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GRE Word Lists

Inundated with scores of different GRE word lists? Not sure which one to use? Are you dreading committing yourself to one list only to find out it is not the right one?

To allay any such anxiety, I aim to answer those questions by providing an overview of the popular lists out there. I will also discuss how to and how not to use a word list. But first, it behooves me to give you real opinion of word lists for the GRE – they’re not the Holy Grail of a good vocabulary.

A better way to learn vocabulary

Instead of getting weighed down with long word lists that don’t really do much but leave your head swimming in useless vocabulary, check out our free GRE flashcards!

Here are several posts I’ve written on the topic of vocab lists:

New GRE Vocabulary Lists

How to Study Vocabulary for the Revised GRE

 

Alright, alright, you came here to find out about some word lists, so here are my reviews:

Kaplan’s 900 words – Good

The words found on this list are high-frequency GRE words. Remember this does not mean that if you study all 900 words you will know every word that will show up test day. Far from it. But this is a good beginning.

To really take advantage of this word list—and any word list, for that matter—is to use quizlet.com. The good news is that quizlet already has this set of flashcards ready to go. If you don’t know already, quizlet.com is an excellent (and free) online flashcard resource. Better yet, each word list comes with a ready-made quiz. Studying this way is a thousand times more effective than looking at a list of words.

 

Barron’s 4,759 words – Avoid

Simply put, this list is overkill. If you slog through it, you won’t know the difference between high-frequency and low-frequency words. Even though this list is already built into quizlet.com, skip it.

 

Barron’s 3500 – Avoid

This is a word list from the Barron’s prep guide for the old GRE. Notice I said old GRE. Some of these words are not applicable to the new GRE (they are words that popped up on the analogy section). The fact that Barron’s chose not to publish this list in their new GRE guide is telling.

You also want to avoid using this list because it is extremely dull and tedious. Hundreds of words are crammed on one page. Your eyes will glaze over quickly, your brain will fall asleep…you might as well being watching daytime television.

Perhaps most importantly, the definitions here are very vague and not at all adequate for the sense of how a word functions in context. That’s probably why Barron’s did not include this list in their new guide.

 

Nova’s 4500 – Definitely avoid

This list is in the Nova’s verbal book. Like anything Nova releases for verbal, avoid. This list really is a travesty to GRE word lists. Words are vaguely—and often mistakenly—defined. Words you’ll never see are lumped together with high-frequency words. Throw in the fact that this is simply a word list and I can think of no better way to waste one’s precious GRE prep time than studying this list.

 

Internet word lists – Beware

These are a dime a dozen, and often they poach Barron’s word list. Others are just a random word list filled with archaic words or “analogy words” that appeared on the old GRE. Avoid these lists at all costs. Not just because the content is ‘iffy’ but because they are static lists.

 

Magoosh word lists on quizlet.com – Good

Many of the words that have appeared in our vocabulary ebook (which means “Vocab Wednesdays”) have been conveniently set up in quizlet.com. Since we don’t necessarily endorse any of these lists, you have to snoop around. But it’s easy! Just type in Magoosh GRE into the searchbox, and you will come up with different sets of Magoosh flashcards. Some of them also, use words that show up in our product, words that are also high-frequency vocab words.

 

How to use a word list

This is perhaps the most important part of using a word list – doing it the right way. Reading through a word list of unknown words is the single most ineffective way to study vocabulary. That’s right – ineffective. If you catch yourself studying this way, stop. Do something else, anything else short of committing a misdemeanor, for reading a word list truly is criminal.

Why? What’s with all my hyperbole? Well, our brains learn from being challenged. What most are wont to do is to read each word, then the definition. At that point, they think they have learned the word. After all, the definition is right there. They carry on and by the end of the word list they think they’ve learned something.

If you were to quiz such a person 30 minutes after they’ve read the list, they will remember the definition for very few words. They will remember the placement of words, Oh yes, ‘stymie’ was next to ‘esoter…i…’ something, uh…). Ask them to provide the word once you read the definition and you might as well be asking them what the capital of Equatorial Guinea is.

