Good Words In English Essays For High School

 

When taking the ACT essay section, students have 45 minutes to write a well-reasoned argumentative essay about a given prompt. The new ACT Essay prompts tend to be about “debate” topics — two sides of an issue are presented, with no obviously “right” side. Oftentimes, these subjects carry implications for broader issues such as freedom or morality. Test-takers are expected to convey some stance on the issue and support their argument with relevant facts and analysis.

 

In addition to some of the more obvious categories, like grammar and structure, students’ essays are also evaluated on their mastery of the English language. One way to demonstrate such mastery is through the correct usage of advanced vocabulary words. Below are 50 above-average vocabulary words sorted by the contexts in which they could most easily be worked into an ACT essay.

 

Context 1: Factual Support For ACT Essay

These words can easily be used when stating facts and describing examples to support one’s argument. On ACT essays, common examples are trends or patterns of human behavior, current or past events, and large-scale laws or regulations.

 

  • Antecedent – a precursor, or preceding event for something – N
  • Bastion – an institution/place/person that strongly maintains particular principles, attitudes, or activities – N
  • Bellwether – something that indicates a trend – N
  • Burgeon – to begin to grow or increase rapidly – V
  • Catalyst – an agent that provokes or triggers change – N
  • Defunct – no longer in existence or functioning – Adj.
  • Entrenched – characterized by something that is firmly established and difficult to change – Adj.
  • Foster – to encourage the development of something – V
  • Galvanize – to shock or excite someone into taking action – V
  • Impetus – something that makes a process or activity happen or happen faster – N
  • Inadvertent – accidental or unintentional – Adj.
  • Incessant – never ending; continuing without pause – Adj.
  • Inflame – to provoke or intensify strong feelings in someone – V
  • Instill – to gradually but firmly establish an idea or attitude into a person’s mind – V
  • Lucrative – having a large reward, monetary or otherwise – Adj.
  • Myriad – countless or extremely large in number – Adj.
  • Precipitate – to cause something to happen suddenly or unexpectedly – V
  • Proponent – a person who advocates for something – N
  • Resurgence – an increase or revival after a period of limited activity – N
  • Revitalize – to give something new life and vitality – V
  • Ubiquitous – characterized by being everywhere; widespread – Adj.
  • Watershed – an event or period that marks a turning point – N


Context 2: Analysis

These words can often be used when describing common patterns between examples or casting some form of opinion or judgement.

 

  • Anomaly – deviation from the norm – N
  • Automaton – a mindless follower; someone who acts in a mechanical fashion – N
  • Belie – to fail to give a true impression of something – V
  • Cupidity – excessive greed – Adj.
  • Debacle – a powerful failure; a fiasco – N
  • Demagogue – a political leader or person who looks for support by appealing to prejudices instead of using rational arguments – N
  • Deter – to discourage someone from doing something by making them doubt or fear the consequences – V
  • Discredit – to harm the reputation or respect for someone – V
  • Draconian – characterized by strict laws, rules and punishments – Adj.
  • Duplicitous – deliberately deceitful in speech/behavior – Adj.
  • Egregious – conspicuously bad; extremely evil; monstrous and outrageous – Adj.
  • Exacerbate – to make a situation worse – V
  • Ignominious – deserving or causing public disgrace or shame – Adj.
  • Insidious – proceeding in a subtle way but with harmful effects – Adj.
  • Myopic – short-sighted; not considering the long run – Adj.
  • Pernicious – dangerous and harmful – Adj.
  • Renegade – a person who betrays an organization, country, or set of principles – N
  • Stigmatize – to describe or regard as worthy of disgrace or disapproval – V
  • Superfluous – unnecessary – Adj.
  • Venal – corrupt; susceptible to bribery – Adj.
  • Virulent – extremely severe or harmful in its effects – Adj.
  • Zealot – a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their religious, political, or other ideals – N

 

Context 3: Thesis and Argument

These words are appropriate for taking a stance on controversial topics, placing greater weight on one or the other end of the spectrum, usually touching on abstract concepts, and/or related to human nature or societal issues.

