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Building GRE Vocabulary: Introduction

Over the next week, I am going to take a closer look at vocabulary. I’ll address both the process of learning, and acquisition in the available resources. Or, put more simply, I am going to talk about ways to help you learn vocabulary for the Revised GRE.

Anyone who has been reading my blog, at least as far as vocabulary is concerned, is aware that I’ve been stressing the importance of context when it comes to reading. That is not to say that word lists are obsolete. On the contrary, you should still refer to wordlists, but they should not form the foundation of your prep. However, more than ever, you want to be reading from major periodicals, journals or newspapers.

The goal here is not only to pick up vocabulary words in context, but to also tune your brain to the rhythm and syntax of sophisticated writing (trust me, this will help you immeasurably on reading comprehension and text completions). I will also encourage you to read widely, and find books that are both challenging and interesting.

At the same time, you do not want to read stuff that so utterly bores you that you’d rather be sitting in a dark room huddled over a box of flashcards. Of course, what individuals find engaging varies significantly. It is up to you to find that magical balance of writing that is fun, yet chock full of GRE vocabulary. For some, that will be Jane Austen; for others, the science section in the Tuesday edition of the New York Times.

Still, I’ll do my best to come up with articles or pieces that will appeal, I hope, to a large audience. I’ll throw in movie reviews, current affairs, book reviews (though not necessarily of the GRE kind) and a whole slew of writing in which I will highlight certain words, and turns of phrase. In doing so, I hope to impart that sense of how one learns vocabulary in context most efficiently.

Over the next week, I will also recommend/review vocabulary books, including flashcards from major publishers. Again, flashcards will be helpful, but only up to a certain point. And the blank flashcards you make, based on words you encounter while reading, are going to be even more important than some of the canned ones from the major companies (bonus hint: has Kaplan and Barron’s flashcards already in the works).

I will also discuss mnemonics and roots, and the extent to which I think they are helpful. How to deal with commonly confused words, and words with convoluted definitions, will round up the list of topics.

My goal, then, is to provide you with a system that is fun, comprehensive, and, most importantly, effective. Of course, I hope to field questions from you, the community, regarding vocabulary learning, so I can make sure that my vocabulary strategies are helpful to all.

If you have any questions for me, feel free to ask them at the Vocabulary Q&A page.

By the way, students who use Magoosh GRE improve their scores by an average of 8 points on the new scale (150 points on the old scale.) Click here to learn more.

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