Cracking the Verbal Section 2: Turning Verbal Debility into Verbal Ability

Cracking the GRE Verbal Section

(Note: debility means weakness or disability; verbal debility here means a weakness or disability relating to the verbal section. Also, check out the other difficult words in this post. To get the meaning, just hover your mouse over them.)


How to Improve Vocabulary

1. Get those Vocab Lists, Look up those Dictionaries

As we said in our previous post, a good grasp of vocabulary is instrumental to achieving success in the Verbal Section. To improve your vocabulary, start by learning word meanings, synonyms, and antonyms. In order to do this you will need to find a good GRE list on the net – there are several available – and look up the synonyms and antonyms on a good online dictionary e.g.

On every handy piece of software to download and install on your laptop, phones, tablets, PCs etc is wordweb ( it will give you words, meanings, sample sentences etc. for every word you hover your cursor over.

(Note to Dilip Oak’s Academy students: you already have VaiVocabulary – this gives you the word list along with synonyms, antonyms, easily confused words and a whole lot of revision features.)

2. Learn, Revise, Repeat

Developing an effective vocabulary also means consistent learning and revision so, start learning well before the exam – at least three months is recommended – and set up a learning and revision schedule. Make regular revision an integral part of your schedule: unless you revise regularly and repeatedly, you won’t remember any of that difficult vocabulary you are learning.

4. Target the Tough Ones

When you revise, mark out any words that you tend to forget: they need extra revision. The more you tend to forget them, the more they need to be revised; and the more you revise them, the better you will remember them!

5. Start Small

Doing all the learning and revision required can be an arduous task so, start with a good 500 high frequency GRE® word list. A short list like this will be a good stepping stone to the longer ones; and learning it will help you in overcoming the mental blocks associated with vocabulary learning.

6. Put it in Context

Keep in mind that simply memorizing words by rote is not enough, however; and developing a good vocabulary is not merely a matter of memorizing meanings of thousands of words. Often students notice that simply knowing the meaning of an obscure GRE word does not guarantee selecting the right answer in the exam. A proper understanding of exactly how to use vocabulary is necessary. It is this knowledge of usage that helps you to choose the right word for the given context. It is therefore advisable that, along with all your efforts to increase your vocabulary, you focus on getting a clear understanding of how to use these GRE words and which words fit in a particular context.


Developing Good Reading Habits

Apart from going through word lists, developing good reading habits is also crucial. One way in which this helps is getting an understanding of usage and context as we saw above. Secondly, though the GRE® is not a test of general knowledge, the reading comprehension passages in the verbal section cover a variety of topics and areas. Some background knowledge of the subjects being discussed in the passage you are reading is always useful since it is always easier to understand something that is at least somewhat familiar than something that is completely unfamiliar. For both these reasons it is imperative that you read a variety of articles from newspapers, magazines, and the web. Sites like the ones below give you access to an eclectic collection of very high quality writings. (easier but nevertheless intriguing reading – good to start with: it stimulates your interest and gets you reading without bogging you down with difficult words or convoluted sentences) (more complex stuff, really long articles – get into this slowly)

Reading through this material at random can ensure both plenty of practice for comprehension and exposure to vocabulary in context.

(Note for Oak’s students: check out this link)



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