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The Top Five Most Commonly Confused GRE Words

Many of the words you’ll seen on the GRE are confusing, and, in fact, are often intended to be so. Therefore, one of the best ways to boost your final GRE score is to learn as many vocab words as possible before test day. Below are five of the most commonly confused words found on the GRE.


Most people think this words means to energize. It actually means to sap the energy from.

John preferred to avoid equatorial countries; the intense sun would always leave him enervated after he’d spent the day sightseeing.


People tend to think that equivocate has to do with equal. It actually means to speak vaguely, usually with the intention to mislead or deceive. The related word unequivocal also can be confusing. To state something unequivocally is to state it in such a way that there is no room for doubt.


Many think this word relates to a job position. Colloquially, yes. But it is employed very differently on the GRE. To qualify means to limit, and is often used with statement. In other words, to qualify a statement is to limit that statement’s scope.

I love living in San Francisco; however, the summers are very cold and windy.

The part I added at the end of the sentence is qualifying, or limiting, my love for San Francisco. You can qualify a negative statement as well:

I really dislike living in SF, because I can’t even wear a T-shirt in summer…the restaurants are great though.


Students often believe that to be ambivalent towards something is to be indifferent. The truth is almost the opposite. See, when you are ambivalent you have mixed or conflicting emotions about something.

Imagine somebody asked you how it was studying for the GRE.

You could say, “I am ambivalent about studying for the GRE because it ate up a lot of time. On the plus side, I did learn many words and improved my reading comprehension.”


I am not quite sure why students can never seem to remember the definition for this word. Perhaps the sed- reminds them of sitting and being idle. To be sedulous, however, is to be anything but idle. If you are sedulously studying for the GRE, you are studying diligently and carefully—making flashcards, writing down important words and forumlas, and, of course, checking out the Magoosh blog every day.

 So, commit these words to memory. They may help boost your score on test day, and everyone knows that learning vocabulary words is part of a sedulous GRE study regimen.

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.

3 Responses to The Top Five Most Commonly Confused GRE Words

  1. ar June 1, 2015 at 4:47 am #

    I think “SEDULOUS” is a confusing word because the SED- reminds me of the word “SEDENTARY”

  2. Charlie February 10, 2015 at 1:38 am #

    I think students associate “enervate” with Harry Potter spell “Renervate”, which is to wake up an unconscious person, thus ‘energise’. 😀

    • ar June 1, 2015 at 5:30 am #

      totally agree with you 😀

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