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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 Clemmonsdogpark 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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