If you want to crack verbal section of GRE you definitely need a huge vocabulary. Work on vocabulary is never a waste of time. It pays dividends in terms of your final GRE score.
Do not just use one approach for mastering vocabulary, work in myriad ways.
Reading is the best way for improving vocabulary. For complete neophytes, The Hindu editorial is a best place to start. If you have more time read articles from nytimes, The Economist these are filled with challenging gre words. Even the Best American Science series books can help a lot.
Make a flash card for each and every unknown word you have encountered.
As I said earlier do not just use one way for improving your vocabulary.
Mnemonics is also a very effective technique for boosting your arsenal of words. Try to make mnemonics for the words which are difficult and pesky. Make mnemonics in your mother tongue since they are much easier to get into your long term memory. Remember your mnemonics need not make any sense for others as long as they help you in building vocabulary. It might be a little difficult in the beginning to make mnemonics but trust me you will enjoy it when you get used to it and learning words will no longer be a cumbersome job rather it would be a fun.
Examples of a few mnemonics I made
Palliate – reduce pain.
My mnemonic – [palli ate] If you eat pallis(groundnut in telugu) your pain would be reduced.
Raconteur – A good Entertainer.
Mnemonic – Rekha aunty wearing a red sari tells pleasurable stories in an amusing way.
Flagrant- something considered wrong or bad.
My Mnemonic – He is so bad because he gave the flag for rent.
They are much better and even awesome if I told you in my native language.
I can’t give you more examples because most of them are in Telugu and also they are also a bit salacious.
3. Use The Words
This is an awesome way which helps to retain the words you learnt and also fish for new words. Write a story using all the words you learned that day or if you are not good at story telling then write a journal using all the words. Like in flash cards, your story need not make any sense just try to connect all words.
This is so effective because we can retain information much better when we do something with that information like using the words in sentences etc.
4. Flash Cards
There are flash cards on the market that have high frequency words and their definitions, but to get a higher score you will need to know more than just definitions. So make flash cards on your own.I know this is a tedious exercise but it can help you to buttress your vocabulary studies.
Here’s how to make GRE flash cards.
1. Buy some empty paper business cards set.
2. Write the word in CAPITAL LETTERS on one side of the card.
3. On the back of card draw a line dividing the card into two parts.
4.In the first part write the different meanings of the word.
5. Now in the second part write the sentence where you actually encountered the word. This is important because it helps more to remember the word if you make a note of actual sentence than writing some other sentence using the word. Of course, if you have additional space left you can do that.
Ok, now you know how to prepare Flash Cards but How to use them?
Here’s a couple of ways to make the most out of the flash cards.
Pull out a small stack of cards. After you peruse all cards in the stack at least once then its time for elimination. Go through the stack one at a time quizzing yourself on each word – If you get it right, take it out of the stack and lay it aside. As, you continue the stack becomes smaller and smaller.
If you are left with two or three difficult words and you are unable to remember, make mnemonics of those words, google those words for additional definitions, check out those words in mnemonicdictionary.com.
If you have to buy flash cards set then go for Manhattan and do fixed amount of flash cards per day no matter how tired or busy you are.I had kaplan flash cards,I did 20 cards on working days and 35 cards on holidays.Of course,the number of cards per day depends on you and the time you had for GRE.
After doing a good number of flash cards like 100 or more, you can group those flash cards based on different categories like words related to money ….. Thrifty, parsimonious, frugal, penurious, words related to time anachronistic etc.
5. Audio Tapes
If you have to spend a lot of time commuting or on other activities where you cannot use flash cards then audio tapes can come to your rescue. You can make your own audio files by reciting all the words, their meanings, example sentences and even mnemonics or can download some from internet.
I made 20 audio tapes, half an hour each and they are very helpful during my early battle with the words.
Why it is so important to read in context?
Words shift connotation depending on the situation. A word in one context has a meaning entirely different from the same word in other context. A dictionary definition may be completely useless in this case. Also in new are the focus on obscure words has been eliminated. ETS wants to test you on the ability on how can you use the word than merely on memorizing the word.
If you go through the wordlist by rote …… you are more likely to forget them. Also the habit of reading helps a lot in Reading comprehension of GRE.
Remember “There are no shortcuts to success”.Success entails hard and smart work.
An Additional Tip: Get enough sleep during your GRE preparation period. REM sleep plays an important role in encoding long term memory, and in an eight hour period of sleep, the last hour has the most REM. If you are getting 7 hours/night instead of 8 hours/night, you are depriving your brain of one of its most powerful systems for learning and remembering.
Recommended online resources for Vocabulary
- Follow Vocab Wednesdays in Magoosh GRE Blog
- quizlet.com – here you can make your own flash cards or study some existing ones.
- wordnik.com – returns sentences using the given word.
- mnemonicdictionary.com – filled with awesome mnemonics it can help you a lot in the initial stages of mnemonic making
- Dictionary.com – word of the day
Recommended Books For Vocab
1.Magoosh Vocab e-book : This book is filled with about 300 confusing gre words explained with mnemonics and example sentences.
5.Build Your Vocabulary Skills! A Quick and Easy Method
– This book is available as Amazon Kindle edition
6.50 Cool Stories 3000 Hot Words: Vocabulary Building for GRE/MBA/SAT (available in flipkart.com)
(listed according to their ranks and usefulness)