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Should I memorize words?


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I'm so frustrated with my performance on practice tests for the verbal section of the GRE. I'm pretty good with reading comprehension but I seem to suck at vocabulary!

 

Is it advisable to memorize words to increase vocabulary? Or is it a complete waste of time and effort? What other things can I do to improve vocabulary?  

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I think it is important to memorize vocab because the GRE uses words that you don't usually encounter in everyday life.  I'm memorizing vocab and I noticed when I took the PowerPrep practice test that many of the words I memorized were on the test.  You should look for a GRE specific vocab list or book.  I've been using StudyBlue to help me in addition to Barron's Essential Words for the GRE.

 

Hope that helps!

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My wonderful mother bought me a set of GRE flashcards for Christmas last year that I love. It contains several hundred vocabulary words and strategies for the verbal, and some for the quant section as well. Flipping through the cards helped me refresh many words I know, but don't always use. Good for getting connotation and denotation down as they give you sentence examples too. Many review books also have vocab lists in them. My Princeton Review book has hundreds of words, so if I'm not using the flash cards I'm using those lists. 

 

I find that reviewing vocab is great right before bed and/or whenever you have a little down time. Mastering words is fun so I try to make it the "enjoyable" part of my GRE prep!

 

To answer your final question: I've always been told that the best way to improve your vocabulary is to read good writing, and I believe it's true. Read the NY Times, scholarly articles, or books in your discipline. Whenever you don't know a word, stop and look it up. I pride myself on a strong vocabulary, but I never miss an opportunity to add another word to my repertoire. I recommend a smart phone dictionary app to have open while you read to make the process faster...or an old-school dictionary.  ;)

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Yes! I used the Kaplan GRE Exam Vocabulary in a Box. It was small enough to carry around in my purse and take out whenever I had a few minutes of free/wait time. I'd set aside words I had successfully memorized and kept at it until I almost finished the entire box. It was really helpful. I'm not sure that it made that much of a difference, but I did make me feel more confident about taking the GRE.

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Yes! I used the Kaplan GRE Exam Vocabulary in a Box. It was small enough to carry around in my purse and take out whenever I had a few minutes of free/wait time. I'd set aside words I had successfully memorized and kept at it until I almost finished the entire box. It was really helpful. I'm not sure that it made that much of a difference, but I did make me feel more confident about taking the GRE.

 

I am doing the same thing, actually.  I am trying to memorize 15 words per day at a minumum.  Each day I revisit the the older ones to keep at it.  My goal is to have all 500 memorized by the next 4 weeks.  So far it's helping...

 

I took the first VR practice test in my Kaplan book.  Did well in 1 section, but not so well in 2 others and I know a lot of it has to do with my lack of vocabulary knowledge.  The more I understand, the more confident I feel. 

 

You will get there too.

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Yes, definitely practice and memorize the words. I think a large portion of the GRE is knowing words they like to use. There are free resources online for GRE words in context and there are apps you can get on your phone.

 

What I recommend is to definitely remember them in context, use example sentences and such because it will be useless to just remember the definition.

 

Good luck!

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As said yes

 

I think barrons has a 5,000 word list you can memorize (huge overkill in my opinion).

 

In my case I went over the princeton word list (400 or so) then added another 300 from various sources.

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I am doing the same thing, actually.  I am trying to memorize 15 words per day at a minumum.  Each day I revisit the the older ones to keep at it.  My goal is to have all 500 memorized by the next 4 weeks.  So far it's helping...

 

I took the first VR practice test in my Kaplan book.  Did well in 1 section, but not so well in 2 others and I know a lot of it has to do with my lack of vocabulary knowledge.  The more I understand, the more confident I feel. 

 

You will get there too.

 

 

It is certainly possible to do this! I memorized all 500 of Kaplan's words in 4 weeks (I memorized the final 10 the day of the exam). MANY of them showed up on the exam. They either helped me rule out an answer, or were the answers themselves!

