How Many Words Should I Learn for GRE?

Posted by on September 14, 2017 in GRE Vocabulary | 6 comments

How Many Words Should I Learn for GRE?


How Many Words Should I Learn for GRE? 


This is perhaps the most important but also the most intimidating part of the GRE verbal section – memorizing a word list. Rote learning a list of unknown words is an extremely boring and the most ineffective way to learn new words. 


Words matter but in context


Knowing words in context matter more in GRE than simply learning their meanings. So whichever GRE word lists you follow or study from, make sure that you read the words’ contextual usage along with their meanings. GRE test makers expect that students know the usage of the words tested on the exam.


Avid readers often cannot tell you the exact meaning of a word but they know its meaning because of the context. Knowing the context a word can help you decipher the meaning of words & even make an educated guess.


Reading in context is your best shot to learn new words. Therefore you must regularly read articles and passages where GRE words will be used. Many students ask me that if reading novels can improve vocabulary – it definitely does but in the longer run.


Read from sources such as The Monthly Atlantic, The New Yorker, and Long Reads. These contain small articles between 750 to 3000 words with a lot of GRE words. If you read these articles regularly for 2-3 months, you will improve your vocabulary.


See Also: Brightlink Prep’s 465 Most Frequently Tested GRE Words


So how many words should I learn for GRE?


There is no second opinion to the fact that in order to get a good score on the verbal section of the GRE you will need to increase your vocabulary by learning new words. Students would like to know the number of words they should learn to be able to score well. Alas, there is no definitive answer to this question.


Unlike the quantitative section where you know the topics, the verbal section is amorphous. Even though you can find numerous wordlists online, none is provided by ETS. Therefore you might find a word on the test you have not seen before.

Students who start off their GRE prep with considerably good English in terms of contextual reading might need to learn a few hundred words. Others may find the need to learn 1000 or more words in order to do well on the test.


The number of words you need to learn depends on your starting point so it could range from 400 to 1000. To find out the where you stand in terms of vocabulary, you should attempt a verbal practice mock to get an estimate.


To sum it all

….. in order to determine how many words you should learn start reading extensively while going through a wordlist. You use Brightlink Prep’s word list of 465 most tested words on the GRE. Your priority should be to learn these words as well as understand their context. Also keep reading voraciously to add more words to your armor and understanding GRE’s arcane English.


  1. Hi.

    If I learn words with their contextual understanding from the following sources only, would I be able to score around 150 in the verbal section? My aim is 310 and verbal section is becoming a constant nuisance in this goal.

    1. Barron’s 333 Words List
    2. Manhattan 500 Essential and 500 Advanced Words
    3. Barron’s 1100 Words You Should Know

    • Hello Asad – Yes these are sufficient words to do decently on the verbal part of the exam!

      • Sir, if I practice for quantitative section only from Manhattan’s GRE Strategy Guide (Which includes 6 books for quantitative and 2 for verbal reasoning), would I be able to score more than 160 in quantitative section easily or should I consult some other books for practice/preparation? Thanks.

        • Go for Manhattan 5LB book as well as ETS guides for better prep.

  2. Hi Talha,
    you are doing a wonderful job for the GRE aspirants. Many thanks for that. The link of the above 465 words is not available. Can you sort it out?


    • Hello Umer – that word list has been removed as we are updating the words. Once we are done, will update 🙂

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