Vocabulary Tip: Read, Circle, Lookup

Photo of dictionary opened to the word "success" for post on S.A.T. gourmet by Charis Freiman-Mendel, author of "Cook Your Way Through The S.A.T.", on tips for learning vocabulary such as read, circle, look up

Read, circle, lookup is a recipe for vocabulary success

“Read, circle, lookup” is a tried-and-true method for learning vocabulary. During my 7th and 8th grade home school, I read the classics, such as To Kill A Mockingbird and MacBeth. My “fun” reading almost always involved books that had to do with food, cooking, restaurants and travel. Both types of books really helped me with my vocabulary. As I read, I circled words I didn’t know or wasn’t sure of, and looked them up, page by page. It slowed down my reading but it really helped me double check words in context. I definitely recommend this method to help with standardized test prep. Learning words is easiest when you read something you’re interested in, especially if it’s about an activity (for me, cooking and dining) that you really enjoy.

Photo of front cover of book "Garlic and Sapphires" by Ruth Reichl for post by Charis Freiman-Mendel, author of "Cook Your Way Through The S.A.T.", offering tips for learning standardized test vocabulary such as read, circle, lookup

Garlic And Sapphires, by renowned food critic Ruth Reichl, has lots of vocab because the author is very descriptive in her writing. The book tells the story of how Reichl intentionally disguised herself to experience the typical food and ambiance of restaurants she was reviewing for The New York Times. She describes a very different dining experience when she visited  Le Cirque as Molly, a retired mid-Western school teacher, than when she came as Ruth Reichl, the NY Times food critic. Her stories are kooky and fun, because each disguise caused her to undergo both a physical and emotional transformation. Reichl “became” the woman she was impersonating. The book is a composite of disguise stories, restaurant reviews and some of her favorite recipes.

Photo of "Garlic and Sapphires" opened up with words circled, and resting on a copy of "Cook Your Way Through The S.A.T." by Charis Freiman-Mendel for a blog post on SATgourmet about tips for learning vocabulary such as read, circle, lookup

A bunch of words I circled in "Garlic And Sapphires" ended up in "Cook Your Way Through The S.A.T."

Here are a few of the words I learned using “read, circle, look up” with Reichl’s book:

  • “Do you think we could come up with a EUPHEMISM that would make grilled tripe enticing to an American audience?” (p.68)
  • “Claudia shakily navigated the narrow steps that lead to 21, and she walked through the door with uncharacteristic DIFFIDENCE.” (p.84)
  •  “‘Wonderful, wonderful,’ he CROONED as we ate.” (p. 278)

Looking up words in the dictionary helped me understand NUANCE, even when I knew the PRIMARY definition. I recommend “read, circle, look up,” which I still use while reading.


  • euphemism = polite term
  • diffidence = shyness
  • croon = sing softly
  • nuance = subtle difference
  • primary = main

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One response to “Vocabulary Tip: Read, Circle, Lookup

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