If you had a dollar for every word you saw once, looked up, and then a few weeks later had to look up again, you just might have enough to pay for your first semester of college. All right, it may not be that bad, but the idea is that many students struggle to retain vocab information, and when you are on a time crunch, when the test looms in a month or two (*cough* March *cough*), then you need to spend time wisely.
When students have a short amount of time to study for vocab, they often think that more is more. In other words, they get a thick packet of vocab or purchase a box of flashcards and start memorizing as many words as they can. Their brains become a vocab vacuum. But this vacuum has issues. There's a hole in it and a lot of the things that are sucked up find themselves back in the world. This is to say, the practice of feverishly studying vocabulary through lists and flashcards often is time wasted. Undoubtedly, you will learn a few words, and if you are really lucky, those words will appear on your test. However, the reality is much grimmer, because the nature of vocabulary acquisition is not so simple. (Words are hard, ya'll; that's what I'm trying to say.)
So then what do you do? Well, giving up is not an option; that's not who you are! There is a difference between studying hard (memorizing a bunch of vocab) and studying smart. If you only have a few months, weeks, or even days before your test, then be more targeted and active about words you learn. Look up words that you do not know in passages. Look up words that you do not know that are correct answers in the sentence completion problems. Words in context are the best words to learn because you know how they are used. It is not just text on a flashcard or list, completely removed from the word.
For the extremely diligent student, you can even take this practice one step further. Not only can you look up words with which you are not familiar, but you can also write your own sentence using the word. For creative types, this is a dream come true. You get to write a story or interesting sentence and learn SAT vocab. You could even write a story about a noble person locked in a dungeon forced to learn words that nobody uses or else the dragon will not let him or her go to a college or a noble school, or yeah, you get the point.
Active and targeted study is the way to go for those who need to cram vocab knowledge in a short amount of time. Don't use constant trips to the dictionary as a way to save for college. Don't be the brain vacuum with a big hole in it. Be someone who knows how to manage resources in an efficient way.
Good luck studying, everyone!