Getting Bored with GRE Vocabulary and Verbal?

About to sit down to some GRE verbal? Dreading the inevitable boredom, when your eyelids droop and you sink deeper into your chair, and the letters from each vocabulary word seem to blur into one, long indiscernible word? Well, studying GRE isn’t actually exhilarating, and while the above description may smack of hyperbole, many people edge towards REM as soon as they sit down.

The key to keeping your brain awake is to make study fun and surprising. The last thing you want to do is simply read a list of words, looking at a definition and then moving on to the next word. To keep it interesting, and to ensure you learn far more effectively, here are a few things to remember:


Quiz yourself frequently

The key is to not look at a vocabulary list. Grab a blank paper and see how many words and definitions you can remember. Forcing your brain to come up with words in this manner will not only keep you awake, but will also reveal how much you’ve really learned. Other methods include having your friends or family members quiz you.


Use flashcards

This is a great way to randomize learning, and keep your brain awake. You can combine this with 1). Meaning, quiz yourself using flashcards. Also, see if you can think of the word after looking at the definition.


Don’t just sit there

Get up and move around. Think of words you’ve learned as you are cleaning the dishes or taking a shower. If you can retrieve the words from memory in this context, you are more likely to remember them for the long term. Typically, we remember words when we are in our usual study zone, but forget them as soon as we move on do something else (taking the GRE at a strange testing center, included).

I know I’ve only been talking about vocabulary thus far. For the rest of the verbal section, make sure to take quick breaks every 30 minutes. Allow your mind to digest what you’ve just learnt. Get a glass of water, come back, and your batteries should already be re-charged. Also if there is a really tough question or passage, in which you feel you are reading the same line over and over again, take a quick break and move on to some other material.


Use free Magoosh resources

In my humble and unbiased opinion, our vocabulary eBook is great, and actually fun to read! No dry definitions here– students have told us that it makes learning vocab words much less painful.

If you’d prefer to absorb your vocabulary through audio instead, I’d definitely recommend watching/listening to my Vocab Wednesday series! 🙂


Put it all together

One way to not feel that vocab is drudgery is to write about something that is interesting. The key is to use words you’ve learnt in the past few weeks (don’t just use words you’ve learnt in the previous day or two). This exercise will show you how many words you’ve forgotten, and will strengthen the memory bonds with those words that have become tenuous.

For the reading passages, think back to the questions you missed. Really place yourself in that question and remember the thinking process that led you to your answer. Of course this is something that is best done not just sitting there—going back to point three—but later, perhaps when you are lying down on bed or brushing your teeth.



The morale of the story? Don’t make GRE prep only about sitting at a desk for an hour of drudgery. Make it a fluid part of your life!

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10 Responses to Getting Bored with GRE Vocabulary and Verbal?

  1. Nithin ACHAR July 19, 2016 at 8:31 pm #

    i have startd studying GRE. how many GRE words i shd study. do we have to read 4500 words. and wt are steps of studyng GRE. starting verbal or quants? and am little poor in argument task and issue task, how can i improve tht

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 21, 2016 at 12:43 pm #

      There’s no fixed number of GRE vocabulary words you should study, because passing Verbal involves a combination of vocabulary knowledge, reading skill, and exam strategy. That being said, I recommend going through between 500 and 1000 GRE words. This can help you get a good feel for how much GRE vocabulary you know, and can help you expose yourself to GRE words that are unfamiliar to you, but likely to appear on the exam. However many vocabulary words you study, make sure you pay attention to word form and how words are used, rather than just memorizing words.

      As for which section to start with, there are many different approaches you could take, including studying for Verbal and Quants at the same time, from the beginning. I personally recommend starting out with whatever GRE section you are the weakest in, so you can be sure you have enough time to really build up your skills.

      Finally, for GRE AWA, I always suggest looking over sample student responses with scorer commentary. This kind of material can be found in many of ETS’s official prep materials for the GRE.

  2. Nithin ACHAR July 19, 2016 at 8:28 pm #

    i have startd studying vocabulary. i dnt knw how many words shld i read. do we have to read 4500 words. and wt are steps of studyng GRE. starting verbal or quants?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 2, 2016 at 2:10 pm #

      You don’t necessarily need to memorize 4500 words. In fact, there’s no exact number of vocabulary words that you need for the GRE. Use vocabulary lists to get familiar with common words on the exam. Then use reading practice to get familiar with vocabulary in context. And use reading strategies to improve your ability to understand the meaning of a passage even when it has difficult or unfamiliar words.

      For both GRE Verbal and GRE Quants, the very first thing you should do is go through some practice questions from ETS, such as their free PowerPrep question sets. This will help you figure out what you’re already able to do, and what you still need to study and master. From there, you can work on the skills and question types that you struggled with in your initial practice.

  3. sai February 6, 2013 at 5:33 am #

    Hi chris,
    I have just 27 days left for my GRE. How to learn GRE words quickly so as to crack a good score in Verbal? Is learning GRE tough words is enough to score good in verbal? Kindly tell how can i improve my memory to remember more words in short period of time?

    Thanking you


    • Chris Lele
      Chris February 6, 2013 at 10:55 am #

      Hi Sai,

      Those are all good questions :).

      First off: don’t just cram a bunch of difficult words without making sure you already have a strong grasp of easy and medium-level words. The thing is the new GRE is section adaptive. So if you don’t do well on the medium section, you won’t even go on to the difficult section, where most of the tough words are.

      As for memorizing: a variety of techniques–such as the ones listed above–are important. Constantly give yourself difficult quizzes. Really challenge your brain. Writing down as many words as you can from memory, with their definitions, is always a good method. Finally, visualize the meaning of the words, using wacky imagery. For instance, ‘dilatory’ means really slow. Picture someone very slowly dialing a Tory on the phone.

      Hope that helps, and good luck!

  4. Mari February 4, 2013 at 3:55 am #

    Dear Chris,

    Do you know of any websites for vocabulary besides Wordnik?

    Do you think that studying antonyms would help me to fill in the blanks on the text completions?

    Thank you,


    • Chris Lele
      Chris February 4, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

      Hi Mari,

      Great question regarding vocab sites! This post should be helpful:

      As for studying antonyms, doing so should help you learn the vocabulary word. It won’t necessarily show you how that word functions in context. Knowing the word is only half the battle (some would argue 70% :)).

      Hope that helps :)!

  5. Aniket January 31, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    Hi Chris,
    I have just started preparing for gre and for vocabulary section ,i really want to thank you because whenever i read any of your post, since these contain a lot of gre words, it’s just like a revise of my vocabs that i had learned earlier.
    One more thing, it’s just a request..can i use ur free eStuffs like Vocabulary ebook on my newly created blog “”. I have just started blogging for GRE and if u have any suggestion, it would be great for me to work on that..
    Thanks in Advace!!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris February 1, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

      Hi Aniket!

      Wow, that seem’s like a cool objective :). Please feel free to link any of my posts that you’ve felt have been helpful. And, along the way, don’t hesitate to ask me any questions. I’ll do my best to give a helpful answer :).

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