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GRE Vocabulary List- Confusing Words, Don’t Get Fooled

Many GRE words start with per-, or pre-, and it is understandably easy to confuse these words. Below are some of the more common ones. Do you know them all?


Ever done dishes before? As far as daily experiences go, this one represents the nadir for most. As a result, when we do dishes, we do them in a routine way. We are hardly inspired.

To do something in such a manner is to be perfunctory. The word also carries with it the connotation of carelessness. That is, if you do something in which you are merely going through the motions, you are probably not doing your best (as far as my perfunctory dish-cleaning goes, my wife can attest to this).


To act before someone else does is to act preemptively.

Just as Martha was about to take the only cookie left on the table, Noah preemptively swiped it.

Preemptive is often times heard in a political context. A country that strikes before another country can do so is launching a preemptive strike.


If you are peremptory you are bossy and domineering.

My sister used to peremptorily tell me to do the dishes, a chore I would do perfunctorily or avoid doing altogether.

Test Time

Choose the correct antonym:


(A) preemptive

(B) peremptory

(C) perfunctory

(D) humble

(E) weak

The answer is (B) peremptory; since meek means to be shy or soft-spoken, it is the opposite of peremptory, which means to be domineering. Knowing these, and other, potentially confusing prefix words can make a big difference in your performance on test day.

By the way, students who use Magoosh GRE improve their scores by an average of 8 points on the new scale (150 points on the old scale.) Click here to learn more.

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