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Prefixes and Suffixes

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Prefixes and Suffixes

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[edit section] Inside Sentence Completion Guide

  1. Word Charge
  2. > Prefixes and Suffixes
  3. Keywords
  4. Vocab to Remember
  5. Overview and Review

[edit section] Prefixes and Suffixes

Last lesson we went over word charges and how they can be used to answer sentence completion questions. This time, we'll tackle some ofthe words whose charges are not immediately apparent. We'll also take a look at the real "SAT vocabulary" words and how few and simple they are.


[edit section] Prefixes and Suffixes (in context)

Consider the following question that we presented at the end of the last lesson:


The _________ swim instructor kept repeating the same lesson.


A) dilatory

user posted image pernicious

C) superficial

D) irksome

E) boorish


We noted that it would be difficult to assign charges to these more difficult vocabulary words. Instead, we'll use about prefixes and suffixes. For example, the suffix "-ish" really means ".... like." So, E) boorish means "Boor-like" or very much resembling the hardy, headstrong qualities of the animal. Similarly, the prefix "super-" usually means "very ..." and "ficial" is a suffix that can refer to the surface of something, meaning that C is obviously the wrong answer. Irksome, on the other hand, is comprised of the prefix "irk-" (to bother) and the suffix "-some" (tending to), meaning roughly "bothersome." Since he kept repeating the same lesson, you might call him "bothersome," which is the correct answer.


[edit section] Common Prefixes and Suffixes

Here is a "laundry list" of some common SAT prefixes (charged prefixes will have their charge to the left):


  • pre - before (hence pre-fix is a word that comes before)
  • super - very or over (super-impose means to impose over)
  • dis - not (dismembered means not membered or not together)
  • uni - one (unicameral means one house)
  • a - not (atypical means not typical)
  • ex - out (exhale means breathe out)
  • in - in (inhale means breathe in)
  • neo - new (neoconservative means new conservative)
  • post - after (postmodernism means after modernism)
  • circum - around (circumvent the world means travel around the world)
  • + ben - good (benevolent, beneficial, benefactor, etc. all carry positive charge)
  • - mal - bad (malevolent, malnutrition, malice)
  • re - again (to review is to view again)
  • gen - birth (genealogy is study of family history)
  • chron - time (chronology is study of time sequence)
  • poly - many (polyunsaturated means many not saturated)
  • intra - within (intraspecies means within one species)
  • inter - between (interspecies means between different species)
  • ante - before (antebellum means before a war)
  • - hypo - too little (hypothermia means too low of body temperature)
  • - hyper - too much (hyperactive means too active)


Here are some common SAT suffixes that you should be aware of as well:


  • - ble: able or capable (doable, corruptible, edible)
  • - ous: full of (porous means full of pores, or in other words, easily transpired through)
  • - ant: full of (elegant means full of elegance)
  • - ose: full of (grandiose means full of grandeur, grand-ness)
  • - fy: to make like the prefix (magnify means make larger, terrify means to make scared)
  • - ate: to make like the prefix (procrastinate means to make a longer time)
  • - ile: tending to (puerile means tending to childish-ness)
  • - ism: belief (racism, sexism, nationalism, etc.)
  • - tude: condition of (magnitude means the quantity of magnification)


[edit section] Applying the Knowledge

Using the prefixes and suffixes, you should be able to do a whole lot better on the SAT CR portion. For example, consider the following vocab-in-context question:


His ___________ skill at playing football was why we put up with his ___________ attitude.


A. worthy ... positive

B. lacking ... conceited

C. considerable ... malicious

D. dominating ... benign

E. docile ... contemptuous


Now, first we will look at word charges. What is the College Board really asking you with this question? Obviously, the words "put up with" indicate that his attitude would be bad, because you wouldn't need to "put up with" a good attitude.


Next, his (blank) skill was WHY they put up with the attitude. If his skill was bad, why would they put up with a bad attitude? So, the skill must be good, and the attitude bad. Positive first word, negative second word.


Using this, we can eliminate A (++) and B (--) easily as they do not test difficult words. Now, let's use the prefixes.


C) consider-able means worthy of consideration, where as the prefix mal- means bad. Malicious means bad-natured. We have a positive first word and negative second word here, so this is probably correct.


D) dominating is a positive word in this context (lots of skill), but the word "benign" has the prefix ben-, which means good


E) docile means tending to sleep or be dormant, so docile is not our positive first word.


In this way, you too can break down SAT questions and find the answers without knowing all the vocabulary.


In our next lesson, we'll review some other strategies for vocab-in-context (sentence completion) questions. For now, take the second SAT Sentence Completion quiz with the skills you have just acquired.

[edit section] Additional Resources



[edit section] Inside Sentence Completion Guide

  1. Word Charge
  2. > Prefixes and Suffixes
  3. Keywords
  4. Vocab to Remember
  5. Overview and Review

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