Words To Know For High School

Football games. Band practice. Cramming for tests while still trying to get eight hours of sleep.

High school can be overwhelming. On top of it all, there’s also whole new set of lingo you have to learn. There’s the alphabet soup of AP, IB, and MLA. There’s the tongue-twister: extracurriculars.

But, don’t worry: We’ve got you covered. Whether you are an incoming freshman, a parent of a student, or teacher or tutor trying to teach some life skills, here is a handy guide to some essential words for a successful high school career.


You will want to learn how to read a rubric carefully—or else it will be covered in red marks! Funnily enough, this word actually comes from the Latin ruber, meaning “red.” Back in the Middle Ages, rubrics were directions, traditionally written in red, in church books about how to conduct a service.

In education, a rubric is guide that may accompany major assignments. It outlines the points, the standards, the performances—the criteria—you need to meet in order to receive a certain grade.

rubric is how your teacher tells you the expectations of an A+ assignment.

thesis (statement)

Every good essay includes a strong thesis (or thesis statement).

In academic writing, a thesis statement is generally a sentence or two that summarizes the main point that an essay, research paper, or speech is making. It is typically located at the end of the introductory paragraph(s).Thesis statements are kind of like roadmaps, laying out for the reader/listener where the writer/speaker is headed (the argument) and how they are going to get there (the evidence).

Generally, you are taught not to begin a thesis with “I believe” or “I think,” as it is considered more convincing to have a clear, concrete stance on your argument.


In writing research papers, sometimes you need direct quotes from your sources. Other times, you need to paraphrase that information.

Paraphrasing is restating a test or passage in your own words. Consider this statement: “A robust lexicon can help students navigate a variety of discourse environments.” You might paraphrase it as: “Having a well-developed vocabulary can help you be successful in many different contexts.”Paraphrasing also indicates that you understand what you are reading.

Remember: Even when paraphrasing, you need to cite the source you got the information from, even if you are not directly quoting it. Otherwise, you may be accused of …


Plagiarism is a serious offense. It is the act of using or imitating other words—or ideas—from another source without citing that source. (Its origin is a Latin word meaning “kidnapper.”)

That’s why giving credit to your source in paraphrasing is so important. When we paraphrase, we may use our own words, but we did not develop the original ideas.

If someone is caught plagiarizing, they could fail the assignment, be suspended, or even get expelled from school. Serious stuff.

There are computer programs that can detect plagiarism, and your teacher may use them. Beware!


Speaking of all this citing, what are citations?

Citations are the act of indicating where you got your information from in an essay or research paper. These can include books, reputable websites, newspapers, academic journals, and images.

In-text citations are shorthand indications that appear in the body of your text. The “Works Cited” (bibliography) page is a compilation of all the sources you used, and appears at the end of the document.

There are different citation styles, so it’s important to verify which style your teacher uses. One major one in the humanities (e.g., English, Social Studies) is MLA. Cue next slide.


MLA stands for the Modern Language Association. This organization publishes a style manual that is often the first writing and research style students learn in high school, especially in English class.

MLA style provides writers with a system for cross-referencing their sources from their parenthetical references (the in-text citations) to their “Works Cited” page (the bibliography). This cross-referencing system allows readers to locate the publication information of the source material.

elective course

This is where you get to have fun and explore!Elective courses are classes you can take outside of your core requirements (math, science, language arts) for graduation. These classes are still extremely valuable for learning more about an area of interest. Examples of electives include a foreign language, music, visual art, and drama classes.

They are called elective because you elect, or “choose,” which you want to take them (or, in some cases, if you take them at all). Taking varied elective courses throughout your time in high school is a good way to test out what your major could be in college.


Extracurriculars are another great way to learn about a subject or skill. The word extracurricular itself means “outside of the regular curriculum.” Debate, student government, volunteer groups, and athletics are typical extracurriculars.

In addition to adding an enriching experience to your education, they look impressive on college applications, even though you don’t typically earn credit toward graduation from them.

Advanced Placement | International Baccalaureate

Both of these are accelerated programs for students who would like more of a challenge.Advanced Placement, or AP, courses, offer a college-level experience for those still in high school. Students are required to take an end-of-year examination and may be awarded college credit (at the institution they attend) for the course if they pass.

Subjects are offered in a range of subjects, from Art History to Latin to Calculus, and students often take them in their junior and senior years.

The International Baccalaureate (IB), founded in 1968 in Sweden, offers a variety of programs for students around the world. These programs go beyond just traditional academics and emphasize philosophy and community service, preparing students to be leaders and citizens of the world. Students can earn college credit and even an IB diploma.

dual enrollment

Dual enrollment is offered by many high schools in conjunction with local community and technical colleges.

Some students prefer to do this instead of taking typical elective courses. With dual enrollment, students can take certain college classes at a postsecondary institution while still in high school, hence the term dual (meaning “two, double”) enrollment.Dual enrollment opportunities can be an important step for students who wish to get a jump start on one of the next steps after high school: college, which has its own set of … you guessed it, words to learn.

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