Vocabulary Category Quiz: SAT Edition



By: Laura DeFazio

6 Min Quiz

Image: Unsplash by Ben Mullins

About This Quiz

How do you plan on prepping for the Scholastic Aptitude Test? (Or, as they're more commonly known, "the SAT.") Some people read through practice books, some pay for expensive tutors, others kind of just close their eyes and hope for the best. Students' scores can be crucial for getting into certain colleges, so it's understandable that studying can cause extreme anxiety.

Redesigned in 2016, the SAT consists of two mandatory categories — "Writing and Language" and "Math" — that are scored out of 800 each. (Students can receive any score between 200 and 800 in per category.) There's also an optional essay section, also scored out of 800.

In the old days, vocabulary was tested in a section called "Reading," and students had to complete sentences with challenging vocabulary words. This required them to memorize lots of difficult words out of context. The new version of the test has shifted the focus to defining words in context. This has taken some of the heat off in terms of committing hundreds of arbitrary words to memory, but it's still important to have a good vocabulary base to draw from. This quiz can help!

We'll give you a category — in some cases broad, in some cases pretty specific — and you tell us which of the four choices is the best fit. (Sometimes, we'll give you the word and you can identify the category.) You'll find the definition of the correct answer in the answer explanation. Remember to pick the *best* choice for each question, as words can really fit in any category if you get abstract enough. Well, what are you waiting for? Good luck! 

If you're discussing warfare and the military, which of the following vocab words should you have in your arsenal? (Pick the best answer.)

To capitulate is to surrender, as armies have to do from time to time. Clairovoyant is an adjective or noun refering to an ability to predict the future, capacious means wide or spacious and circumlocution is a roundabout way of expressing something.


Do you know which of the following terms is geographical in nature?

Although the term "moor" is a geographical one (it refers to an upland tract of undeveloped land), a "more" (pronounced "moray") is a social belief, convention or accepted behavior. The correct answer, in this case, is "morass," which is a low-lying boggy area.


And the category is ... "Health & Wellness"! Do you know which of the following is the best fit?

A panacea is a remedy. It can be used in a medical context (such as the cure for an illness or the antidote to a poison) or in a broader sense, such as "Bill often found that books were the best panacea for boredom on rainy days."


"I think, therefore I am ..." Which of the following words best relates to philosophy?

Solipsism is basically the philosophical theory that your mind is the only thing that you can be sure exists. (Yikes.) Rene Descartes's famous assertion "I think, therefore I am" is the quintessential example of solipsism.


Which of the following words might come up on a physics or chemistry exam?

In science (physics and chemistry in particular), an amorphous solid is a solid without a crystalline structure. Examples include glass, plastic and rubber. In the world outside science, amorphous can refer to anything without a definite shape.


Do you know which of the following relates to religious institutions?

An anathema (noun) is a formal curse or denouncement of a person or a doctrine that comes from an ecclesiastical (relating to the Christian church) higher-up. Outside of religious usage, it can be used in a general sense to describe someone or something that's vehemently disliked.


The word is "zephyr." Do you know which category it belongs in?

A "zephyr" is a slight breeze. Here are a few more challenging words relating to weather and climate: isobar (a line drawn on an atmospheric pressure map connecting points of the same pressure), okta (a unit for measuring cloud cover) and "prevailing wind" (the term for the most frequent direction the wind blows in a particular place.)


The category is: "Friendship." Which word is the chummiest?

"Camaraderie" is a noun that indicates mutual friendship, trust and easy sociability. For instance, "The job itself could be tedious, but Mark loved his coworkers and found that the office camaraderie made it worthwhile."


Which word is the most overtly political? Choose the best answer.

A caucus (noun) is a closed meeting of members of the same political party. As a verb, to caucus is to gather to pick a candidate or advocate for a particular policy. "Capitulate" means "to surrender," a carp is a kind of fish and to cavort is to play boisterously.


Something smells fishy ... Do you know which of the following is a sea critter?

Native to Asia and Europe, a carp (noun) is a species of freshwater fish. A cobbler makes or repairs shoes, to cleave is to cut or separate with a tool (such as a knife) and to covet is to desire or crave.


"What we have here is a failure to communicate ..." Which word best relates to prison systems?

"Fortuitously, the would-be murderer's plot was foiled and he was taken to the local jail and put in fetters." All of these words could be worked into a prison story somehow, but "fetter" — a shackle worn around the ankle — is the best fit.


Boo! The category is "Ghosts & Spirits." Which word will haunt you most?

A wraith is a ghost or a ghostlike image of someone seen after their death. Some other words for this type of apparition include specter, phantom, spirit, poltergeist, banshee and shade.


Can you tell us which word might be heard in a hospital?

To inoculate is to inject (or otherwise treat) a patient with the germ of a disease to make them immune to it. "Insurgent" is an adjective that describes someone or something as being in opposition to civil authority. To instigate is to provoke or "stir the pot," and "invective" (noun) is harsh or abusive language designed to express blame or ill will.


Abracadabra! Which of these words relates to magic shows? (This is a "tricky" one ...)

"Legerdemain" is a noun that refers to a deception, a trickery or a feat of illusion. It can refer to a skillfully performed conjuring trick, but it might have negative connotations outside the world of magic. (For example, "The candidate served up some classic political legerdemain.")


Dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dot ... Like Morse code, one of the following is a way to send coded messages. Can you identify it?

Semaphore (noun) was a visual system designed in the late 18th century to send messages from long distances. It can be carried out with a specific apparatus constructed for semaphore, or it can be performed by a person with a brightly colored flag in each hand. Different flag positions correspond to different letters of the alphabet. Although technology had made its regular usage obsolete, it's still taught in some spheres as a backup in case communications break down.


