How to Learn Words for the GRE Exam

The GRE exam is taken by everyone who wants to enroll in an American university, except those applying for law. The exam consists of two main parts: mathematical and verbal. You need to prepare thoroughly, the tasks are difficult even for native English speakers. 


The words used in test questions are extremely rare in real life. These are words from academic language and from complex linguistic dictionaries. We are telling you this not to scare you, but to explain how important preparation is. And, of course, we will help you to be on the alert.

How to learn words correctly in order to successfully pass the verbal part.

  1. Read a lot

Yes, we’ll play Captain Obvious a little now, but seriously, to know more words, you need to at least read more. To expand your academic vocabulary, it would be better to read certain materials with specific vocabulary. List of suitable materials:

  • The New York Times
  • The Economist
  • National Geographic
  • The Atlantic
  • Wall Street Journal
  1. Love the dictionary as your neighbor

Not the most exciting advice, but what can you do? Get used to looking up words in dictionaries. Don’t think that you can get by with just the first definition. The GRE often tests knowledge of different definitions of the same word, so review as many definitions of the same word as possible.

  1. Make up your own meanings of words

But this is a more creative task! After you have memorized the definition of a new word in the dictionary, paraphrase it. It will be much easier for you to remember the meaning of a word if you create it yourself or, rather, retell it in your own way.

For example, benediction = Benedict Cumberbatch addiction 😀

  1. Decide on words

There are words in the exam that are repeated in the test year after year.

You can find such word lists on the Internet. We have prepared those that you will actually encounter in the test with a 95% probability.

You no longer need to cut a bunch of paper and write words on one side and their meanings on the other. Now all the necessary flash cards can and should be stored in your smartphone. When you’re on the subway, standing in line, or waiting for your coffee, repeat the words.

GRE Vocabulary Flashcards by Magoosh
Manhattan Review GRE Vocabulary Flashcards
500+ Practice GRE Vocabulary Words

  1. Save the words

Keep a list of new GRE vocabulary words on your smartphone or in a notepad. Writing something down on paper also makes it easier to remember. Write down the word the first time you see it. Better yet, rewrite the sentence in which you originally found the word to remind yourself what the word looks like in context.

  1. Say the word out loud

It helps not only to write the word, but also to pronounce it out loud. It may be strange and unusual at first, but the more interactions you have with a word, the faster and more effectively you will remember it.

  1. Pay attention to the root

Many words have a common root, and by remembering its meaning, you can easily analyze words with a similar root and understand their meaning. For example, the root bon means “good” or useful, and the following words are found with this root:

benefit, benefactor, benediction

  1. Use the words you’ve learned

Developing vocabulary is a matter of constant practice. Try adding GRE vocabulary to your speech. Using a new word in writing or speaking as often as possible helps you remember new information easier and retain it longer.

  1. Remember the vocabulary from the math section

The GRE also tests your knowledge of whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and many other terms. It is extremely necessary to know such mathematical vocabulary in order to understand what they want from you in the task.

Knowing all these terms in English is not easy, look at the collections to cope with the task.

GRE Math
Glossary of GRE Math Terms
GRE Math Terms

  1. Take practice tests

It’s difficult to understand what we’re talking about if you don’t see everything with your own eyes. If you want to be fully prepared for the exam, take as many practice tests as possible. Pay attention to the types of questions that you will encounter in both the verbal and mathematical sections. Write down the words or groups of words that appear most often.

Multiple-choice Questions GRE
Free GRE practice tests

What recommendations do you find most useful? Ask all your questions in the comments .

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