While I’ve been trumpeting the wonders of reading in context, many of you simply do not have the time to read through newspapers and the like. For those who want a more targeted vocabulary approach, without starting with the letter A in the dictionary, or getting bored out of your mind by staring at an endless list of Barron’s 3500 Words, the resources below are essential.
Still, no matter how pressed you are for time, sometimes you will need example sentences to better understand a word. Below, I’ve included resources that are a mixture of words, example sentences and the flashcards you’ll need to quiz yourself.
And, remember, there is no one resource, no magic bullet, that will fell the GRE verbal monster. Use a combination of the following for optimal results.
First, there is the sheer bulk of a stack of flashcards, and then – if you’re anything like me – you may easily lose them, especially because flashcards are so portable that you can take them anywhere. At any rate, they are a little old-fashioned once you consider Quizlet.
Imagine that, with a simple click of your mouse, you could have access to all the usual GRE vocabulary words from Kaplan, Barron’s and Princeton Review. Better yet you can create flashcards from scratch (now you can turn all those pesky vocab words I’ve used on the Magoosh blog into flashcards).
A trove of stylistic example sentences, and a vocabulary community to boot, wordnik.com is addictive. Think of any GRE word you are struggling with, say remonstrate, and wordnik has lots to say. Here are just the first three quotations this site provides:
“In the Estonian capital of Tallinn, a Russian guard at the door of a Soviet office building demanded to see a visitor pass; when nearby Estonians began to remonstrate, she relented and beckoned him in.”
“The Iraqi soldiers remonstrate, saying it’s too many patrols, and too long.”
“Mr Martin said he did walk over and “remonstrate” with Opposition staff, but did not swear at them.”
The fact that these example sentences run on for dozens of examples – all sedulously gleaned from respectable journals and literary works —makes wordnik the best place on the web to find example sentences.
You’ll notice that neither of these selections is explicitly for the GRE. The reason is, there is no select group of words that appear only on the GRE. The GRE simply tests your knowledge of words that are used in an academic context.
Imagine trying to figure out an unknown from context, and then checking to see if your hunch is correct. Well, that’s exactly what you are able to do over the course of 1,100 words. Throw in fun matching exercises, and a weekly quiz (days are broken up into five words), and you have your very own vocabulary program. A glossary containing example sentences from a wide variety of resources, from The New York Times to William Shakespeare (hey, it’s like Wordnik 1.0), this book is a do-it-yourself vocabulary program that I recommend very highly.
Forget Barron’s 3500 word list – it belongs in a GRE museum next to the antonym exhibit. At 1,500 words, Word Smart contains all the words you need to know. The definitions are much clearer than Barron’s, and there are example sentences galore. Quizzes sprinkled throughout the book help sharpen your memory. Word Smart is a must for those looking to boost their vocabularies, whether they have one week or one year before taking their GRE.
If you want even more Word Smart, there is a Word Smart just for the GRE. But remember, these words aren’t necessarily more likely to show up on the test. All the words are important, and, as there is significant overlap between the two books, Word Smart alone should do the trick (okay, if you are very ambitious and can’t stomach any of this overlap, there is always Word Smart II).
A Few Others…
To varying degrees the books below follow a similar formula.
30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary by Norman Lewis
Word Power Made Easy by Normal Lewis
Verbal Advantage by Charles Harrington Elster
Word lists are helpful if they come with example sentences and practice exercises/quizzes
No one resource can help you completely prepare for the GRE. Use a combination.