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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Words from the Hardest Verbal Section

Yes, Halloween is long gone. But doesn’t mean I can’t invoke the specter of frightening GRE words. Below are ten difficult GRE words: this is the level of vocabulary you can expect to see on the most difficult of the verbal sections.


If somebody aims to teach you something, usually in a way that is heavy-handed, that person is being didactic. ‘Didactic’ can carry an even more negative connotation: a didactic person often tries to teach something in a patronizing manner.

I cared little for my piano teacher Gary’s didactic style: instead of being treated like an obtuse child, I hoped for someone to catch my more subtle mistakes and nudge me towards virtuosity. 



Often, a group can implode: onetime comrades on the battlefield can turn on one another, renting the group asunder. ‘Internecine’ relates to this within-group strife.

Internecine conflict has marred the rebels’ attempt to usurp leadership from the military junta.



If one is overly fussy, he/she is ‘persnickety.’ Perhaps, somebody in your family is a persnickety diner. Upon entering a restaurant, he/she will fret for five minutes trying to determine which window seat is best. The menu will not be up to standards, and he/she will have a myriad of questions for the server, only to find fault with each dish that finally arrives to the table.

For Nancy, teatime was no mere respite: she was so persnickety that each step of the process—heating, steeping, and stirring—was executed with the solemnity and exactitude of a surgeon.



Over the last year, with a change in the old guard, there have emerged many fledgling governments in the Middle East. These nascent ruling factions could rightly be dubbed inchoate: they are in a beginning, rudimentary stage. ‘Inchoate’ can be applied to any process that is in a basic or developing stage.

Even at the beginning of the 19th century, surgery was an inchoate field: oftentimes the surgeon would rely on nothing more than instinct coupled with sheer audacity, as he cut into the terra incognita of any given patient.



Do you want to hide the truth? Do you hem and haw in order to do so? Well then, you are tergiversating. To tergiversate does not only mean to equivocate; it can also mean to abandon your faith/to become an apostate.

Mike came from a highly religious family, so when it learned that he had become an atheist, Mike began to tergiversate about his tergiversation.



Shrugging the shoulders, and not giving a hoot, is the essence of insouciance. This word comes to us from French and means ‘no worries.’ If you remember the movie the Lion King, insouciance is the hakuna matata of the GRE vocab jungle.

For all her brilliance, Ada was undone by her insouciance: she vowed to actually study vocabulary for her GRE retake. 


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4 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday: Words from the Hardest Verbal Section

  1. Zohaib Hussain November 21, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    Dear Chris,

    Can you suggest me the effective resources to prepare for GRE vocabulary ?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris November 22, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

      Hi Zohaib,

      Prepping for GRE vocabulary requires a different approach. I discuss this in the magoosh vocabulary ebook:

      I also talk about the best resources (flashcards, etc.).

      Let me know if you have any questions after going through it :).

  2. Bibhu November 18, 2012 at 3:01 am #

    Hi Chris ,

    I came through some of your posts where you suggested reading articles from various publications like the New York Times, The Economist etc to improve reading comprehension skills.

    My question is do we need to read those articles with something specific in mind like speed reading , analyzing the theme or just plain reading so as to develop the habit of reading large texts?

    I gave the GRE and i scored 156 in Quants section and 151 in Verbal. I have already completed Nova, Grubers Quants section . Can you suggest me any resources where i can practice advanced level Quants questions as i am already familiar with most concepts and am comfortable with Medium Level Difficulty questions on quants?

    Cheers !

    • Chris Lele
      Chris November 19, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

      Hi Bibhu,

      That’s a great question! I would read those articles in a way in which you feel you are engaging the text. What do I mean by this? Well, you should be able to put down what you are reading at any point, and give a summary of what you are reading to a friend, such that person can you tell what the article is about, what the author is trying to impart, and some important points that stick out.

      As such, speed-reading is definitely not what you are doing. At the same time, you should not feel that you are slogging along, or stopping every paragraph to ruminate on what you’ve read.

      As for Quants, the MGRE 6 online tests are great. Buy just one of their books, and you will get access to all 6 tests. The math section is slightly more challenging then what you’ll see test day, but models actual GRE questions, better than most of the other publishers out there.

      Hope that helps :).

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