The Internet is full of advice on the subject of cramming vocabulary for the SSAT (and, for that matter, the ISEE, SAT, GRE, and lots of other standardized tests).

Unfortunately, most of that advice is bad.

Most people will tell you to study flashcards and vocab lists to try to get ready for the SSAT, but I think you’ll find that the majority of people who have done well on the SSAT didn’t use any of these methods.

Let me briefly explain why this is: Even though lots of teachers and test prep companies would like you to believe otherwise, the fact is that people don’t grow their vocabularies by memorizing new words off a flashcard. They learn new words naturally, by being around them in real life.

Think about the words you know by heart–words like “table,” Internet,” “facebook,” “iphone,” and so on. I bet you didn’t learn the word “facebook” because a teacher assigned you a flashcard to memorize with the word “facebook” on it. You learned what the word means because you heard people talking about it and you were interested in it. That’s how your brain is designed to learn new words–when you care about a new word, you learn what it means pretty quickly, without a lot of effort.

So if you really want to learn new words for the SSAT, the only effective way to get there is to start reading higher-quality sources and watching higher-quality movies and television shows.

But that’s kind of a pain, right? On top of that, it takes a little while to start reading stuff, and it’s not very efficient if our only goal is raise our SSAT scores.

Which brings us to the real underlying issue here:

Memorizing SSAT vocabulary is not a good way to raise your SSAT score. Vocabulary has a lot less to do with your test score than you might think.

If your goal is just to raise your SSAT score, then your vocabulary is probably the last thing you want to work on improving. Getting a high SSAT score is much more about using the right test-taking techniques and attacking the parts of the test that are easier to improve (like the reading questions and the math questions). Even among the so-called “vocab” questions on the SSAT, most test-takers will find they can work around most of the supposedly difficult vocabulary with the right strategies.

If you’d like to get an idea of some of these strategies, please check out my online SSAT video course at this page: