it in a sentence. You want the admissions committee to see that you have a great command of Standard English. If you use your word processor’s thesaurus, make sure that the word you choose is in the correct form and tense for your sentence and paragraph.

Practice writing fresh sentences for newly acquired SAT words. For example, if you’re studying new words, write original sentences next to the words in the SAT prep book, as well as in a new vocabulary journal. Mastery of vocabulary takes months. Thus, you should practice writing these sentences months before the application is due and keep sentences with fresh content inside a special journal or notebook.

For an example of what not to do, we will use the following sentence: “Most varanid lizards are large, conspicuous carnivores, making them important elements in terrestrial vertebrate fauna…” This is fine for an essay talking about monitor lizards at a college level. Nothing needs to change in that sentence. If we want to try to make that sentence sound smarter using a “big” word and we substitute the word meretricious for conspicuous; the sentence now reads: “Most varanid lizards are large, meretricious, carnivores, making them important elements in terrestrial vertebrate fauna…” We have changed the meaning of that sentence considerably. Our monitor lizard, instead of being a noticeable or important carnivore as the original text implies, is now a tawdry or flashy carnivore perhaps even behaving in a manner consistent with a prostitute. You see how substituting “big words” can get you into trouble.

On the other hand, if we use the same original sentence as above but in a watered down version, our essay sounds like a 9th grade science project. “…most monitor lizards are large meat eaters, making them an important part of the land based vertebrate group…” This is where knowing when to use “big” words and when not to can make a difference.

Remember keep it reasonable. Your essay should reflect your intelligence level. Your choice of words should not make it difficult to read and it should not change your intended meaning.

Get a good dictionary, do not use the one that comes with MS Word, and get a good thesaurus. This way you will have the proper tools to create your essay using a sprinkling of big SAT words instead of a paper consisting of 500 words you can use to study for the SAT’s.

Practice writing fresh sentences for newly acquired SAT words. For example, if you’re studying new words, write original sentences next to the words in the SAT prep book, as well as in a vocabulary journal. Mastery of vocabulary takes months, thus you should practice writing these sentences months before the application is due.

Top Test Prep also provides SAT prep and ACT prep for students taking these exams.

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