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GRE Vocabulary Games

Looking for some GRE vocabulary games to help get your vocab up to snuff? First you should start with a solid word list.

1. Stump a friend

First off you need to know someone who is taking the GRE—or you’re likely to watch your social network wither away. If you do know somebody, try to outsmart him/her with words. I know this sounds dorky—and you may probably want to apprise your friend before you start bulldozing them with words like ‘truculent’ and ‘pedantic.’ But once the game of one-up-manship begins, it is hard to stop, especially if you and your friend are the competitive types.


2. Synonym Trees

Take a word, let’s say ‘truculent.’ How many words do you know that are similar? ‘Belligerent’ and ‘bellicose’, maybe. Can you think of any others? How about ‘combative’, ‘contentious’, and ‘disputatious’? Oh, did I mention ‘pugnacious’.

Instead of just listing words, draw a tree. The most general—or easiest— word should be written in the trunk. In each branch, write the words that are specific/GRE words. For instance, we’d write ‘combative’ in the trunk and in the branches we can write ‘contentious’, ‘pugnacious’, ‘truculent.’

3. Words beginning with…

Give yourself three minutes to see how many words you can come up with that begin with a specific group of three letters. For instance, how many GRE words beginning with ‘ini’ can you think of? You’ll probably want to avoid combinations such as ‘xjk’ (for the record, there is probably no language on earth with a word that starts with those three letters).

You can also do two-letter combinations (e.g., ‘fa’ – and get ‘fastidious’, ‘fallacious’, ‘facetious’, ‘fatuous’, etc.). And if you can’t define the word, no worries…just make sure you look up the definition of the word.


4. Word Box

This is a game that I’ve played in my SAT classes to great success. Indeed, many students stay beyond class to keep playing the game (and you thought the iPad was addictive. Here’s how the word box works:

Come up with a 5 x 5 grid of letters.






The goal with this GRE vocabulary game is to come up with as many GRE words based on the letters in the box. Give yourself exactly 5 minutes.  The words cannot use a letter more than once, unless that letter appears more than once. For example, you can use the letter ‘r’ up to three times in one word, but can only use the letter ‘v’ once in a word.

Possible words include:






The scoring words as follows.

Three- and four-letter words are given one point.

Five-letter words (+2)

Six-letter words (+3)

Seven-letter words (+5)

Eight-letter words (+8)

Nine-letter words (+13)

Ten-letter words (+21)

Above ten letters (+50)

For each word you define correctly add +3

Hence, my score would be as follows:

Arduous (+5)

Cabalist (+8)

Iota (+1)

Oratory (+5)

Fatuous (+5)

Total: 24 + 15 (if I define the words correctly) = 39 points.

The letters you put in the box are up to you. I took the sentence “I study GRE vocabulary for fun” (something I’m not sure anyone in their right mind would utter) and fit it into the 5×5 mold. You can pick random letters or come up with your own sentence.

In my class the first team to +100 points is usually the winner.

For this challenge, I’ll throw down the gauntlet: who can come up with the longest GRE word? Definitely +100 points for you!

Bonus! Check out this video for the top 3 GRE vocabulary study tips:


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9 Responses to GRE Vocabulary Games

  1. Yasser Hussain July 5, 2015 at 4:42 am #

    Hey I couldn’t find word dynamo on Have they removed the game recently??

  2. Praveen April 3, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    Excellent Chris, being a non native speaker I was always terrified of GRE vocab. But after going through many of your blog posts, especially this one, I feel that I will be able to learn GRE vocab with hell lot of fun.

    Your posts have be extremely help full to lot of folks out there like me. Thank you very much.

    I have a question about “solid word list”. I have two books, ‘Princeton Review 2013’ and ‘EST official guide to revised GRE edition 2’. Former for strategy and latter for prep.

    Which word list should I use? Princeton Review has a Hit Parade list. Is it good enough? Being a non native speaker, should I use ‘Word Power Made Easy’ first and then go for GRE word list? Wont this be an overhead considering time constraints? Or should I buy Kaplan or Barron’s or MGRE word list?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 3, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

      Hi Praveen,

      Thanks for the kind words :).

      As for word lists, Princeton Review’s Hit Parade list is excellent. My only grumble, with any word list, really, is that you have to turn that word list into flashcards are some way in which you have access to quizzes. The PR has quizzes as does Word Power (though some words in Word Power aren’t likely to show up on the GRE). As long as you throw the Hit Parade words into, the make your own flashcards site, you should be ready to go.

      I’d stick to the Hit Parade list for now. With the games above–and any games you come up with–learning the list should hopefully be quick. That way you can move on to other lists (time-permitting).

      Good luck!

      • Praveen April 3, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

        Thank you very much Chris.

        I still have 4 months before my GRE exam date. For now I will stick to PR’s Hit parade list. As soon as I finish it, will start looking into other lists.

  3. Ritika April 1, 2013 at 3:55 am #

    The ideas are really innovative Chris ! I do a similar thing for synonyms, but instead of a tree I draw a Sun diagram. I feel its always easier to learn similar meaning words together instead of individual words.

    Waiting for you Vocab Wednesday 😉

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 2, 2013 at 10:10 am #

      Thanks for the kudos!

      I like the idea of a sun diagram too :). You should also check out the visual thesaurus to see how it diagrams words – it’s innovative and intuitive.

  4. Peyyety March 31, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    Ok, let me try this. Valetudinarian+tintinnabulation+ Brobdingnagian.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 2, 2013 at 10:14 am #

      Hi Peyyety,

      Definitely all brobdingnagian words :).

      However, with the grid you can only reuse a letter if that letter shows up more than once in the grid. For instance, ‘a’ shows up twice, so you can use it twice. ‘R’ shows up three times, so you can use it three times in the same word. ‘n’ only shows up once, so it can only show up in your word.

      With this constraint see if you can come up with equally brobdingnagian words. I’m sure there are a few hiding in there :).

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