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Nadyja Von Ebers

How to Use GED Word Lists to Study Smarter

ged word lists

It’s no secret that your success on the GED involves having a strong vocabulary. The Language Arts Reading component requires reading difficult literary passages and the Language Arts Writing component includes composing a well-written essay. Additionally, the Science and Social Studies components involve reading challenging passages before answering questions about them.

So long story short, the better your vocabulary, the better you’ll perform on the entire test.

But how do you improve your vocabulary on a timeline? Certainly you can’t just pick up a dictionary and start reading! And how do you know which words are most important to memorize for the test? Well, this is where GED word lists come in handy! Let’s take a look at what they are and how to use them in the studying process.

GED Word Lists: What Are They?

It’s simple: GED word lists are lists of the the most common words that tend to show up across all components of the GED test. Not every word that appears on a GED word list will show up on the actual test, but similar academic language tends to come up year after year, so a deep familiarity with typical GED vocabulary is sure to give you a leg up on testing day.

There are plenty of GED vocab lists and general college prep word lists out there, many of which come with accompanying activities and assignments to practice usage and boost retention.

How Can You Best Use GED Word Lists?

You may be thinking to yourself, “okay, but what do I actually do with these lists?” The thought of simply reading the same, long lists over and over again for memorization seems headache-inducing for sure, but never fear, it doesn’t have to be boring.

Make your own GED word lists

In addition to finding free GED word lists online, you can take your studying to the next level by making your own. How do you assemble lists of words you don’t know yet in order to study them?

Well, by reading of course!

For example, this reading-focused GED study guide encourages you to find GED-appropriate reading materials and to practice close reading skills. These readings tend to be 450-900 words, informational, and collegiate by nature (meaning the kind of text you may read in a college course).

Your local library is another great resource for finding these types of texts, and a librarian will be familiar with the GED, in general, and able to help you select the best pieces for reading practice.

Likewise, you can take GED practice tests and write down all the new words you encounter in the passages you read for each component. Look up words you aren’t familiar with in the dictionary and write down their definitions as you read. Be sure to include all words you are unsure of, even if you feel that you can discern their meanings through context clues.

Make memorization fun

Again, if the thought of reading lists repeatedly sounds more like punishment than preparation, you’re not alone. Most students are unable to memorize in this manner, and need a more interactive way of engaging with language.

Making flashcards the old-fashioned way (by writing a word and its corresponding definition on either side of an index card) and quizzing yourself or a partner is still a favorite study method of many students.

Or, you can use Quizlet’s pre-made GED Vocabulary sets, which allow you to test yourself on the meanings and uses of word using virtual flashcards and games.

You can also download Quizlet for free, create your own digital flashcards from your curated GED word list, and squeeze in practice sessions anywhere on the go!

Know more than just definitions

Try to go above and beyond when looking up a new word. Transcribing the definition from the dictionary is important, of course, but so is being aware of multiple meanings and usages. Write down at least the first two definitions provided in the dictionary, and when possible, look up words in more than one dictionary. Most dictionaries provide an example sentence of how a word is actually used in context, which can be helpful to write down as well. Knowing the part of speech is also helpful for memorization.

It’s important to understand that words have both connotations and denotations. Denotation refers to the literal meaning of a word, while connotation refers to the secondary, sometimes implied meaning of a word. Knowing both can help you understand the nuances of how a word is used on the GED, and in turn, help increase your overall understanding of the content.

Work new words into conversation

One of the first rules of acquiring and retaining new language is to incorporate it into your own speech. Practice integrating words from your GED word list into your conversations.

The more you use the words, the more meaningfully you will understand them.

If you don’t know how to pronounce certain words, most online dictionaries have a function that allows you to hear the word phonetically.


Studying GED word lists doesn’t have to be rote and monotonous (both great GED words, by the way!). There are plenty of ways to make GED preparation more fun, and hopefully you will find some of these techniques included here both useful and rewarding.

Remember, having a great vocabulary will help you excel on the GED, but will also be of great benefit to you well after your test is aced.

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About Nadyja Von Ebers

Nadyja von Ebers is one of Magoosh’s Content Creators. She writes for the Magoosh High School Blog, where she shares helpful resources for students searching for test prep tips and advice. Her content includes advice on college admissions, from how to get into the University of Chicago and how to complete financial aid forms to tips on asking for a letter of recommendation.

Nadyja has extensive experience working with students to prepare for standardized tests, from AP exams and the GED to the ACT and SAT. After receiving an MA in English from DePaul University, Nadyja went on to teach English at the high school and college levels for over a decade. She loves helping students reach their maximum potential and thrives in both literal and virtual classrooms.

When she's not teaching or contributing to the Magoosh blog, she enjoys reading, writing, and spending time in or near the ocean.


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