GRE verbal section:

It is no news that the Verbal section is one of the most important sections in the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
This is because the Verbal section boosts your overall score and percentile and sets you apart from the other test
takers. Practising for the verbal section helps you to some extent in the Analytical Writing section as well.Thus
a person having acommendable vocabulary and verbal skills will find it much easier to sail through the exam and
score flying colours. But not everyone can boast of exceptional vocabulary skills and the GRE verbal section being
mostly dependent on vocabulary, the overall GRE score drops down for them.

Introduction to GRE vocabulary:

The GRE Verbal section requires you to have a solid vocabulary which many of the test takers find it difficult to
memorize. After all, remembering vocabulary words serves only half of the part done, recognizing their meaning
and implementing them in a sentence is the next and the toughest part. All of these coupled with the fact that
the verbal section is generally tough to understand at one glance makes this section so important and valuable
to test takers like you. Consider this: you get a stellar 165 on the quantitative section of the GRE, but only
manage to get a 150 in the verbal section. This would pull your overall score down to 310 from the 325+ that you
were aiming for.

Revised GRE, same as previous GRE, is adaptive in nature, but the adaptiveness is between the sections. This means
that the questions you attempt in a particular section will always be of the same difficulty level. As there are
two sections each containing verbal and quantitative sections, your performance in the first verbal section will
determine the difficulty in the next verbal section. Questions where you have to fill in a blank with the correct
word or where you have to find two similar words from a list of options become slightly easy or more difficult
in the second section, considering how you answered the verbal part in the first section. Getting a bad or a mediocre
score in the Verbal section will pull down your overall score and will add to your woes. You will not be able to
get into your desired business or graduate school because of the overall low score. Most of the universities and
colleges have their own cut off percentiles separately for the Verbal Section and achieving them is crucial to
pursue your study in that particular institution.

GRE word list

The importance of a word list is well known among candidates and test takers such as yourself. All serious candidates
aiming to ace their GRE must make a list of all the high-frequency GRE words along with their meanings. This would
help test takers like you memorize the words effectively and remember more words at a time. There are hundreds
of applications and websites available online that deal with the necessary vocabulary for GRE.

A high-frequency word list ensures that you are acquainted with the most common words that have been making their
way into the GRE examination. This, in turn, helps you solve the Verbal sections and boost your scores to a point
where you would like to see them. Consequently, the next topic of discussion is how to remember those words. It
is always advisable and better to associate a particular word with a sentence which helps you remember the word
for a longer period of time. Framing a sentence using a word, basically imprints the word onto your brain and it
ensures that you would not forget the word on the day of your examination. Frequent revisions also need to be done
from time to time to help you remember the meanings and synonyms of the words associated with the GRE exam.To try out different methods for memorizing words, you can use GRE flashcards and GRE word lists.

GRE flashcards

There are many free applications and websites that help you sharpen your vocabulary by repetitive tests and flashcards.
Vocabulary is best learned by repetitionor otherwise, it becomes difficult for our brain to keep track of so many
words and their meanings in a very short period of time.

You can even make your own flashcards by taking a print out of all the important words and then keeping them handy.
You can graze through them whenever you feel to go through it. Vocabulary flashcards are therefore the perfect
learning material for anyone appearing for the GRE examinations.

Benefits of flashcards

  • Flashcards are a unique way to remember words because of the way they serve. They are portable, easy to carry around
    and you can learn whenever you have some free time.
  • One can learn copious amounts of words with the help of flashcards which would not be possible with any other techniques.
  • They need no extra space as the best flash cards come in the form of mobile applications. Hence you can literally
    study anywhere and everywhere possible.
  • Flashcards not only helps in building your vocabulary, but it also helps in learning words which can be used while
    solving reading comprehension. Imagine this: You learn a word through a flash card and you suddenly see the same
    wordappear in a reading comprehension passage. That would help you understand the context of the passage more
    quickly and in turn answer the questions with greater accuracy.

Preparation strategy:

Studying for GRE verbal is no easy task and many of you must be experiencing it, right now. But there is no reason
to be afraid of. A sound and solid strategy can help you prepare for anything. And when comes to practising vocabulary
for the verbal section of GRE, a useful strategy can help you a lot.