 

Whichever list you end up using, don’t forget quizlet. It takes the flashcard concept (which is based on randomized order) and expands upon it by offering excellent quizzes. Remember, the brain learns while being challenged.

 

About the Author

Chris Lele has been helping students excel on the GRE, GMAT, and SAT for the last 10 years. He is the Lead Content Developer and Tutor for Magoosh. His favorite food is wasabi-flavored almonds. Follow him on Google+!

26 Responses to GRE Word Lists

  1. Siraj Memon August 6, 2014 at 6:27 am #

    Hi Chris,

    I am using Magoosh Vocab builder and flashcards. Do I need to use any other source as well for words?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 6, 2014 at 11:57 am #

      I recommend the Vocab Wednesday videos. Sure, a lot of those words overlap, but many of the newer videos contain words not found in the flashcards. If you are still looking for words, you might want to check out the Manhattan GRE flashcards (there will be significant overlap, though).

  2. Zara July 19, 2014 at 6:49 pm #

    Hi Chris!

    Have been following the Magoosh site for quite sometime now and all your posts have been really helpful! But I’m having a hard time deciding which vocab book to follow. Between Word Smart and the Manhattan prep (1000 words) which do you think is better considering I have two and a half months before my test date and need to score 160 or above? Which one do you suggest will help me score higher given I’ll also go through the Magoosh flashcards? Also, if you suggest Word Smart, should I go with Word Smart for the new GRE (around 700 words) or Word Smart 1 and 2 (1523 words). Sorry for the long list of questions but I’m pretty lost at the moment!

    Thanks!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele July 21, 2014 at 11:36 am #

      Hi Zara,

      I think Word Smart is great a reference tool: you need to look up a GRE word you don’t know, and you want to get a definition, Word Smart is great. You don’t, however, want to go through the book, word for word. Sure, there are some quizzes to help with retention, but reading through a book with words in alphabetical order isn’t that effective for getting words to stick in your head.

      I’d recommend the MGRE flashcards or the Magoosh flashcards (which are free). And now, with Vocabulary.com doing such an excellent job of describing words and providing example sentences (all for free), Word Smart has kind of become obsolete.

      Here is the link to the Magoosh flashcards: https://gre.magoosh.com/flashcards/vocabulary

      Let me know which cards you decide to go with and how they work out :)

  3. Imtiaz Sarwar October 3, 2013 at 10:25 am #

    Hey Chris,

    I just found your blog and its just mindblowing. Speaking of word list, I am on the halfway of majortest’s 1500 word (1000+500). Have you found that useful ? what’s your take on majortest’s wordlist ? Eagerly waiting for your reply !

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele October 3, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

      Hi Imtiaz,

      Glad you’ve found the site helpful!

      As for wordlists–I’m not a fan at all. I don’t recommend them in general (nothing against majortest’s words specifically!). A much better way to learn–one that stimulates your brain–is using flashcards. We have free Magoosh flashcards:

      http://gre.magoosh.com/flashcards

      The flashcards each have example sentences so that you are understanding how a word works in context.

      Hope that helps!

  4. Cait June 18, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    Hey. I was wondering what the exact link for the quizlet vocab sets we should use are? There are so many sets on there and I am not sure which is the right one to use.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 19, 2013 at 11:51 am #

      Hi Cait,

      That is a good question. Since we haven’t officially sanctioned any of them, there is no definitive set. Basically, students have gone through our product and taken all the words that show up (or at least the ones they didn’t know). Since this leads to a bewildering array of choices, making your own set, using just the words you struggle with, is sometimes the way to go.

      A snippet of good news is we just released the magoosh flashcards, based on the vocabulary in the ebook: http://magoosh.com/gre/2013/gre-vocabulary-flashcards/

      Good luck, and hope those help!

