Academic Tutor: Enhancing Vocabulary and Recognition of Themes

Posted by Sujata Singhal on 8/28/13 7:59 AM

ACT tutoringA month back several of my ACT, SAT and PSAT tutoring students asked me to read books that they had to read for school.  Why?  They wanted to discuss the themes and content of the book with someone from outside of school.  Secondly, they wanted to learn to apply the critical thinking skills they use to mine such content and themes in their schoolbooks on the SAT, ACT, PSAT. 

Mind you all of these tutoring students came to me to get help specifically with one of the aforementioned tests – not for help with their English classes.  That makes sense; most future test-takers benefit from working with a tutor who is a test-prep expert and can pinpoint what aspects of test-taking strategy need to be honed in any particular student. 

Yet, there are so many people out there operating under many assumptions about standardized tests; one of these assumptions is that that they do not test relevant things and that those who tutor/coach others to do well on these tests are specialized only to teach how to do well on these exams. 

Standardized test preparation for these exams is not only a form of learning, but also actually allows for the creative use of non test-prep material to get better at the exams.

I am a firm believer that preparing for standardized tests, particularly the SAT and ACT, enhances the way we think by pushing us to learn how to strategize around using information efficiently, making us more perceptive about the meaning of words in the things that we read and more perceptive in general as we read. 

Given that, I thought if my students have a lot of school reading, I am going to teach them to mine the heck out it. Specifically, I asked my student who gave me The Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut to mine the book for vocabulary words to make the sentence completions on the SAT/PSAT easier and themes that could form the basis for a prompt on either the ACT or SAT Writing sections.

Following is a list of vocabulary words culled from The Cat’s Cradle by my student as well as a couple of main themes. This is great reading for students working with an ACT tutor, SAT tutor, or working towards the literature SAT subject test.

Cat’s Cradle Vocabulary List

  • Implication
  • Nihilistic
  • Debauch
  • Fugitive
  • Pompadour
  • Diplomat
  • Twang
  • Amiable
  • Placated
  • Rapture
  • Arable
  • Pissant
  • Flaccidly
  • Diaphanous
  • Feudalism 
  • Invariably

Cat’s Cradle Themes

  • What is really truth? Is there really one cohesive truth?

  • Everybody who lives deals with insecurity.

  • We all have to create meaning and that religion helps us create meaning.   

If you want to make your school reading more interesting and feel that you are never losing time studying for these exams, I recommend you starting by culling new vocabulary words and identifying themes!

Tags: ACT, English, SAT