SAT Skills Insight
Select a score band
Determining the Meaning of Words
Skills needed to score in this band
SKILL 1: Use knowledge of root words to determine the meaning of words needed to complete a compound or complex sentence
SKILL 2: Recognize and understand less common words and specialized vocabulary (terms used in a particular occupation or field of study)
SKILL 3: Use context clues (such as an embedded definition) to select missing vocabulary at the sentence level
SKILL 4: Use the context of a sentence or a short section of text to clarify the meaning of unknown words (when definitions may or may not be embedded in the text) or to select the appropriate meaning of familiar and simple words that have multiple meanings
SKILL 5: Use sentence structure to negotiate the meaning of the sentence
SKILL 6: Make sense of complex sentences with logical constructions that include terms such as but, although, or, if, then, and not
Use the context of a sentence or a short section of text to clarify the meaning of unknown words (when definitions may or may not be embedded in the text) or to select the appropriate meaning of familiar and simple words that have multiple meaningsExample
"Cloning" is the creation of a new individual from the unique DNA (or genetic information) of another. The successful cloning of a sheep named Dolly in 1997 sparked a debate over the implications of cloning humans. The passage below was written in 1997.
A reading passage Line Number Text Cloning creates serious issues of identity and individual-
ity. The cloned person may experience concerns about his
or her distinctive identity, not only because the person will
be in genotype (genetic makeup) and appearance identical to
Line 5 another human being, but, in this case, because he or she
may also be twin to the person who is the "father" or
"mother"—if one can still call them that. What would be
the psychic burdens of being the "child" or "parent" of your
twin? The cloned individual, moreover, will be saddled
Line 10 with a genotype that has already lived. He or she will not
be fully a surprise to the world.
People will likely always compare a clone's perfor-
mance in life with that of the original. True, a cloned
person's nurture and circumstances in life will be different;
Line 15 genotype is not exactly destiny. Still, one must also expect
parental and other efforts to shape this new life after the
original—or at least to view the child with the original
vision always firmly in mind. Why else then would they
clone from the star basketball player, mathematician, and
Line 20 beauty queen—or even dear old dad—in the first place?
Since the birth of Dolly, there has been a fair amount of
doublespeak on this matter of genetic identity. Experts have
rushed in to reassure the public that the clone would in no
way be the same person, or have any confusions about his
Line 25 or her identity; they are pleased to point out that the clone
of film star Julia Roberts would not be Julia Roberts. Fair
enough. But one is shortchanging the truth by emphasizing
the additional importance of the environment, rearing, and
social setting: genotype obviously matters plenty. That,
Line 30 after all, is the only reason to clone, whether human beings
or sheep. The odds that clones of basketball star Larry Bird
will play basketball are, I submit, infinitely greater than
they are for clones of jockey Willie Shoemaker.
In line 21, “fair” most nearly means
Skills needed to score in the next band
As you read a text, identify a compound or complex sentence. Break it down into smaller parts and think about how those parts work together. How does the structure of the sentence set up relationships among the ideas in the sentence?
When you come across an unknown word or a word with multiple meanings in your reading, look at the context of the sentence for clues to what the word means.
As you read a text (such as a newspaper or magazine article) about a subject you aren’t familiar with, look for words that might be part of a specialized vocabulary—that is, words that are primarily used within a certain field—and determine their meaning. Choose a subject and find a book written by a specialist for other specialists in that field, looking for specialized vocabulary words as you read.