Words, words, words.

They’re everywhere! On refrigerator magnets, comic books, subway tunnels, glossy postcards from Cancun…

And on the GMAT.

While the GMAT does not directly test vocabulary in its sections, you do need to have a mental database of sophisticated words in order to to read and write well on the exam.

First and foremost: you need to understand the written material that comprises the Sentence Correction, Reading Comprehension, and Critical Reasoning questions located in the verbal component. Secondly: you need to use a range of eloquent words when you compose essays for the writing part.

To excel in Sentence Correction, you need to identify the register and language employed in each sentence; moreover, you need to be able to tell if the given words are well-chosen, precise, and appropriate in the contexts provided. Of course, the only way to achieve both ends here is to fully comprehend all or most of the vocabulary used.

Reading Comprehension requires you to have a similar grasp on words. For this part of the exam, you will be provided with a handful of passages that will cover a range of topics: science, history, academia, current event, art, ancient culture. Naturally, each passage will use a combination of intelligent and technical words. To isolate the basic meaning of each text quickly and efficiently, you will need to have a thoroughgoing knowledge of these employed vocabulary words. Simply put: the more words you know and recognize, the faster you will be able to read, and the more content you will understand. In turn, this will allow you to elect the answers that best represent the texts.

Critical Reasoning also tests your comprehension of written material and choice diction. In particular, Critical Reasoning evaluates your ability to extrapolate, assess, and regenerate an argument. To do this, you need to first engage with the arguments you are presented with. In this regard, you need to understand some of the toughest vocabulary words that are used the exam.

Like the verbal component of the exam, the analytical writing section involves vocabulary usage. Now, however, you have to produce your own words to closely capture viewpoints. Undoubtedly, your success is determined by the range of words you use — and how you utilize them to convey specific meanings.The best essays are articulate and crisp, and at the same employ words that are eloquent and accessible.

Given these requirements in the verbal and writing sections, it is in your best interest to dedicate some study time to vocabulary words.

How can you do this?

Here are two main tips:

1.) Make vocabulary flashcards. This sounds counterintuitive and cumbersome — but it will pay off handsomely in the long run. That being said, making 1317 flashcards and reviewing them religiously everyday for 6 hours is an inefficient use of your time. Instead, ,ost of your studying should center on the topics and themes that are directly tested on the GMAT. Still, flashcards on the 100-150 words that appear most frequently on the exam will be helpful to make — and it won’t take up as much time or effort. The following websites offer a condensed list of frequently occurring vocabulary words. You can use their pre-generated flashcards, or use them as resource to create your own. Note: we advise you to make your own cards rather than relying solely electronic, pre-generated ones. The process of physically writing down the words is a great study tactic — because it helps you remember the words more clearly and precisely. If, however, you are short on time — using online flashcards is better than nothing.

2.) Read, read, read. We can’t stress this enough. The best way to build your vocabulary is to familiarize yourself with the kinds of textual materials that are likely to come up on the exam. So put aside some time to read newspapers, magazines, and books. But don’t read passively! When you go through each text, get in the habit of circling or underlining words. Words you don’t know, words that frequently occur, words you’d like to know how to use. Keep a dictionary by your side so you can look up the proper meanings and usages of the words you come across. Make a point to do this once a day, for about 20 to 30 minutes — maybe with your morning coffee or during a lunch break. What kind of texts should you look at? A healthy variety. After all, the verbal and writing components can draw from a variety of topics.

More often than not, the GMAT draws from a lot of scientific texts. To prepare for related jargon and themes, check out the following online resources: New Scientist, Science News, and Popular Mechanics. Politics and current events also frequently come up on the exam; to cover this base, read the New York Times, The Economist, Harvard Business Review, and The Washington Post. Finally, the GMAT likes to include material on arts and culture. On these kind of topics, consult The New Yorker, Wired, National Geographic, and the New York Times Books Review Section.

Good luck on the exam, and remember to surround yourself with as many words as possible!

About the Author

Larry Lim writes for ICON+, a GMAT Singapore specialist. An established learning centre, ICON+ also provides test preparation courses for other subjects like IELTS, SAT, TOEFL and GRE, apart from GMAT. Visit http://www.icon-plus.com to learn more.

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