How to build word-lists & improve your GRE vocabulary

GRE Flashcards, Games, Quizzes, PDF for Download

 
The larger aim of the GRE verbal reasoning segment is to find out whether the test-taker is able to comprehend text with quality discourse on various topics. The verbal reasoning segment evaluates the test-taker using a reading comprehension test, text completion test, and sentence equivalence test.

An excellent vocabulary is indispensable if you want to do well in these tests. See our post on the GRE syllabus and the sample questions from the three verbal segment tests on the ETS website to know more about how vocabulary is tested.
 

How to start building the GRE wordlist

Ideally, you should start building your GRE vocabulary by reading the editorial and op-ed pages of quality newspapers such as The New York Times and articles from reputed magazines such The Economist, besides good books.

In the best of all possible situations, this larger campaign for a good vocabulary should start early, in your college days, by developing a love for reading and consciously making an effort to improve your word power. You can also take this first step if you have a year or more to go for the GRE. (Visit commnet.edu for some excellent foundational tips on how to build your GRE vocabulary.)

However, if you have less than a year to go, you will obviously have to take more urgent steps, such as depending on world lists and flashcards, besides, of course, reading as much as you can and making a note of the new and unfamiliar words that you come across.

But first, let us chart out the steps to a great vocabulary.
 

How to learn new GRE words

  1. Read

    If you are a science or engineering student who has not really taken to reading, then GRE gives you a great opportunity to start. The reading habit will stand you in good stead not only at the GRE but will go much beyond.

    Read articles from The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Economist, and note down unfamiliar words. Make websites such as “Narratively,” which provides wonderful human-interest stories, part of your daily reading list.

    If possible, write down the sentences where these words appeared so that you can make flashcards. If you want Indian content, try the editorial and op-ed pages of The Hindu.

  2. Understand the word meaning and context

    Once you have the words, look them up in the Oxford Advanced Dictionary, Cambridge International Learner’s Dictionary, Merriam Webster, or Longman’s English Dictionary (online versions available) for word meaning.

    But the GRE just does not quiz your knowledge of word meaning, but your grasp of the connotation. The dictionaries mentioned are helpful as they provide sample sentences that help you understand the context.

    You can also visit dictionary.com, memrise.com, quizlet.com, wordnik.com, and mnemonicdictionary.com to learn new words. Also try the word lists from books by Manhattan Prep, Barron’s, and Kaplan and lists on websites such as membeam.com.

  3. Recall the words

    If you only just memorise the meaning of words, you will not be able to recollect them even after a couple of days. To commit words to your memory, you will have to come up with a mnemonic strategy—for example, associating words with objects or images that will help you to recall the words and their meanings.

    You may also use flash cards that you can make yourself or buy from a prep company (such as Manhattan Prep; see details below), to revise the new words. Try pictorial association with words offered by resources such as lookatwords).

    A good way of recalling new words is to study prefixes and suffixes and word roots; you can also categories words by their meanings to help you to recall them. Learn to identify the parts of speech to understand whether a word is a noun, an adjective, or an adverb—this will help you in your text completion and sentence equivalence tests.

  4. Use the words

    Most importantly, you need to keep using the new words — perhaps among friends and family, first — so that they become more familiar to you and stick in your long-term memory.

 

Online GRE word lists and flash cards

As mentioned earlier, a long-term commitment to improving vocabulary is the best way to face the verbal challenges of the GRE. However, world lists and flash cards are prescribed if you have only two or three months to go for the test. In any case, you will have to build a bank of 3,000 to 4,000 words. Here is a sampling of GRE word lists and flash cards available from the Web.

  1. Manhattan GRE flash cards: MGRE flashcards come in two sets of 500 cards each—essential and advanced. Visit: Manhattan Prep. Also see Manhattan’s excellent vocabulary blogs: here
  2. Barron’s 1100 Words You Need to Know: This most helpful resource is available online in paperback and Kindle versions. Visit Amazon, Flipkart, etc. Barron’s Essential Words also provides good world lists.
  3. Vocabulary.com: Vocabulary.com offers some new ways to master new words and store them in your long-term memory. Visit: http://www.vocabulary.com/.
  4. Quizlet.com: Quizlet offers word lists from top prep companies and also provides blank flashcards, which help you to master your own new words. Visit the site here.
  5. Other good online resources that can help you improve your preparation are as follows (the URLs have been given where the content includes topics other than vocabulary): dictionary.com, memrise.com, wordnik.com, mnemonicdictionary.com, gredic.com, majortests.com, and Sheppard Software.
  6. Norman Lewis’s Word Power Made Easy: This is a much discussed book for improving vocabulary. Experts say it is very helpful but only when you are starting your preparation. Moreover, it includes some “non-GRE” words, too, as it is not exclusively prepared for GRE test-takers.

 

Other GRE vocabulary and word-list resources

 

Word-list PDF for download

Some websites offer GRE word-list PDFs for downloading:

  1. Word Power Made Easy
  2. Graduates Hotline
  3. High Frequency GRE Words on Crunch Prep
  4. Here’s another one on – Google Docs

 

GRE Word Games

You can break the monotony by trying out a few online GRE vocabulary games. Here are some websites (URLs) you could visit:

  1. Tyrannosaurus Prep provides a quiz game with word definitions as the questions and five answer choices. For a similar game, see quiztree.com.
  2. Manythings.org offers a “matching quiz” where you need to match words to their meaning. For similar games, visit Flashcardstash.com and Myvocabulary.com.
  3. Commnet.edu gives you good GRE-level quizzes with an introduction to building vocabulary mentioned above.
  4. Cram.com contains two flashcard games based on on Barron’s GRE High Frequency Word list .
  5. Proprofs.com includes crossword puzzle games (click on “Crosswords” in the top bar for a new game).

 
Learn more about GRE syllabus, dates, fees, free practice tests and preparation.