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How We Rank Words in a Book ranks each academic word in a book based upon how often the word is used in that book, in general communications, and in standardized tests like the SAT®.

By word, we are referring to a word family. For example the count for the word deride, includes instances of deride, derided, deriding, derides, derisive, derisively, and derision.

By academic word, we are referring to words that a bright high school student might not already know well, but that many highly educated adults might like to know. We also include the most common specialized or professional words in various areas of interest for people with those interests; though specialized words will not be ranked as highly unless they are used many times in a book. Finally, we include terms of cultural literacy such as famous people, places, and events. Again, these will not be ranked as highly unless they are used many times.

A difficult book is unlikely to quiz an easier word and an easier book is unlikely to quiz a difficult word that is used only once. Some words may be ranked higher than they would otherwise be ranked because they are important for comprehension of the book. Conversely, some words will not be shown for some books. For example, in Brave New World, Aldous Huxley uses the word controller in such a book-specific sense that reviewing it in its normal sense would probably be more confusing than helpful. Similarly, although Shakespeare is ranked as a word to review in Forest Carter's Education of Little Tree, it is not listed when reading Romeo and Juliet since it is assumed the reader of that book is already familiar with Shakespeare.

There are numerous other factors that impact ranking in a small way. For example, the word complement is used more commonly in print than the word compliment, but every child learns compliment early, so it is considered too easy to include in our academic word lists while complement is ranked along with other academic words.
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