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GRE Vocab Wednesday: ‘P’ Words

There are such a plentitude of ‘p’ words—a veritable plethora—that even I was surprised at how many high-frequency ‘p’ words have yet to be featured in Vocab Wed. Though I only highlight a few words in this post, I hope doing so partially redress my general lack of ‘p’ words. I even went so far as to include seven vocabulary words and not the usual six—how is that for plentitude!


We’ve all seen an impressive array of objects. Perhaps you’ve stumbled upon a classic car show, the panoply of polished hubcaps and shiny hoods a testament to golden days of Detroit. Or, perchance you’ve wandered the hall of the Louvre, where the panoply of great works looks down from every wall. Or, maybe you’ve simply made a trip to the organic grocer, where a panoply of leafy greens—kale, spinach, chard, and dandelion greens—welcomes you. If you haven’t guessed by now, a panoply is an impressive display or array of things.


A medley, a mix, a hodgepodge, and a jumble—all are similar to pastiche, which is a confused mixture of things, elements drawn from various other sources. We typically encounter this word in the creative fields: a songwriter can craft melodies that some critics dismiss as a pastiche of 80-synth rock, 60’s retro and 90’s feel-good alternative. A local artist’s work might be described as a pastiche of Monet (minus the water lilies), Jackson Pollock, and graffiti (I’d like to see that!). Notice the word pastiche has a pejorative (hey, another ‘p’ word) connotation, and unless you want to offend an artist, you better not call his or her work a pastiche.


A platitude is a canned phrase that is meant to sound profound but, upon being repeated so often, is ultimately hollow. “Use it or lose it”; “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”; “To each his own” are just a few from the panoply of platitudes that vitiate public discourse. Other platitudes include those oft-spouted, though well-intentioned, bits of advice people invariably give when you are feeling sick—“Hope you get better soon” doesn’t quite have the same immunity-boosting properties as a shot of Vitamin C.


Disputatious discourse, in which heated arguments volley back and forth between red-faced interlocutors, is the essence of the word polemic. And where there are politics, there are polemics. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a civilized, almost dispassionate debate about politics. Surf through the channels and you’re bound to encounter a welter of polemics.

Polemic, despite the ‘-ic’ is a noun. The adjective form of the word is polemical.


You’re set to take off on a long journey, and just as you pull out of the garage a rain cloud forms, dropping buckets on the ground and visibility close to zero. Soon thereafter, you get a flat tire and when you try to make a call you get no cellphone service.

Let’s contrast the above with your GRE day. You find the testing center closest to your home and the appointment time when you are at your sharpest. All the conditions are propitious for your success. That is, things are lined up in your favor. The example in the first paragraph, on the other hand, describes an unpropitious beginning to a journey.


I work in Berkeley. As I stroll about town, I see many college students. I can safely say that there is a preponderance of college students. That is, out of the population walking the streets, more than 50% are college students. So whenever there is a general pool of something—whether people, animals, or GRE words—and some element shows up more than any other element, you can safely say that there is a preponderance of whatever it is you are talking about. In this post, there is (naturally) a preponderance of ‘p’ words. Indeed, compared to your average reading fare, there is a preponderance of vocabulary (unless you spend your idle time haunting


Inclined to using many words? Do you load your sentences with adverbs and platitudes, whether you are writing or talking? Well, if so, you are prolix. The word has a negative connotation, so if somebody speaks eloquently on some topic, I wouldn’t call that person prolix (Unless, they begin to belabor their points and lapse into bombast). Okay, I don’t want to wax any more prolix, so I’ll part—hopefully propitiously—with this panoply and preponderance of ‘p’ words, this pastiche of the English language that has yet to devolve into the polemical.


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.