The category is "Movement." Which word works best?

To writhe is to twist in a contorted motion. "Wry" means dry-humored or sarcastic, and a writ is a legal document. Wretched is an adjective that describes someone in an unfortunate state who deserves pity.


Shhhh! (Which of these terms ought a librarian know?)

Librarians need to know lots of words, but "tome" is particularly handy, being a kind of book. Specifically, it refers to a book that's large, dense and/or scholarly. Alternatively, it could refer to a volume of a larger work.


This word applies to many fields, but commonly comes up when speaking of musicians. Do you know which one we're talking about?

A virtuoso is someone who is spectacularly skilled in a particular field, such as a virtuoso violinist. To vilify someone is to, fairly or not, make them seem evil, and vitriol is a noun that means "cruel or bitter criticism." Vespers is an evening prayer service in many branches of the Christian faith.


The word is "litigant." Do you know which category it belongs in?

A litigant is a person who's involved in a lawsuit. Some other contentious legal terms include: felony (a very serious crime), misdemeanor (a less serious crime) and statute (a written law that's been ratified by a legislative body).


Do you know which of the following words pertains to one's outward appearance?

"Swarthy" is an adjective that means someone is dark in complexion. To be surreptitious (adjective) is to be sneaky or secretive, a surfeit (noun) is an excess of something and sobriety (noun) is the state of not being intoxicated by alcohol (or whatever the substance in question.)


The best place to begin is at the beginning. Which of the following words relates to "beginnings"?

The word "inchoate" is an adjective that describes something that's in its early stages and not very well established yet. An iconoclast is someone who criticizes deep-seated beliefs, the adjective "idiosyncratic" describes something that's quirky or individual and the verb "impinge" means to have an impact (particularly a negative one) on something.


And the category is ... "It's the Little Things." Do you know which word works best?

Modicum is a noun that means "a little bit." Munificent is an adjective that means very generous, multifarious describes something with many aspects and a maxim is a saying that expresses a basic rule or truth about life.


Do you know which word is the lustiest?

Prurient means "characterized by lust." Puerile describes something immature, punctilious is something characterized by precise attention to detail and protean describes something that takes on many forms.


The word is "serendipity." Do you know which category it belongs in?

Fortuitous things that come to a person by chance when they aren't looking come by serendipity. For example: "Jan was struck by the serendipity of running into her old friend at the grocery store after years."


Zzzzzz ... The category is "Bodies at Rest." Can you pick the best match?

"Torpid" is an adjective that refers to something at rest or in suspension. For example: "Michael tapped the hibernating bear with a long stick, but the torpid animal scarcely twitched."


Which word belongs in a stable?

A "yoke" is the piece of wood a farmhand might carry on their shoulders in order to carry two heavy buckets of milk or water at once. Alternatively, it can refer to the contraption harnessing two oxen together.


The word is "yen." Do you know which category it best belongs in?

Yen is the currency in Japan. (It can also refer to a desire or hankering for something.) Some other currencies in East Asia include the Chinese renminbi, the North Korean won, the South Korean won and the Hong Kong dollar.


The category is "Geography." Can you pick the word that belongs?

A watershed refers to an area of land that contains all of the streams and rivers that flow into a single body of water. The Mississippi River watershed, for example, is very large compared to most rivers' watersheds.


Let's go back to medieval times; which word hearkens back to the day?

Jousting is a medieval sport where two knights on horseback charge at each other with lances (long, wooden, spear-like weapons with blunted tips) and try to knock one another from their mount. The aim wasn't to kill the opponent — jousting is a tournament sport — but fatalities were not uncommon.


Do you know which word can be found inside the body?

The "jugular vein" is actually four veins; they run down either side of the throat, two internally and two externally. (By "external" we don't mean they're outside the body, just closer to the surface.) The internal set drains blood from the brain, and the external set drains blood from the scalp, sinuses and other body parts around the skull.


The category is "Satire." Do you know which word belongs?

To lampoon something is make fun of it in a satircal way. The word languid describes something that lacks spirit or liveliness. Lachrymose desribes something sorrowful, and laconic describes something brief and to the point.


The word is "jaundice." Do you know which category fits it best?

People suffering from the disease known as jaundice often have yellowish skin and eyes due to an excess of a pigment called bilirubin in the blood. Jaundice can be caused by liver disease, among a number of other things.


Mmmmm, that's the smell of a word that belongs in a bakery. Can you tell us which it is?

When used as a noun, "leavening" is a substance that's put in bread dough to make it rise. (A common example is yeast, although things like baking powder, baking soda and cream of tartar are used sometimes, too.) As a verb, to leaven means to add leavening to dough. It can also mean to transform something for the better.


Ah, home sweet home ... Do you know which word might fall under the category "Dwelling Places"?

A grotto is a small cave. Although caves aren't the first things that come to mind when one thinks of dwelling places, humans have a long history of using these natural shelters as homes. In modern times, Turkey, China and southern Spain are examples of places where many cave dwellers live today.


The word is "hiatus." Which category fits it best?

A hiatus is a break, gap or interruption in a process or series of actions. According to the venerable Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it derives from the Latin verb "hiare," meaning "to gape" or "to yawn."


Explore More Quizzes

About Zoo

Our goal at Zoo.com is to keep you entertained in this crazy life we all live.

We want you to look inward and explore new and interesting things about yourself. We want you to look outward and marvel at the world around you. We want you to laugh at past memories that helped shape the person you’ve become. We want to dream with you about all your future holds. Our hope is our quizzes and articles inspire you to do just that.

Life is a zoo! Embrace it on Zoo.com.