Barron’s 1100 Book Review

If you’ve been a fan of this blog—or if you’ve been simply following the recommendations—you’ve heard me mention an excellent source for vocabulary: Barron’s 1100 Words You Need to Know.

So it may come as a surprise that I’m reviewing the book only now. The truth is, I am definitely remiss in never doing a complete review. Of course, I could have just decided not to do one, but given that I keep recommending the book, I should have a pretty solid reason for doing so. This review provides the justification.


The Barron’s 1100 method

One of the worst ways to study vocabulary is to read a list with vague definitions. Some students balk when I tell them this, saying that they have learned words this way. But often this “learning” is little more than the ability to cough up a definition.

Barron’s 1100 is a corrective to a straightforward list. First, when you first see a word, you don’t immediately get to see the definition. What you do see is a paragraph that incorporates the daily words. In short, you have to infer the meaning of the words based on the way the words are used in the context of the paragraph.

Of course, Barron’s wouldn’t leave you hanging. For the five words that make up each daily lesson, there is a matching exercise. Here, you will be able to match the word with the correct definition (after reading the paragraph you should have a pretty good idea which definition to match with which word). The reason Barron’s doesn’t just provide the definitions next to the words is that we would all be tempted just to read the definition, instead of trying to figure out the words ourselves. And that’s the important part that helps the words stick a lot better. Otherwise, you might as well just be reading a word list.

End of the week quizzes and fill-in-the-sentence exercises help reinforce words. Barron’s 1100 also functions as a pre-web, which provides dozens of example sentences for many words. Barron’s 1100 has example sentences culled from diverse sources, such as famous novels, respected newspapers and magazines, and Shakespeare.


Not perfect but close

While the process outlined above is great for letting words sink in, one shortcoming in the Barron’s 1100 book is that certain words are vaguely defined. That is, you won’t be able to really get a sense of how a word functions in a sentence based on the definition. Even the paragraph and the example sentences at the back aren’t enough to help you really get a comfortable grip on the word.

In such instances, I recommend supplementing Barron’s 1100 with Not only will you get more example sentences—lots more—but you’ll also get more definitions for any word ( collects definitions from a few respected dictionaries). I also recommend going to and entering your word in the search box. Any word in the Barron’s book will likely have several example sentences from 2013 alone.

The good news is that you should be able to understand a majority of words based on using only Barron’s.

I also recommend that you do not laboriously plod through each week, without ever reviewing prior weeks. Develop some system in which you are constantly returning to previous weeks’ words.

Finally, Barron’s—for whatever reason—provides an idiomatic expression at the bottom of each page, e.g., “to heat humble pie.” Ignore the idioms—they will in no way help you on the GRE.



The Barron’s 1100 book is an excellent vocabulary tool for self-study. Because it makes you work for the definition, Barron’s 1100 is much more effective than any ordinary vocabulary list. When you’re done learning them, you can always try to incorporate them into your vocabulary games. Then, check out our expert recommendations for the best GRE prep books!


Grade: A-


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  • Chris Lele

    Chris Lele is the Principal Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh. Chris graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology and has 20 years of experience in the test prep industry. He's been quoted as a subject expert in many publications, including US News, GMAC, and Business Because. In his time at Magoosh, Chris has taught countless students how to tackle the GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT, MCAT (CARS), and LSAT exams with confidence. Some of his students have even gone on to get near-perfect scores. You can find Chris on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!

31 Responses to Barron’s 1100 Book Review

  1. Yash Jaiswal July 1, 2020 at 12:09 pm #

    Should I use Barrons 1100 or Magoosh GRE Vocabulary eBook for GRE- TC and Vocab?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 24, 2020 at 9:12 am #

      Hi Yash,

      Both resources will have essentially the same words (all test prep companies will). You can use either resource, and it’s more important to understand how to use those lists to study effectively.

  2. Chinmay Sen July 5, 2018 at 10:35 pm #

    does Barron’s 1100 word list contains all the words of Barron’s high frequency 333 and 800-word list? Or at least Barron’s 333 words are on the list of Barron’s 1100 word list?
    C M Sen

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 11, 2018 at 10:06 am #

      Hi Chinmay,

      I would imagine so, but I’m afraid that we aren’t experts on Barron’s materials! I recommend that you ask this question on their website, through an internet bookseller, or on a GRE forum such as Urch. Good luck!