8 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday: ‘P’ Words

  1. Kamya March 27, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

    Hi Chris!!
    Let me first thank u for the wonderful set of words in the Magoosh vocabulary flash cards. I’m a Magoosh Premium User. The verbal lessons have immensely helped to tackle verbal practice questions.I strictly adhere to the strategies set forward by Magoosh. I make it a point to read atleast two articles daily from the NY times and also do extra reading during my leisure hours.Doing so, helped me familiarize with unknown words,their meanings and its usage in the context.
    Initially, I sat with the comprehensive list of words by Barrons and by the end of six weeks I learnt approximately 1450 words.But when I started practising verbal questions I realised that the way I learnt those words was incorrect.I couldn’t discern the usage of the words in context.Once I started following Magoosh way of learning vocabulary, I found that I was atleast able to attempt hard questions,though I don’t get the answers right always.
    I can say that I have become confident through Magooshing..
    Since I’m a non-native I find few of the questions in verbal sections baffling.Still I hope that in the coming months with constant practice I’ll be able to face them. So is it ok if I familiarize with Magoosh set of flash cards+Barrons 1100 list of words to face the GRE level verbal questions or do I need to have any other vocab workbook??Pls suggest..
    I also appreciate the vocab Wednesdays..I enjoy learning words these days and its just because of Magoosh.I just wait for opportunities to use the words I learnt in my conversation with friends these days.. 🙂

    Kudos to Magoosh…

    Thank you!!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 2, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

      Hi Kamya,

      I’m always delighted to hear how students aren’t robotically learning words, but learning how those words function in context. What’s better yet is when students fall in love with words, often for their rhetorical power and their ability to impart nuance.

      So you are on the right path vocabulary-wise. I recommend Barron’s 1100 list, as long as you are getting a strong sense of context ( is a great place to gain a deeper appreciation for how a word is used in context). Otherwise, you should be fine with vocabulary. The trick is getting good at following the twists and turns in the Text Completions, and, in some cases, discriminating the slight differences in meaning between answer choices.

      Good luck!

      • Kamya April 2, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

        Thank you….looking forward to learn more from Magoosh resources.. 🙂

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele April 4, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

          Great! Let me know if you have any questions along the way 🙂

  2. Kshitiz March 27, 2014 at 8:02 am #

    Hi Chris!

    I’m a Magoosh Premium User.
    Your verbal lessons have immensely helped me.
    As per your suggestion, I’ve been reading articles from NY Times. Magoosh Flash Cards, are awesome and helped me to understand the articles. Most of the time I encounter the words from Magoosh Flash Cards, and the moment when I encounter
    those words, I can’t stop my-self from thanking you.

    I have to say, since English is my second language, most of the verbal questions in Magoosh are way too hard for me to understand. Nonetheless, I’ve been able to decode some of the questions by applying your strategies in the video lessons. But most of the times I won’t be able to discern the tone of the sentences in RC/TC. And I think, it is because I lack many GRE Level Words. So, as a non-native will it be ok to stick with Magoosh Flash Cards only , or should I add any other Vocab Workbook while magooshing ?
    I want you to know that I’m making flashcards for the words from NY Times Articles too.

    Regardless of at which level I am in Verbal Section (Previously at Zero Level, Now I think I can improve alot by following your video lessons), the credit goes to you.
    Thank You!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 27, 2014 at 1:33 pm #


      Thanks for the message :). It seems like you are doing most of the right things vocabulary-wise. I should warn you that many TC questions on the site are very difficult because they are intended for students who are aiming for a top verbal score.

      The truth is there simply isn’t much in the way of GRE verbal content that parallels the complexity and difficulty of the tough ETS questions. Since only those students who are scoring above 157 or will get the difficult section, you don’t have to worry about these questions or use them as a gauge of your ability.

      It’s clear that you are not level ‘0’, or even ‘1’ or ‘2’ for that matter :). Your goal should aim for the second medium-level verbal section on the test–meaning you do decently well on the first average section. Even practice with Barron’s will help you develop those skills, as will Magoosh, which has plenty of easy and medium questions too.

      As for improving your vocab further, you should use Barron’s 1100 Words as a workbook. Otherwise, Magoosh flashcards, MGRE flashcards, and the will help you. Again, the super tough vocabulary is not going to make that much test day. Make sure to practice with average-difficulty questions, or at least questions that you find moderately challenging.

      Hope that helps 🙂

      • Kshitiz March 27, 2014 at 6:19 pm #

        Thank You!
        That helped a lot.

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele April 2, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

          You are welcome 🙂

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