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How many vocabulary words should I learn? Are the Magoosh Flashcard words enough?

Studying vocabulary for the GRE can feel daunting. There are thousands of rare words that may appear on the GRE in a text completion or sentence equivalence question. So how do you prepare?

First, let's make one thing clear: how many words you need to learn depends on your background and situation. Unfortunately, there isn't a definite answer that works for everybody. Studying 1,000 flashcards can certainly be helpful, but it might not be a good idea in all cases. Every student starts from a different place in terms of vocabulary. Some students might need only a little bit of vocabulary work, whereas others might need to spend a large portion of their studying on vocab. 

Whether the Magoosh Flashcards are enough for you personally or not depends on your starting vocabulary. The GRE tests many, many words that are not in our flashcards (or any vocabulary lists). That's why it's important to read as much possible as part of your studies! This is true no matter what level your vocabulary is at. 

Know that studying vocabulary will only help you to a certain point. You might be a human dictionary and know every single word on the test, but if you don't have the reading experience, logic skills, and test-taking practice, you can still fall short of your target score. Studying vocabulary helps, yes, but it's not the end of the story, and it takes a very long time to memorize thousands of words. So don't fall into the common trap of learning 4,000 words by rote memorization but doing little reading and few practice questions. This is because the GRE tests you on your ability to understand English generally, not just your knowledge of "GRE words."

Throughout the verbal section, you'll face twisted, complicated sentence structures that may use only easy vocabulary. You need to be able to decipher these structures. That's why reading extensively is VERY important, regardless of your lexical range. The benefit of this is that you'll improve your reading comprehension as well. :)

So read a LOT. Try to read for at least 1 hour each day. Here are some recommended sources:

If the material you're reading is of good enough quality, you'll encounter new words fairly often. If you'd like help identifying these, you can install the Magoosh Chrome extension - it highlights high-frequency GRE words on any website! This is a great tool that will draw your attention to real-life examples of the words that are on our list of the 1000 Most Important GRE Words. 

As you read, make flashcards of words you're unfamiliar with and review them periodically, remembering the context they were used in. There's no specific number of words to learn this way, but the more you do this, the better prepared you will be to tackle the verbal section.

Of course, our flashcards are a great tool for memorizing new words. They include 1000 of the most commonly seen words on the GRE. Make it a goal — albeit not the most important goal — to go through these and learn the words you don't already know. That might be 900 of them, or it might only be 200. But don't get stuck doing only that! Keep doing focused test-taking practice and reading challenging texts.

With this multi-faceted approach to studying, tackling the seemingly impossible GRE verbal section will become much more feasible.

Happy studying!

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