If you have an extensive vocabulary, you can score well on the Graduate Record Examination, particularly on the analogy and antonym questions. Numerous available vocabulary lists, ranging from 500 to more than 3,000 words, tout the most frequently seen words on the GRE. Memorizing all these words might seem impossible, but with a few tips, remembering top GRE words may be easier than you anticipate.
When studying a word, learn its part of speech, such as verb, adjective or noun, and its definition. By learning a word’s part of speech, you heighten your ability to analyze question and answer choices, especially on analogy questions. If you are certain that a word is a noun and only one of the answer choices is a noun, then you have found your answer. One method to learn both the definition and the part of speech is to learn how to use the word in a sentence, as opposed to simply memorizing its definition.
Sometimes coming up with an association, or mnemonic, can help you move a word’s definition from your short-term memory into your long-term memory. A mnemonic is a creative way of remembering a word. As an example of creating a mnemonic, consider the word “gregarious,” which means sociable. If you have a friend named Greg who is extremely outgoing, then link the word and the name together to help you remember the word's meaning later. The best mnemonic devices are those that you create yourself, because they make the most sense to you.
Instead of approaching a new word randomly, take a thematic approach. Consider learning sets of words based on topics, synonyms and antonyms, or roots and suffixes. This method gives your brain a reference point or topic to grasp, instead of trying to learn a variety of words without any common association. Grouping can help you retain the word’s meaning. For example, if you learn roots and suffixes, then when you encounter an unfamiliar word, you can often use the root or suffix to help determine its meaning.
When you have learned a word’s definition and how it fits into a sentence, do not simply move on. To permanently fix this word in your brain, you need to revisit it continuously until it is second nature. As you are learning your GRE word list, write down words in a notebook or on index cards. Spend 15 minutes each day going through a set number of words. Even after you feel you have mastered a word, do not throw away its card. Go back through your entire list occasionally to ensure you retain each word's meaning.
Fitzalan Gorman has more than 10 years of academic and commercial experience in research and writing. She has written speeches and text for CEOs, company presidents and leaders of major nonprofit organizations. Gorman has published for professional cycling teams and various health and fitness websites. She has a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech in political science and is a NASM certified personal trainer.