GRE Vocabulary

Magnetic words for practicing GRE vocabulary arranged to spell out the sentence "you are smart".

GRE Vocab Practice

All six sections of the GRE present general knowledge questions to evaluate each test-taker's academic potential. However, the complex language, terminology, and sentence structures on the exam can be difficult for some students to understand. Incorporating GRE vocabulary practice into your study schedule is essential for those who want to succeed.

Vocabulary Importance

Why Knowing More Words Is Helpful

You'll need a strong vocabulary and a thorough understanding of the English language to score well on many portions of the test. Sections that require the most knowledge of GRE vocab include:

  • Reading Comprehension: On the Reading Comprehension portion of the exam, you'll encounter a series of graduate-level reading prompts that you must analyze and interpret. Prompts in this section cover advanced topics like business, science, and the humanities, so it's important to have the necessary vocabulary skills to grasp these complex concepts.
  • Verbal Reasoning: The GRE Verbal section features multiple text completion prompts and sentence equivalence questions with complex terminology. To select the best responses, you must be able to understand the definition of each word choice.
  • Analytical Writing: Good vocab skills will also come in handy on the Analytical Writing portion. Incorporating certain GRE vocabulary words into your essay while adhering to grammatical rules demonstrates your ability to articulate complex ideas.

Learning New Words

How to Improve Your GRE Vocabulary

Since the GRE covers so many different topics, it's hard to find a definitive list of vocabulary words to study. A good rule of thumb is to pick words that you may find in scientific journal articles, legal documents, and other academic sources. Learn their meanings and understand how they support the context of the reading material.

The following list of GRE vocab words includes some examples of difficult or unfamiliar expressions you may find on the exam:

GRE Vocabulary Words

From ETS Practice Exam #3, 2012

Word Definition
Tortuous (adj.) complex, lengthy
Benign (adj.) gentle, not harmful
Zeal (n.) energetic enthusiasm
Laudatory (adj.) full of praise
Impudence (n.) offensive arrogance
Exposition (n.) background description
Litigation (n.) act of pursuing legal action
Sediment (n.) solids sunk beneath liquid
Avowed (adj.) stated publicly
Duplicity (n.) dishonesty, deceitfulness
Olfactory (adj.) relating to scent
Orthodox (adj.) conforms to tradition
Polemical (adj.) strongly critical
Untenable (adj.) unable to defend
Galvanize (v.) to shock, or to coat in iron
Maladroitness (n.) lacking skill or intelligence
Accentuate (v.) to emphasize
Banal (adj.) boring, unoriginal
Expatiate (v.) to describe in great detail
Ubiquitous (adj.) appearing everywhere
Intermediary (n.) one who mediates between parties
Preeminence (n.) superiority, excellence
Omniscience (n.) possessing all knowledge
Partisanship (n.) bias in favor of one view
Venality (n.) to be open to corruption


Study Tips

How to Study GRE Vocab

While it may be tempting to try and memorize a massive list of complex vocabulary words when studying for the GRE, this method can be overwhelming and ineffective. Creating your own GRE vocab list with terms from several different sources is a far more efficient strategy.

Make a list of difficult terms and commit to learning a certain amount during each study session. Make your vocabulary-learning goals more manageable by keeping your list under 1,000 words long.

Here are a few additional study tips to help you brush up on your vocabulary skills before test day:

  • Read more: Reading is one of the easiest ways to build up your vocabulary. Expose yourself to new, unfamiliar words by reading academic articles on science, the humanities, business, and any other topic that may appear on the GRE.
  • Use a study guide: Many GRE prep courses offer a general overview of what to expect on the exam, including vocabulary terms you're likely to encounter. Enroll in a prep course and practice plenty of GRE sample questions to learn how to define and use complex vocab words on the test.
  • Flashcards: GRE vocabulary flashcards are a classic method for memorizing terms and their definitions. Challenge yourself to remember a set amount of words every study session.

Practice Test & Study Resources

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GRE Study Guide

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