  • Divide the test prep for the vocabulary section into parts. First, concentrate on the easier words that you can
    pick up quickly and then follow on to the more difficult words.
  • Make a vocabulary list of your own. Writing improves the retention capacity, so write down as many words as possible
    and make your own flashcards or a thin copy that you can look into from time to time.
  • Divide the vocab words into different categories- High Frequency, Difficult, Extremely challenging, Comprehensive,
    self-explanatory and so on. Later you can take a GRE test for vocabulary to check and measure your improvement.
  • Spaced repetition is a technique by which an individual, repeatedly cross- checks himself with his memory of something
    over a period of time. This algorithm helps to boost one’s confident level and also helps to persistently memorize
    words that are being often forgotten. The Magoosh vocabulary app for GRE works according to the spaced repetition
    algorithm. In that application, the correctly answered flash cards repeat less frequently while the incorrectly
    answered ones come on screen more frequently. (The various useful applications and websites are mentioned below)

Strategies for Non-Native speakers

The GRE verbal section can be extremely difficult for non-native speakers because they lack frequent accustomation
with the English language. It is a fact that people who use the English language for communication in their day
to day lives will have much better grasp over the language than speakers who do not. But there are certain steps
that non-native speakers can follow to drastically boost their GRE vocab and overall hold of the English language.

    1. Contextual use of words is important for non-native speakers.

This is because we tend to remember the meanings of words for a much longer duration of time when we incorporate
them into a sentence. For example, take the term malicious. It is a negative word meaning harmful. But for a person
hearing it for the first time, only remembering harmful may not be the ideal thing to do. If the person associates
the word with a sentence like, “The burglar maliciously attacked them and stole everything at gunpoint”, it makes
a greater impact upon the brain and he/she will remember it for a longer period of time.

    1. Reading, reading and more reading.

Nothing can replace the benefits of reading. Reading copious amounts of newspapers, articles, blogs,and magazines
will help the non-native speaker discover many new words and their meanings which will boost their vocabulary
significantly. Some of the best books which non-native speakers can read to boost their vocabulary are Pride and
Prejudice, Lolita, To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men.

Watching English Movies, News, and TV

It is not new that we human beings have various modes of learning. Some of us may be visual learners while others
are auditory learners, meaning we pick up words while listening. Use a combination of both to determine what suits

Practice tests and other links

There are many free GRE vocabulary websites and applications where you can search and learn for commonly asked GRE
words. They contain a mixture of hard and easy words to learn from. Some of such links are mentioned below from
where you can brush up your vocabulary and tackle the examination head-on.

    1. Magoosh Flashcards

Magoosh is perhaps the name that strikes everyone’s head when they hear the term vocabulary. Magoosh is a trusted
website/application that you can use to improve your vocabulary sense and get a hold of many new words. The words
are arranged in the form of flashcardsand also make use of spaced repetition which helpsyou remember longer and
increase the retention capacity of your brain.

    1. PrepScholar Flashcards

Websites like PrepScholar are also popular amongst aspirants and provide a list of 357 high-frequency words with
different coloured flashcards to help facilitate learning quickly.

    1. Vocabulary Practice Tests

In the above website, aspirants of the GRE examination can directly check their knowledge by giving a multiple
choice question test which tests the candidate’s vocabulary skills.

    1. Vocabulary improvement via Visuals

Pixnary is a unique application/website that helps you visualize the word that you are learning. This hardwires
the meaning of the word into your brain and helps you learn the much-needed vocabulary words.

    1. Vocabulary Website

This is one of the best websites to polish your vocabulary. The website offers free games so that you can enjoy
while learning.

Words on the GRE websites mentioned above can be very helpful in tackling the verbal section and you will see visible
improvement within a short span of time.

Preparation tips for GRE vocabulary:

The GRE vocabulary being tricky and tough, you have to up your game if you want to taste success in this section.
Generally reading from a multitude of sources helps a lot, specifically in the reading comprehension part. Firstly,
you have to get acquainted with the format of the GRE verbal section, without which you cannot move on to preparation.
Next comes the issue of finding where you stand right now, which you can know by taking a mock practice test which
will tell you how much you have to improve. Based on your mock test score you can determine the level of effort
that you need to give to score your dream score in the Verbal section.

Based on the scale of improvement you need, the work effort required can be classified as below-

  • 5 points=40 hours
  • 10 points=80 hours
  • 20 points=160 hours
  • 30 points=240 hours

The amount of effort (in hours) depends mainly on the candidate taking the examination and the above correlation
is to give you a brief idea about the effort that you need to put in to improve your verbal section scores.