  5. Maryam June 15, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    Hi Chris

    I studied vocabulary using the eBook (which was excellent, thank you for that!) as well as the top 300 GRE words from Quiz-let. What other sources should I use for vocabulary to cover all that is needed in this area?

    Thanks

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 19, 2013 at 11:53 am #

      Hi Maryam,

      That’s a good number of words!

      To supplement those there are two ways to go:

      1) MGRE flashcards – some overlap with the words you’ve studied, but a lot of new ones too in the 500 card deck.

      2) Barron’s 1100 Words You Need to Know – a little more dynamic than flashcards, and even more exhaustive than the first option.

      Once you’ve gone through either of those, vocab shouldn’t be much of an obstacle test day.

      Hope that helps!

  6. Carmen June 10, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    What is the best way to use Quizlet for long word lists? It doesn’t have an option for separating known words from unknown words so all the words are given equal attention.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 10, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

      Oooh…that is sort of a problem. Hmmm…perhaps you could make a separate flashcard list out of those that you miss. So if there are about 30 words that you constantly mix-up, you could create “Tricky Words #1″ list.

      Hope that helps!

  7. Samaira May 10, 2013 at 7:51 am #

    Hi,
    Just stumbled across your site today. Your posts are super-helpful.
    One quick question. Between “Word Power Made Easy” by Norman Lewis and Barron’s 1100 which one do you think is better? Which one do you suggest should suffice for the prep?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 10, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

      Hi Samaira,

      Personally, I like the Barron’s 1100 book better. All the words are potential GRE words, whereas Norman Lewis’s book sometimes includes non-GRE words simply because they fit the category. Also, Barron’s 1100 has more dynamic quizzes and forces you to think about the words in context. Basically, it’s better for self-studying.

      Hope that helps!

  8. Alex March 11, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    Hi Chris,

    I’m wondering if you have read Barron’s 601 words? If you have, how is it compared to Barron’s 1100?

    Thanks a lot!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 11, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

      Hi Alex,

      I actually have not – but I’ll pick up a copy now that you mentioned it!

      If it is just as good–and those 601 words are as really GRE-centric–then perhaps the 601 is the way to go (half the number of words :)).

  9. Arun March 5, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    Chris,

    Can you share the official Magoosh Quizlet Flashcard set ? When I search in Quizlet for the string Magoosh, I get 296 Sets of Flashcards :)

    • Margarette
      Margarette March 6, 2013 at 11:56 am #

      Hi, Arun

      We actually do not have an official set of Magoosh flashcards on Quizlet– all of the 296 sets were created by our students! :) I looked through them, this seems like the best one: http://quizlet.com/19881356/magoosh-gre-flash-cards/.

      It includes example sentences, full definitions, and has a lot of words, which is great.

      Some alternatives:
      1. I would recommend creating your own flashcard set or list of words that you stumble upon while you’re studying with Magoosh or reading the blog, since the words that you do and do not know will not be the same as anyone else’s! Also, many many students have told me that making their own lists was very helpful to them in really remembering the words on test day.
      2. We’re working on official, printable Magoosh flashcards for all of the words in our Vocabulary eBook, but they will not be ready for at least a month.

      I hope that helps! Let us know if you have any other questions along the way :).

      Best,
      Margarette

      • Achint Nigam March 8, 2013 at 1:20 am #

        The link provided does not work, it shows “Sorry, the creator of the flashcard set “magoosh-GRE” has limited access to just his or her self “.

  10. Pranitha Vangala March 5, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    Thanks for your input on the cumbersome wordlists. What about Barrons 1100 words?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 6, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

      That’s a great question! I actually didn’t even think of the Barron’s 1100 as a word list. It is so dynamic–quizzes, matching, in-context identifying–that it is more of a vocabulary book. That said, definitely use it :).

      • Vanan March 6, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

        How about “Word Power Made Easy” by Norman Lewis. If I’m done with this book thoroughly, will it suffice for the Vocab. part of the GRE? Plz help out Chris!

        Thanks!


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