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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Bye-Bye SAT Words

As some of you may have read, the SAT is undergoing a dramatic overhaul come 2016. One mainstay that is no longer going to be part of the test is “obscure” vocabulary. No, don’t rejoice; you can’t take the SAT—that’s for high school kids. The GRE has no plans to scrap “obscure” words. Indeed, there really aren’t any obscure words on either test, just difficult ones.

In honor of, or perhaps more like a requiem for, I’m featuring some of those so-called SAT words. And don’t think—oh, those are for a different test. Almost every word in the SAT book pops up with regular frequency on the GRE. So make sure you know the words below!



In today’s society, in which 20-year olds are becoming instant billionaires and the middle-aged struggle to find an entry-level job, it is easy to forget that respect is reserved for those who are older. By contrast, in traditional societies, deference—or respect mixed with humble submission—is always given to those older than oneself. Deference doesn’t necessarily flow upwards to those who are older. A king, queen, president, or even boss is accorded deference regardless of his or her age.

This word shouldn’t be confused with defer—which means to put off. Of course, if you haven’t shown your elders deference of late, well, don’t defer such an opportunity.


A bolster is a pillow used to prop up other pillows. Of course, the GRE doesn’t care about home furnishings—now that the analogy section is gone. The second definition of bolster means to provide support for. On the GRE, you’ll probably encounter this word in a scientific setting:

Fish recently found with high levels of radiation bolster some experts’ claim that the nuclear reactor was responsible for emitting radiation.


Many claims today are not indisputable: usually two polarized sides emerge, each arguing with equal fervor their side of the story. Once you turn off the nightly news, there are some things that are incontrovertible—or 100% true: the sky is blue, Mt. Everest is the highest mountain on Earth, and puppies are cute.


This morning I attempted to take out a brown paper bag filled with last night’s garbage: the bag gave way from the bottom, dumping a mound of decaying vegetables on the ground. Clearly, the bag was not impervious to the vegetable juices that had soaked through the bottom (I should have used the always impermeable—and impervious to sundry rotten liquids—“Grab Bags.”)

Impervious, besides its literal sense of not allowing fluid to pass through, can also be used in a broader sense, meaning unaffected by. Unfortunately, I was not impervious to the smells of rotten fruit on my carpet, and had to spend a good 20 minutes cleaning the floor.


When you’re on a roll, you feel like nothing can stop you. Your head gets far bigger than it would otherwise, and you are essentially setting yourself up for failure (inveterate gamblers probably know this feeling well). So when you become overly prideful because of recent accomplishments, you have become a victim of hubris, or overweening pride.

So even if you’ve done really well on your practice tests, don’t think you can just go partying the night before and wake up an hour before your test. Odds are such hubris will deflate pretty rapidly.


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