How to ace GRE Vocabulary

Verbal section on the GRE comprises three different question types reading comprehension, sentence equivalence, and text completion. Sentence equivalence and text completion questions are vocabulary based which means 50% of the test is based on Vocabulary. Therefore, vocabulary is crucial.

For most of us learning vocabulary is a challenge because it is difficult to remember the words. This is because we do not adopt the right way of learning vocabulary. There are various ways through which one can learn vocabulary like mnemonics, flash cards, root words etc. The following points can help you learn vocabulary in a better manner.

Maintain a vocabulary journal

It is important to maintain a vocabulary log where in you write 10 words (or more depending on your retention power) daily. Word along with its meaning is not enough. It is important to use the word in a sentence or story so that it is easy to recall. Vocabulary journal makes revision of words easy.

Make learning words interesting

If a list of 2000 words is given to you, will you be able to mug it up? NO. And even if you are able to mug it, you won’t be able to remember it for long. That is why it is important to find out interesting ways through which you can retain words.

Learning words through roots is a helpful way to learn more words. Root is a word or part of the word through which other words grow. For example: Words like verity, veracity, verisimilitude, veritable all come from the same root ver/veri which means truth.

Similarly, grouping of words in different categories like synonyms or antonyms also helps.
Creating flash cards is another way of learning vocabulary which can be used as a deck of cards.
Design flash cards by writing the word along with its meaning and usage. Also, color the flash cards according to whether the word has a positive or a negative meaning. Positive words can have green color whereas the negative words can have red color.

Mnemonics can also be used. Mnemonic is a tool that helps you remember an idea or phrase with a pattern of letters, numbers, or relatable associations.

It is important to know that all the words cannot be learnt using the same technique. Different techniques can be applied to different words. Also, what works for one individual may not work for others. Therefore, every individual must identify which method of learning words works best for him or her so that he/she is able to retain the words.


It is believed that our visual memory is better. Use your imagination to visualize a word so that it is easy to fix it in your mind. For example: Assiduous means hard working which means you can imagine a farmer toiling in his farm.
Try to make visual connections with the words so that you can remember the words for a long period of time.

Number does not matter

Almost everyone has this question: How many words should I learn?
The number of words does not matter. What matters is the number of words that one can remember. This is because say you happen to learn 500 words, but you can only recall 50 words. Then, there is no point in learning those 500 words. So, learn only those many words which you can remember. Even if you know 60-70% of vocabulary, you can do almost 90% of the questions using elimination.


Being regular is important. Learn words on a regular basis. But regularity is not enough. Revision of words and using those words again and again (reusing) is equally important. So, regularity, revision, and reuse will help you remember words.

Happy Learning!