Longer Words For Essays About Education

 

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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  • accolade

    a tangible symbol signifying approval or distinction

  • acrimony

    a rough and bitter manner

  • angst

    an acute but unspecific feeling of anxiety

  • anomaly

    deviation from the normal or common order or form or rule

  • antidote

    a remedy that stops or controls the effects of a poison

  • avant-garde

    radically new or original

  • baroque

    relating to an elaborately ornamented style of art and music

  • bona fide

    not counterfeit or copied

  • boondoggle

    work of little or no value done merely to look busy

  • bourgeois

    being of the property-owning class

  • bravado

    a swaggering show of courage

  • brogue

    a thick and heavy shoe

  • brusque

    marked by rude or peremptory shortness

  • Byzantine

    of or relating to or characteristic of the Byzantine Empire or the ancient city of Byzantium

  • cacophony

    loud confusing disagreeable sounds

  • camaraderie

    the quality of affording easy familiarity and sociability

  • capricious

    determined by chance or impulse rather than by necessity

  • carte blanche

    complete freedom or authority to act

  • caustic

    capable of destroying or eating away by chemical action

  • charisma

    personal attractiveness that enables you to influence others

  • cloying

    overly sweet

  • deja vu

    the experience of thinking a new situation already occurred

  • dichotomy

    a classification into two opposed parts or subclasses

  • dilettante

    an amateur engaging in an activity without serious intention

  • disheveled

    in disarray; extremely disorderly

  • elan

    enthusiastic and assured vigor and liveliness

  • ennui

    the feeling of being bored by something tedious

  • epitome

    a standard or typical example

  • equanimity

    steadiness of mind under stress

  • equivocate

    be deliberately ambiguous or unclear

  • esoteric

    understandable only by an enlightened inner circle

  • euphemism

    an inoffensive expression substituted for an offensive one

  • fait accompli

    an irreversible accomplishment

  • fastidious

    giving careful attention to detail

  • faux pas

    a socially awkward or tactless act

  • fiasco

    a complete failure or collapse

  • finagle

    achieve something by means of trickery or devious methods

  • Freudian slip

    a slip-up that (according to Sigmund Freud) results from the operation of unconscious wishes or conflicts and can reveal unconscious processes in normal healthy individuals

  • glib

    artfully persuasive in speech

  • gregarious

    temperamentally seeking and enjoying the company of others

  • harbinger

    something indicating the approach of something or someone

  • hedonist

    someone motivated by desires for sensual pleasures

  • heresy

    a belief that rejects the orthodox tenets of a religion

  • idiosyncratic

    peculiar to the individual

  • idyllic

    charmingly simple and serene

  • indelicate

    slightly indecent, offensive, or improper

  • infinitesimal

    immeasurably small

  • insidious

    working or spreading in a hidden and usually injurious way

  • junket

    dessert made of sweetened milk coagulated with rennet

  • kitsch

    excessively garish or sentimental art

  • litany

    any long and tedious address or recital

  • lurid

    glaringly vivid and graphic; marked by sensationalism

  • Machiavellian

    of or relating to amoral or conniving political principles

  • malaise

    a general feeling of discomfort, uneasiness, or depression

  • malinger

    avoid responsibilities and duties

  • mantra

    literally a `sacred utterance' in Vedism

  • maudlin

    effusively or insincerely emotional

  • mercenary

    a person hired to fight for another country than their own

  • minimalist

    a conservative advocating only minor reforms in government

  • misnomer

    an incorrect or unsuitable name

  • narcissist

    someone who is excessively self-centered

  • nirvana

    the beatitude that transcends the cycle of reincarnation

  • non sequitur

    a reply that has no relevance to what preceded it

  • nouveau-riche

    characteristic of someone who has risen economically or socially but lacks the social skills appropriate for this new position

  • oblivion

    the state of being disregarded or forgotten

  • ogle

    look at with amorous intentions

  • ostentatious

    intended to attract notice and impress others

  • ostracize

    expel from a community or group

  • panacea

    hypothetical remedy for all ills or diseases

  • paradox

    a statement that contradicts itself

  • peevish

    easily irritated or annoyed

  • perfunctory

    hasty and without attention to detail; not thorough

  • philistine

    a person who is uninterested in intellectual pursuits

  • precocious

    characterized by exceptionally early development

  • propriety

    correct behavior

  • quid pro quo

    something for something

  • quintessential

    representing the perfect example of a class or quality

  • red herring

    diversion intended to distract attention from the main issue

  • revel

    take delight in

  • rhetoric

    study of the technique for using language effectively

  • scintillating

    having brief brilliant points or flashes of light

  • spartan

    unsparing and uncompromising in discipline or judgment

  • stigma

    a symbol of disgrace or infamy

  • stoic

    seeming unaffected by pleasure or pain; impassive

  • suave

    having a sophisticated charm

  • Svengali

    someone (usually maleficent) who tries to persuade or force another person to do his bidding

  • sycophant

    a person who tries to please someone to gain an advantage

  • teetotaler

    a total abstainer

  • tete-a-tete

    a private conversation between two people

  • tirade

    a speech of violent denunciation

  • tryst

    a secret rendezvous, especially between lovers

  • ubiquitous

    being present everywhere at once

  • unrequited

    not returned in kind

  • untenable

    incapable of being defended or justified

  • vicarious

    experienced at secondhand

  • vile

    morally reprehensible

  • waft

    a long flag; often tapering

  • white elephant

    a valuable possession whose upkeep is excessively expensive

  • zealous

    marked by active interest and enthusiasm

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