 

DTB

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I disagree slightly with most opinions here - I think the best way is not to memorize ready word lists. A much much better way is simply to practice a lot of the verbal sections on various practice tests, and every time you come across a word you do not understand (whether it forms part of an RC passage, or one of the multiple option answer choices etc) note it down and check the meaning. Over time you should develop a reasonably long list of words that you can keep browsing over. After a few days, you can start knocking off words that you are comfortable with so you maintain a rolling list. Yes, in a way, this is also "memorizing words", but I think how this is done makes a massive difference....gives you more practice on Verbal sections, you have a smaller and rolling list of words (a few hundred vs say 5000!), you get to learn meanings in context, which is very important, and the process is far more manageable.

 

Also more generally, in my opinion the benefit of memorizing huge lists of words is very very marginal in the actual GRE - most questions seem to be contextual, evaluating logical structure and argument etc.

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It is certainly possible to do this! I memorized all 500 of Kaplan's words in 4 weeks (I memorized the final 10 the day of the exam). MANY of them showed up on the exam. They either helped me rule out an answer, or were the answers themselves!

 

DTB

 

 

Do you have your scores yet?   I feel "good" but not overly confident in my abilities yet...

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I disagree slightly with most opinions here - I think the best way is not to memorize ready word lists. A much much better way is simply to practice a lot of the verbal sections on various practice tests, and every time you come across a word you do not understand (whether it forms part of an RC passage, or one of the multiple option answer choices etc) note it down and check the meaning. Over time you should develop a reasonably long list of words that you can keep browsing over. After a few days, you can start knocking off words that you are comfortable with so you maintain a rolling list. Yes, in a way, this is also "memorizing words", but I think how this is done makes a massive difference....gives you more practice on Verbal sections, you have a smaller and rolling list of words (a few hundred vs say 5000!), you get to learn meanings in context, which is very important, and the process is far more manageable.

 

Also more generally, in my opinion the benefit of memorizing huge lists of words is very very marginal in the actual GRE - most questions seem to be contextual, evaluating logical structure and argument etc.

 

Good advise, that said I believe the princeton 400 is based on a similar methods.  Combing through past GRE exams and taking the most frequently encountered words

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I just took the GRE today, and I ended up learning about 130 words over the last two weeks that were considered "high frequency" on most GRE vocabulary lists. Learning those words ended up allowing me to understand passages and questions that were completely incomprehensible two weeks ago. I could give you a list of the flashcards I made if you PM me, but you might also find value in this game. You can also find their list of words here. Apart from that, just make sure you learn the words in context and continue to review them on a daily basis! Take your time on the actual test and also think about whether the statements actually make sense. I noticed many sets of synonymous words for the questions that simply did not make any sense in the statements.

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FWIW, I agree with zapter's comments in post #11.  I never came across any of the words I memorized for any standardized test.

 

If one is going to improve one's word power, do so within the context of another activity-- reading in one's field, reading writers one wants to emulate, or reading writers who are known for using five dollar words.

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FWIW, I agree with zapter's comments in post #11.  I never came across any of the words I memorized for any standardized test.

 

If one is going to improve one's word power, do so within the context of another activity-- reading in one's field, reading writers one wants to emulate, or reading writers who are known for using five dollar words.

 

 

Really?  What source provided you with your words?  As I had the opposite experience where something like 75% of questions had one of the words I learned as an option.

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Really?  What source provided you with your words?  As I had the opposite experience where something like 75% of questions had one of the words I learned as an option.

 

How about that.

 

IIRC, it was an edition of the Princeton Review.

 

My situation may have been different than yours. By the time I took the GRE, I had soured on the standardized test taking experience.

 

Consequently, preparing for the exam was not a priority. Make no mistake, as I've said elsewhere on this BB, the GRE was a source of constant concern. I studied with two classmates. It was clear that Oak was going to do very well, and not just because she seemed to know every work in the dictionary. Conversely, I and the third member of the group had a few discussions that were basically "Blindfold or cigarette?" (The back story here was the understanding that I had more to lose by doing badly on the GRE than I had to gain by doing very well on it.  Sometimes, one's academic pedigree can matter in a very significant way--even though some of the gaps between reputation and reality can be profoundly wide; there were professors that I never ever saw until I was a graduate student at a school a thousand miles away.)

