file000786402730 resized 600Learning vocabulary can seem like a grade school activity, something that doesn’t matter when you’re older and in high school. But the truth is that learning more vocab is a smart thing to do.

One reason you should keep studying new words is because building your vocabulary is one of the best ways to ensure you’ll get a better score on your SAT or ACT. Understanding more word meanings and histories means you’re more likely to decipher unfamiliar words on the tests. 

Start learning new words every day for your best chance of success on your upcoming test. There are a few different ways you can do this.

Implement At-Home Reading

You may not feel like reading when you get home from school, especially outside of your assigned homework, but time and time again, experts insist on the value of reading for improving vocabulary.

The trick to staying interested in reading is to choose different topics and types of material. You’ll run across more varieties of words this way.

You also want to pick materials a little above your reading level; this way you’ll encounter words you’re not familiar with and will have to figure out their meaning from context (or by simply looking them up). A good rule of thumb is to look for a book or magazine that has 1 word per page you don’t know yet.

Use a Word-a-Day Services 

Word-a-Day services come in many different forms, such as desk calendars, email in your inbox, or as a feature on a homepage (like on Merriam-Webster.com). All will provide you with a different word every day so that you’re constantly presented with a new challenge.

If you have a smartphone, there are vocabulary apps that will send you a word a day so you can become familiar with them. Many apps will even provide you games that use these new words so you can cement them further in your brain. Try downloading Vocabology ($0.99) or MindSnacks (free) to get started.

Focus on Practicalities

Is there a topic or hobby you really enjoy participating in after school? Or are you hoping to enter a specific kind of field or career when you get older? Chances are these areas have their own lingo you could learn that you’ll need to know about later on.

Start researching more in-depth your area of interest using various types of media (yes, even online video, seminars, or television). Once you run across a word you’ve never heard of before, look it up and think about how you might use it elsewhere.

Though there are plenty of other ways to challenge your current knowledge of words, these three ideas are a good place to start. They’ll easily help you learn vocabulary you never knew before, and increase your chances of success on your ACT or SAT.