 

  • Autonomy – independence or self governance; the right to make decisions for oneself – N
  • Conundrum – a difficult problem with no easy solution – N
  • Dichotomy – a division or contrast between two things that are presented as opposites or entirely different – N
  • Disparity – a great difference between things – N
  • Divisive – causing disagreement or hostility between people – Adj.
  • Egalitarian – favoring social equality and equal rights – Adj.

 

Although it’s true that vocabulary is one of the lesser criteria by which students’ ACT essays are graded, the small boost it may give to a student’s score could be the difference between a good score and a great score. For those who are already confident in their ability to create and support a well-reasoned argument but still want to go the extra mile, having a few general-purpose, impressive-sounding vocabulary words up one’s sleeve is a great way to tack on even more points.

 

To learn more about the ACT test, check out these CollegeVine posts:

 

Angela Yang

Angela is a student at Cornell College of Engineering. At CollegeVine, she works primarily as ACT Verbal Division Manager. She enjoys teaching a variety of subjects and helping students realize their dreams.

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If he's prepping for the SAT, he should. Vocabulary for the test isn't as random as you might think. While it changes for each test sitting, there are certain stalwarts that tend to show up again and again. And if your kid knows the set, his odds of scoring will improve. A lot.

Much money has been spent on teasing out the candidates. And coaching companies aren't giving it all out for free. The Princeton Review offered us 50 words from their stash of "most frequently tested".  If nothing else, it's a good start. So drop a few of these words into dinnertime conversation and hope your kid's ears are perked:

  1. abstract not concrete
  2. aesthetic having to do with the appreciation of beauty
  3. alleviate to ease a pain or a burden
  4. ambivalent simultaneously feeling opposing feelings; uncertain
  5. apathetic feeling or showing little emotion
  6. auspicious favorable; promising
  7. benevolent well-meaning; generous
  8. candor sincerity; openness
  9. cogent convincing; reasonable
  10. comprehensive broad or complete in scope or content
  11. contemporary current, modern; from the same time
  12. conviction a fixed or strong belief
  13. diligent marked by painstaking effort; hard-working
  14. dubious doubtful; of unlikely authenticity
  15. eclectic made up of a variety of sources or styles
  16. egregious conspicuously bad or offensive
  17. exculpate to free from guilt or blame
  18. florid flowery or elaborate in style
  19. gratuitous given freely; unearned; unwarranted
  20. hackneyed worn out through overuse; trite
  21. idealize to consider perfect
  22. impartial not in favor of one side or the other; unbiased
  23. imperious arrogantly domineering or overbearing
  24. inherent inborn; built-in
  25. innovative introducing something new
  26. inveterate long established; deep-rooted; habitual
  27. laudatory giving praise
  28. maverick one who resists adherence to a group
  29. mollify to calm or soothe
  30. novel strikingly new or unusual
  31. obdurate stubborn; inflexible
  32. objectivity judgment uninfluenced by emotion
  33. obstinate stubbornly adhering to an opinion
  34. ornate elaborately decorated
  35. ostentatious describing a pretentious display
  36. paramount of chief concern or importance
  37. penitent expressing remorse for one's misdeeds
  38. pervasive dispersed throughout
  39. plausible seemingly valid or acceptable; credible
  40. profound having great depth or seriousness
  41. prosaic unimaginative; dull; ordinary
  42. quandary a state of uncertainty or perplexity
  43. rancorous hateful; marked by deep-seated ill will
  44. spurious not genuine; false; counterfeit
  45. stoic indifferent to pleasure or pain; impassive
  46. superfluous extra; unnecessary
  47. tenuous having little substance or strength; unsure; weak
  48. timorous timid; fearful
  49. transitory short-lived; temporary
  50. vindicated freed from blame

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