  3. Hassan December 20, 2017 at 7:04 am #

    It is a priceless post. I kept looking up every word before reading every lesson. Right after reading your post I opened the book after a long time. I studied it the way you described and in fact the way authors intended it! I definitely learned better and enjoyed more. Thanks.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 20, 2017 at 9:19 am #

      So glad this was helpful! 😀

  4. Roberto March 22, 2017 at 5:18 am #

    Hey Chris,
    I have recently seen an android application on Google Play for 1100 words. It has the complete definition of each word in Longman Dictionary. Do you think that it is worth to buy?
    This is the link:

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 22, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

      Hi Roberto,

      If price is a factor, there are a number of free vocabulary resources available, including our Magoosh flashcards. In addition, to help you identify these words as you read online, Magoosh has a Google Chrome extension that highlights high-frequency GRE words on any website! Use this tool to draw your attention to real-life examples of the words found on our list of the 1000 Most Important GRE Words. Now, for this application, it only appears to have 2 reviews, so there doesn’t seem to be a good sample size of users who can attest to the application. But, if you’re looking for additional resources, it may not be a bad option. It is essentially up to you, but there are a number of free options out there as well! Best of luck! 😀

  5. Arlene Batada May 30, 2016 at 8:30 pm #

    Why is it said that new GRE has reduced its vocabulary? Any reliable sources to verify the same? What is he reason for this drastic reduction?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 31, 2016 at 3:22 am #

      Hi Arlene,

      The last set of revisions made to the GRE took place in 2011. As a part of these changes, the antonym and analogy sections were removed, which means you do not have to worry about these types of questions on the New GRE. At the same time, the New GRE focuses more on common GRE vocabulary in context rather than very arcane words. To help you prepare for the vocabulary on the New GRE, I’d recommend that you check out our GRE Vocab Flashcards, which include 1000+ of the most frequently seen words on the exam 🙂 You can study them for free online or by downloading the app 🙂

      Hope this helps!

  6. sanvika March 23, 2016 at 7:35 am #

    hi chris,

    barrons 1100 words or magoosh vocab flash cards? which one do you recommend?? please reply


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 23, 2016 at 11:20 am #

      Hi Sanvika,

      We recommend students start with Magoosh’s flashcards, which contain 1000 of the most commonly seen words on the GRE. This is because our flashcard app is built to eliminate most of the organization and thought needed in using flashcards—it organizes that for you. 🙂 The program is created so that you automatically review words that you need to. If you are honest about your answer when you say “I know this word,” then the system will work well. You will see new words more times than known words, and so you will review them more. 🙂

      Hope this helps!

  7. Sam October 19, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

    Hello Chris,

    First off, you’ve been of great help by posting all these amazing posts here! Thanks for that!

    So,I wanted a little advice from your side. I have about three to three and a half months before I write my exam. As of now, I am still improving my vocab ( almost completed Word Power Made Easy ), and based on the model questions in the official ETS guide, I feel my quants is up to the mark.

    So according to you, what books should I refer to, to improve my vocab (not only the GRE score, but my vocab skills in general), considering that I have a lot of time in hand before my exam.

    Any help would be appreciated! TIA!

    • Dani Lichliter
      Dani Lichliter October 20, 2015 at 11:31 am #

      Hi Sam,
      Thanks for reaching out! 🙂 Since you have more than 3 months until your exam, I would definitely recommend checking out our study schedules. Here’s a verbal-focused 90-day GRE Study Plan. It includes a lot of vocab studying using Magoosh’s GRE flashcards.
      I hope this is helpful. Happy studying! 🙂

  8. Niloofar November 6, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

    Thank you for this Review! It was really helpful 😉

  9. Amit October 29, 2014 at 11:55 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    I have studied Magoosh 1000 words & Barron’s 333 High Frequency words.
    I have 11 days to exam . Do you recommend any other word lists that I should refer to ?
    Will I be able to finish off baroons 1100 book within a weeks time ( as I need to start off with AWA practises too).
    I have Barrons 800 Essential book .You think reading those words and magoosh 1000 + Barrons 333HF will be sufficient for GRE ?


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele October 31, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

      Hi Amit,

      I think the words from those resources will definitely be sufficient. Remember to always get a good sense of those words in context and to be doing a lot of reading of contextually dense stuff :).

      Oftentimes, the GRE will come down to understanding not the vocab per se but the context too.

      Good luck!

  10. Kunal September 28, 2014 at 7:32 am #

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for all the book reviews and preparation information, my GRE preparation is mostly based on your review and tips.

    Was just wondering hows the Barron’s Essential Words for the GRE 3rd ed. is compared to the 1100 words you need to know book. Which one should I go for in between these 2?

    Couldnt find any comment about the essential words book on the website.

