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Vocabulary-building is one of the most daunting and challenging aspects of the GRE. There are innumerable words in the English language – it really is an abyss. And, the bad news is that despite all your preparation, you never know which word might come up on the exam.

How can you, then, perform well in your GRE Vocab section? Are there any strategies that can help you learn and remember words more effectively? The good news is that there are some pointers that will help you get better with words.

In this blog, we discuss 6 major strategies that will help you master GRE vocabulary.

1.  Learn roots of words
2.  Read, and read a lot!
3.  Maintain your word journal
4.  Use the words in your daily life
5.  Revise!
6.  Download Jamboree’s ‘Simplified Vocabulary’

Learn roots of words

Perhaps the easiest way to learn words in a short span of time is to understand the concept of root words. But what is a root word?

Remember that most English words have origins in other foreign languages such as Latin, French, Greek, German, and even Sanskrit. A root word, then, is a word or a word part, generally of a foreign language, to which prefixes or suffixes are added to form a complete English word.

Let me give you an example. The root word ‘mal-’ in Latin means harmful or bad. Now, take a minute to list all English words that use ‘mal-’

Compare the words that you have written to the following. Certainly, there would be a few common words.

  • Malign
  • Malice
  • Malicious
  • Malignant
  • Malevolent
  • Malfunction
  • Malnutrition
  • Malpractice

All the above words have the common root ‘mal-’ and you’d realize that all these words have a negative connotation. Let me first give out the meanings of all these words.

  • Malign (vb) – to make harmful, unpleasant, and false statements about someone

Usage: The actor sued the magazine for maligning him.

  • Malice (n) – the intention or wish to do something harmful and wrong to someone; ill-will

Usage: Jerry is so full of malice: she’s always wishing bad for her colleagues.

  • Malicious (adj) – intended to harm of upset someone

Usage: Jenny took a malicious pleasure in hurting others.

  • Malignant (adj) – threatening or harmful to life

Usage: The doctor said that the tumor was malignant and that the patient had only a few weeks to live.

  • Malevolent (adj) – causing or wanting to cause harm or evil

Usage: The terrorist gave a malevolent smile before shooting at the crowd.

  • Malfunction (vb) – to work in an inappropriate manner

Usage: The engineers figured out that it was a software problem that was causing the machine to malfunction.

  • Malnutrition (n) – physical weakness and bad health caused by lack of food

Usage: The government initiated multiple programs to help poor children suffering from malnutrition.

  • Malpractice (n) – illegal, careless, or dishonest behavior

Usage: Because of the serious allegations of malpractice against the surgeon, his license was revoked.

So, if you are aware of root words, you will be able to make educated guesses about the meaning of many other words that share the same root, even if you do not know their exact meaning.

Now that you know how important the knowledge of root words is, the next question is from where do you learn roots?

I would highly recommend a book called ‘Word Power Made Easy’ by Norman Lewis. This book will help you gain mastery over root words, and, consequently, words.

There are also many websites that will help you understand roots: is just one of them.

Along with the concept of understanding roots, you must also become familiar with how prefixes and suffixes are used in English. This will help you identify the various parts of a word better, thus, derive the meaning of the word better.

For instance, look at the word ‘consonance.’ It is a combination of the prefix ‘co-’ and the root ‘son-’.

‘Co-’ as a prefix generally shows togetherness. It is from here that the words cooperate, collaborate, and compatible originate. ‘Son-’ or ‘sonar-’ as a root means sound – the words sonata and resonate come from this same root.

So, put these two ideas together and make an educated guess about what ‘consonance’ would mean? Yes, you are right! It means a situation where people are at peace, in harmony, and in agreement with each other – in a way, producing the same sound together!

Want more tips to get better with GRE words?

Have you taken the GRE before?

Read, and read a lot!

Dedicate time each day to reading. And by reading, I mean high-quality newspapers and journals. You can read from sources such as The Economist, The New Yorker, and The Harvard Business Review. Also, read editorials and analyze the opinions of the authors. Such practices will help you to not only get better with words but also improve reading speed. Your contextual understanding of words will also become better.

In short, the more you read, the better your command over words and reading gets.

Maintain your word journal

I cannot emphasize the importance of this strategy enough. Whenever you come across an unfamiliar word, you must make a note of it in your own word journal. Write its meaning, root, and any other related words. It would also help if you are able to form a sentence with the word.

At the end of just a fortnight, you’d realize that you have learned quite a few new words.

Use the words in your daily life

While writing words is a great idea, it would tremendously help if you are able to associate these words in situations that you experience in your everyday life. You will be able to remember words better when you do this.

So, if you have that friend who is very precise and detailed in his work – you know he is ‘meticulous.’ If you just go about your life without doing anything new or interesting, following just a routine, you are, perhaps, living a ‘mundane’ life.


I always tell my students that learning words is like brushing your teeth. You don’t just do it once a month. You do it regularly, without a miss, every single day – and, sometimes, even twice a day.

Consistency is the key to remembering words – there is no substitute for revision. If you just memorize a few new words one day and come back to them after a week, you’d not be able to remember any!

So, keep at it and don’t give up. Spend 30 minutes each day learning and revising words. The more consistent you are, the easier learning words is going to seem.

Looking for help with your GRE preparation?

Have you taken the GRE before?

Download Jamboree’s ‘Simplified Vocabulary’

Jamboree has designed a simple yet powerful way of helping you learn words to crack the GRE. Rather than asking you to cram long lists of words in which the words are categorized either alphabetically, randomly, or difficulty-wise, Jamboree has a unique vocabulary-building strategy – grouping similar words together. So rather than asking you to rote-learn words in a directionless manner, Jamboree’s ‘Simplified Vocabulary’ app provides you with the necessary tools to learn all similar words at once.

Here is an example of one of such groups:



Do you notice that all words that are similar to ‘skillful’ are in this group. Isn’t this a great way to remember words? This will help you to not only learn all words that are similar at the same time but also remember and retain words better.

But that’s not all. There are several other interesting features of the app. For instance, you’d be able to

  • Take quizzes and track your progress.
  • Assign your own difficulty level to every word so that you can revise them frequently.
  • Build your own quizzes

Go ahead and download the app now to get access to over 1800 words divided in about 325 groups. This means that instead of learning the meaning of 1800 individual words, you’d have to learn merely 325 meanings. Doesn’t this sound interesting?

If you need any other tips to crack the GRE, do not hesitate to reach out to us or talk to our counsellor.

All the best!

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