Next comes the study plan that you need to follow religiously when studying for GRE in order to get your desired
score. Sticking to the study plan will allow you to utilize your time efficiently thereby giving you positive results.
Figure out how many hours you need to devote per week depending on the day you have decided to sit for the examination.
If the examination date is less than a month away, then you may have to burn the midnight oil to achieve your desired
score. It is advisable that the candidate does the vocabulary practice every day slowly and steadily and increase
the list of words over a period of time. You can make a timetable and a daily routine which will help you combat
vocabulary effectively. You can make a timetable and depending on the days of preparation left, you can split your
preparation into three stages – initial stage, middle stage and final stage. Remember that the final stage must
be at least one week before the date of the examination.

Test Day

Vocabulary cannot be mastered overnight; it needs determination, perseverance,and skill. Therefore it would be unwise
to cram everything on the day before the test as it would increase your anxiety and make you feel uncomfortable.
Therefore, it is advisable not to put too much pressure onto your mind the day before the test.

Why vocab plays the vital part:

Sample Illustration

Reading Comprehension

Have a look at the passage given below-

A dog cares, deeply, which way your body is leaning. Forward or backward? Forward can be seen as aggressive; backward-even
a quarter of an inch-means nonthreatening. It means you’ve relinquished what ethologists call an “intention movement”
to proceed forward. Cock your head, even slightly, to the side, and a dog is disarmed. Look at him straight on
and he’ll read it like a red flag. Standing straight, with your shoulders squared rather than slumped, can mean
the difference between whether your dog obeys a command or ignores it. Breathing evenly and deeply, rather than
holding your breath, can mean the difference between diffusing a tense situation and igniting it. “I think they
are looking at our eyes and where our eyes are looking, and what our eyes look like,” the ethologist Patricia McConnell,
who teaches at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, says. “A rounded eye with a dilated pupil is a sign of high
arousal and aggression in a dog. I believe they pay a tremendous amount of attention to how relaxed our face is
and how relaxed our facial muscles are, because that’s a big cue for them with each other. Is the jaw relaxed?
Is the mouth slightly open? And then the arms. They pay a tremendous amount of attention to where our arms go.”

Based on the context of the passage, which best describes what an “ethologist” studies?

  1. Muscle and nerve reflexes of humans and animals
  2. Nonverbal forms of communication between species
  3. Animal behaviour, particularly as it occurs in interactions between species in different environments
  4. Canine anatomy
  5. Character traits among different animal breeds


Now if you know who an ethologist is and what they study about, you can easily answer the question without even
have to think about it.

Ethologist- Ethology is the scientific and objective study of animal behavior, usually with a focus on behavior
under natural conditions, and viewing behavior as an evolutionarily adaptive trait.


Text Completion

Have a look into the text completion given below-

Since he lacks the (i) _____________ to take on venerable public figures, the author, no matter how (ii)____________
his social critiques are, will never be (iii) _____________ as a great satirist.


The keywords and phrases are lacks, take on, no matter, will never, and great satirist.

Blank (i)

  1. temerity means boldness or rashness. It fits the sentence because it is logical that an author would need something
    like bravery to take on venerable public figures.
  2. timorousness does not fit because it means fearfulness or timidity. The phrase take on implies that the opposite
    of timorousness, something like bravery, is necessary in order to be a great satirist.
  3. contrition means remorse or penitence. Having remorse does not prepare one to take on venerable public figures
    ideas that have no relation to each other.

Blank (ii)

  1. perspicacious means discerning or showing keen perception or judgment. This term fits the sentence because it has
    a positive connotation and it links up with no matter how to establish a good quality that is superseded by the
    author’s fear of taking on venerable public figures.
  2. ignominious means humiliating, discreditable, or contemptible. The phrase no matter how in the sentence implies
    something good about the author’s social critiques, so this choice would contradict the meaning of the whole.
  3. harrowing means terrifying or disturbing. This adjective carries too extreme a denotation for this context: social
    critiques are usually meant to disturb but not necessarily to terrify.

Blank (iii)

  1. lionized means treated as a celebrity. This fits the sentence because it connects the author’s deficiency as stated
    in the first part of the sentence with the negative consequence denoted by will never be.
  2. gainsaid means contradicted or denied. The word in the third blank must convey a positive action, so this choice
    doesn’t work.
  3. tainted means contaminated with a negative quality, so it would be nonsensical to say that someone is tainted as
    something great.

Helpful Hint:

If you’re unfamiliar with the words provided as answer choices, try to think of familiar base versions of those
words: for example, timid in timorousness, contrite in contrition, and ignoble in ignominious.


You need to know the meanings or at least you should have the ability to know what the words may mean by guessing
their roots and trying to associate them with the nearest word that you know.