 

I instead focused on other aspects over which I felt I could make a more meaningful impact: picking schools where I thought I'd be a good fit, taking courses that would improve key skills, managing the GPA, and working.

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Do you have your scores yet?   I feel "good" but not overly confident in my abilities yet...

 

I took it last year. I was in the 81st percentile on the verbal section if I remember correctly. The memorizing really paid off for those infuriating questions that had THREE blanks in them. 

 

I also think zapster's approach is more natural. However, for someone like me, whose vocabulary already wasn't stellar to begin with, broad memorization really improved my scores. This was because I was originally wasting time just trying to logically determine what the answer choices meant! I didn't know the meaning of the words in the answers, so I had no chance actually selecting the correct one.

 

DTB

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In my experience, the only way to truly do well on that vocabulary section is to memorize those words - and more importantly, memorize the definitions listed in the practice books.

 

I like to think I am good with vocabulary. Not only do I read a lot, I also study acient languages, which helps me to determine the meaning of a word in context just based on roots and etymology. Unfortunately, I found that this did not help me on the GRE - it actually screwed me up! The GRE will sometimes throw in words as an option with roots that would make sense given the context of the sentence, but the actual meaning of the word doesn't fit. For example, if you can figure out that "pedantic" has something to do with teaching, but don't know that it has a negative connotation, this will hurt you more than help you. You just have to memorize the definitions.

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To some extent it would surely depend on your existing vocab knowledge and whether you are a native English speaker. I made my own flashcards of words which I came across in practice materials and the Magoosh vocab book which I was uncertain of. I also made a few synonym lists. Since I don't have all that much time to dedicate to GRE study, a useful strategy for me has been to focus on remembering whether a new word has a positive or negative connotation. A lot of the time that's enough, as you can either rule it out or at least know whether it's an option. Unless there are multiple unfamiliar answer choices, that would be adequate information to pick the right answer.

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It is certainly possible to do this! I memorized all 500 of Kaplan's words in 4 weeks (I memorized the final 10 the day of the exam). MANY of them showed up on the exam. They either helped me rule out an answer, or were the answers themselves!

 

DTB

 

DTB,

 

Did you memorize the full definition, or just got the idea of what the word meant?  What's more important?

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I took the GRE last year and didn't do well. I am retaking the exam late September.

 

One of the biggest mistakes I made last year was spending too much time memorizing words, but not learning the structure of the words.

 

On test day, my memory froze. I recognized the words in front of me on the computer screen, but couldn't remember the definitions. If I would have spent the time to learn the structure of the word and how it fits into different sentences, I know I would've scored much better on the Verbal section. 

 

Now I need to figure out how to study for the Quant!!!!  :o

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DTB,

 

Did you memorize the full definition, or just got the idea of what the word meant?  What's more important?

 

For me, the best was to associate either real memories with the word, or associate synonyms of the word with real memories. The words I memorized best were ones I could "feel" using, if that makes any sense. For example, when I learned the word "legerdemain".... I used to work at a daycare and I would associate the word with one of the children who would always try to get seconds at "snack time" by convincing other staff that he never got any snacks in the first place.

 

I had to be a little more creative for words that I had no experience with, such as "abase." I don't have any experience disgracing somebody, despite having seen it all the time. Most effective was imagining myself doing the ridiculing. I would associate the image of myself pointing my finger down at somebody (an overly dramatic image). Now when I read the word, it's the first thing I think of. 

 

---

 

I find that to be the best method for me, otherwise I ended up associating the word with the image of its definition written on a flash card. It's much easier to remember a real life event rather than specific words on paper, in my opinion.

 

Hope that helps.

 

DTB

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I made my own vocab cards. It doesn't work for everyone but if you're one of those people who remember things better if they write them down themselves as opposed to just read it from a page, this is a great way to go. I got my words from the GRE prep books (can't remember which ones, I think Kaplan for root lists, Princeton Review for a dedicated vocab practice?). To be honest, I think very few of the words I memorized from those lists appeared on my exam. The more useful part of studying was that I also basically did what zapster proposed and just read a lot, and added any words I didn't recognize to my cards. Looking up the words and their definitions helped me remember them better. 

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