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GRE Vocab Wednesday: The Hardest Magoosh Words

We have this great, free flashcard app that let’s you learn a thousand of the most important GRE words. One cool feature is we can collect data on how many students know a word, and don’t know a word (don’t worry, we’re not the NSA — we don’t know your credit card numbers or what you did last summer).

What we found is some words many students know. For instance, approximately 52% of students, without any prompting, knew the definition to the word elaborate, the “easiest” word of the 1,000. At the other extreme, venality and recondite registered a 2.75 and a 4.25, respectively. (If you know the meaning of recondite, which you’ll otherwise learn in a moment, it’s particularly apt that it is one of the most difficult words).



Apparently the most difficult word on the list, you would learn the definition very quickly if you were charged with venality — not that this would necessarily happen. But let’s say you decide to ask your M.I.T.-bound cousin, who bears a striking resemblance to you, to take the GRE in your stead. You throw in a 1,000 dollars and on test day, he/she emerges from the testing center with a perfect score.

Later, though, an investigation determines that your cousin pretended to be you (the perfect score was a little suspicious!). Both of you will be implicated on charges of venality: you paid him to do something illegal and he willingly obliged. Now let’s say you happen to be really loaded and you bribe the investigation team to not implicate you. If they accept, the circle of venality has widened (though, if anything, such bare-faced venality will likely lead to a longer prison sentence).



Even if you had to take a stab at this word, you’d probably be pretty far off. The fact that 97% of students had no idea what this word means shows that this word is both rare and misleading. To prevaricate has nothing to do with varying, but has everything to do with straying from the truth. Specifically, prevaricate means to avoid telling the truth, something you might try to do if you busted for venality, as usually happens with politicians.



If you haven’t seen much of the world and have stayed in the same place much of your life, your views are likely to be parochial. Narrow-minded, without a sense of the way the world works, a person with parochial views will often come across as naïve – or worse – bigoted. Clearly a negative word, don’t call somebody parochial unless you want to insult them.



A simple way to say calumny is slander. That’s right, no need to give this word much more space. Calumny = Slander.



Non-Euclidean in the 4th dimension, 10th century cosmogony, the formation of metamorphic rocks, and indeed the word recondite itself are all examples of recondite fields of knowledge (though I guess I wouldn’t quite call the word “recondite” a field of knowledge).

If you haven’t guessed, recondite means known to only a select few people and typically difficult and complex. Once you are done with GRE prep, you’ll be able to claim a recondite field of knowledge: GRE vocabulary.



Profligate sounds like a positive word, but don’t let the “pro-“ fool you. The word comes from an Old Latin word meaning ruin. Specifically, if you are profligate you totally squander your resources, whether finances or something in the environment (drought-torn regions cannot be profligate with water intake).

Profligate can also mean licentious/dissolute. These two words describe a lifestyle, like that of the Rolling Stones, filled with utter decadence: nonstop partying and the substance abuse that entails.


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6 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday: The Hardest Magoosh Words

  1. Mireille July 29, 2014 at 3:59 am #

    …yes, but one might actually click on “I didn’t know this word”, even when they knew it. That was me, shortly after I started using the app. Trying to figure things out, I realized that after 4 (?!) clicks on “I knew this word”, you get to “master” the word. Once I noticed that, even if I knew the word (unless it was something so well-known that no chances whatsoever I would forget it!), just to increase my chances to keep seeing it on the screen, I kept clicking on “I didn’t know this word” for the first 2-3 times. Once I had the feeling “enough with this word”, I finally clicked on “I knew this word”. 😀

    Down the road, I did realize you can very well reset the flashcards and start over again and again, but even after discovering that feature and reset my cards, I still kept clicking on “I didn’t know this word”, since I was just working on mirroring my lists in and all I had to focus on was “New Word” in the upper right corner.

    So, please disregard all of those clicks. 🙂 I never meant to mislead anyone — wish I knew someone was watching those numbers! 🙂

  2. Hanumanth June 14, 2014 at 10:55 am #

    Arcane and esoteric are kind of synonyms to Recondite.

  3. Ferber June 6, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    Started to study the flashcards and have been seeing French words and eponyms? These words are really on the GRE?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 6, 2014 at 2:15 pm #


      There are many French-derived GRE words, from clairvoyant to insouciant. Eponyms abound too 🙂

  4. Yinka May 27, 2014 at 11:59 am #

    A good way to master the word Recondite is to split it as “Reckon” and “die”-meaning, you kill yourself to reckon with it. In other words, its difficult.*smile*

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 28, 2014 at 10:39 am #

      Cool mnemonic 🙂

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