How to find success on GRE Verbal Reasoning section without memorizing the dictionary


Statistical Mediation & Moderation in Psychological Research (1)-1One of the most daunting parts of early GRE prep planning is realizing how many seldom-used words can appear on the test. While a comprehensive plan to comb through the dictionary memorizing each word you don’t know may sound like the best plan of action, odds are you don’t have the time, energy, or patience to do this. Even if you were to (which would be quite impressive), it doesn’t guarantee a perfect score on the vocabulary portion of the test. I’d recommend using the below strategies (in no particular order) to develop a robust and effective study plan.

Write down new words whenever you hear them:

Whether you are a scholar, in the workforce, full-time GRE student, or any of the above, odds are you come across several new words every week. Whether or not your curiosity is piqued by them, I’d recommend you keep a master list. Review the words every couple of days, and you’d be surprised how quickly you’re adding words to your vocabulary.

Find the strategy that works for you:

Adding to the last point, maintain your list in whatever format works best for you. For me, I actually prefer to write my words by hand as I remember them better, and I like having them in a master notebook I can peek at before bed, on the subway, or even just sitting on the couch (my personal favorite). However, some people prefer flashcards, either written or virtual. Whatever works best for you, pick that strategy and adhere to it. I spent a lot of time during my preparation flipping between strategies and it prevented me from reviewing the same words routinely.

Figure out how these words work in a sentence:

Unfortunately, due to the way the questions are designed, the definition alone won’t always suffice. Think of all the words you use in their figurative or idiomatic senses – these may not be the dictionary definitions, but they do matter for our everyday conversations. Now, try an example with a word you may or may not know: “verdant.” The primary definition of “verdant” is green with grass or other rich vegetation, but this word also means to be a beginner or novice at something. Without context, you would not get this meaning or know it could be used in this way.

Give your brain time to work:

Think back to your most challenging courses, or your foreign language classes – was the recipe for success overnight cramming, or did rote memorization over the course of several weeks leading up to the test serve you better? It’s certainly no different with GRE words. You won’t remember hundreds of words if you start studying them the week before the test – leave yourself time to master the list. And, for what it’s worth, this strategy will leave you with a richer vocabulary long after your GRE days are behind you.

Cambridge Coaching GRE tutors understand the importance of the GRE and are dedicated to helping you beat the exam. Your success on the GRE depends on your ability to:

  • Recognize and master question types
  • Strategically leverage the best materials for your specific needs
  • Master the vocabulary and math covered by the test
  • Adopt a data-driven approach to diagnostic assessment

We are experts at guiding students through all these challenges. Before you even meet with your tutor, we assess your strengths and weaknesses with a diagnostic exam. But we believe in doing more than just targeting your weaknesses - your tutor’s goal is to identify the sections where you have the greatest potential for improvement, and help you wring every last point from them. That’s why, based on your results, your tutor will construct a customized syllabus in advance of your first session.

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Taking the GRE in 2020? Check out some other helpful tips and tricks in our previous blog posts below:

Three Key Lessons from a Lifetime of Test Taking

Taking a hypothesis-driven approach to cracking GRE text completion questions

The Pomodoro Technique


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