    Thanks a lot!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele October 2, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

      Hi Kunal,

      Glad you have felt the tips useful. Personally, I prefer the 1100 Words You Need to Know, since it offers more dynamic exercises for the self-studier. Ultimately, it’s up to you. If you feel the Essential Words fits your study style better then go for that.

      Hope that helps 🙂

  11. Ravi September 16, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

    Hey Chris,

    Would you recommend this book or Barron’s 3500 word list?

    I happened to come across Barron’s 3500 word list, which in addition to high frequency words also contained some commonly use words and I thought this would serve as a good memory refresher.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele September 17, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

      Hi Ravi,

      I would definitely definitely recommend this book over Barron’s 3500 word list. That word list is no good for the current GRE. It is just one vague definition after another, in alphabetical order. It does not discriminate between important words (except for a few).

      Hope that helps!

  12. Subhasis June 30, 2013 at 7:37 am #

    Hi Chris,

    I can not lay my hands on the 5th edition of this book, but have been able to collect the 4th edition. Could you please let me know if there has been significant changes between these two editions and whether it would not be wise to use the 4th edition?

    I went through the 4th edition and found it to exactly comply to the book structure that you described – each day of each week having 5 words and to use them to fill sentence gaps, then trying to match them to meaning, finally writer telling us the meaning etc.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele July 1, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

      Hi Subhasis,

      Typically, the two editions vary little–if at all–from year to year. They may catch a typo, but otherwise the books are virtually identical. So, go ahead, and use the 4th edition :).

  13. Sarika June 15, 2013 at 6:51 am #

    Hey Chris!
    It goes unsaid that you guys are doing an awesum job:)
    There are so many posts here,i think the last time i posted my comment was lost.I need major help!plz!my exam is on july 18th 2013.and i can dedicate the entire time on studying.I am equally bad in math and verbal,i mean am quiet ok with verbal but my vocab seems terribly bad.I happened to read many posts and im quiet unsure which book is right for me.Ive been using magoosh lessons and am almost done with the questions as well(allthough not entirey)
    Please tell me which all books to use considering my time constraint(have just a month)
    right now am using:
    which one to buy for vocab?Nova,Kaplan,barrons1100?or just magoosh free book?
    Also im quiet unsure where exactly i can find the answer to my question here to you Chris:(:(
    Need major help on these.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 18, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

      Hi Sarika!

      Sorry your prior comments seem to have gotten lost :(.

      I’ll definitely do my best to answer your questions :).

      For more material, now that you’ve mostly finished Magoosh, I’d recommend Barron’s 1100 Word You Need to Know. This is for vocabulary–an area in which you can grow. I’d also recommend exploring this blog, as there are many practice questions and tips.

      If you still need more practice, use the Manhattan GRE series. You only need to buy one book to get access to all of the 6 practice tests, which can be helpful.

      Finally, I encourage you to read a lot more, and not just learn vocab. I elaborate on a lot of this in the Magoosh vocab ebook:

      Good luck 🙂

  14. Evelyn May 17, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    Hey Chris, which edition are you referring to?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 20, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

      Hi Evelyn,

      I’m referring to the 5th edition, the one with the glossy, red cover.

      Hope that helps!

      • Padmini September 1, 2013 at 8:54 am #

        Hi Chris, I think Barron has come up with 6th edition for their Barron’s 1100 word you need to know… This book has a blue cover… Which one should I look out for- the 5th one in red or the 6th edition in blue.


        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele September 3, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

          Hi Padmini,

          I haven’t actually seen the 6th edition (the blue one). Usually, they make very few changes between editions.The book has actually been out for 45 years, and I don’t think it really changes much. Thus, either edition should be fine :).

  15. Jones April 16, 2013 at 12:39 am #

    Hey Chris, I don’t know how relevant my post will be with this post, though I think you can help me out my problems regarding verbal section. I am scoring 160 on average in verbal section, whereas my target score is 165 or more.The thing is that when I use timer , I feel nervous and lose concentration worrying about time and make hasty decision which makes me suffer in the last. But when I don’t use timer, I am doing great.What do you suggest for me to sort out this problem?
    Thank you

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 16, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

      Hi Jones,

      Well, that is a tough one! I would say that you have to keep training with the clock hovering over your head. No matter how awesome you are without a timer–even if you nail consistent 170–it’s all for naught if your score with the timer is significantly lower.

      The obvious way to become better with timer is practice. More specifically, you should learn to catch yourself when you start noticing the timer and your pulse quickens. Learn to reign in your emotions and your visceral reactions. I recommend taking a few deep breathes from your stomach. Of course your visceral self will tell you that you are wasting your time and that you need to hurry. But that is the exact voice that you have to ignore if you want to regain control and focus.

      Hope that helps!

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