GMAT Critical Reasoning: Words You Need to Know

For many, one advantage of taking the GMAT over the Revised GRE is that they do not have to cram such polysyllabic franken-words as juxtaposition, tendentiousness, and didacticism. That doesn’t mean that a shaky grasp of vocabulary will hold you in good stead come time for the GMAT. There are certain words you must know, words that pertain to the Critical Reasoning section on the GMAT.

If you’ve done any prepping on the GMAT critical reasoning, you may have noticed that certain vocabulary pops up frequently. Most of these words relate to weakening or strengthening an argument. As long as you have a strong grasp of these words, you will not get tripped up by the jargon and will instead be able to focus your energy and effort in dissecting the argument.

Below is a list of vocabulary words that you have to know for the GMAT Critical Reasoning section.



To undermine is to weaken over time. In argument-speak to undermine an argument is to weaken it. Undermine should not be confused with underscore, which means to provide support.

“All of the following serve to undermine the editorial’s contention that…”



Maintain is known as a homonym – a word that has multiple meanings. The definition we are concerned with here is to state strongly, assert.

“Proponents of the accumulation theory maintain that…



To posit is to make an argument on something that is unknown. For example, many astronomers posit that we are not alone in the universe. We of course don’t know for sure whether little green men are out there.

Important synonyms for posit include postulate and advance, the latter of which is a homonym.

“Recently, some researchers into sunspot activity have posited that…



To corroborate is to lend support to. The word corroborate is typically accompanied by the word evidence. Corroborating evidence strengthens a claim.

“Which of the following, if true, best corroborates…”



Many test prep programs classify an argument type as a paradox. Specifically, if there is some unaccounted for discrepancy in an argument – and we of course have to figure out what that discrepancy is – we are dealing with a paradox.

More broadly speaking, a paradox is a statement that, on the surface may seem absurd or untrue, may actually be true. For instance, the French are known to have very rich diets yet remain thin. The Americans, on the other hand, ever obsessed with the latest diet fad, are….well not so French. Who would have thought? (A sentiment that embodies the paradox).

“Which of the following could best account for the paradox noted above…”


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  • Chris Lele

    Chris Lele is the Principal Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh. Chris graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology and has 20 years of experience in the test prep industry. He's been quoted as a subject expert in many publications, including US News, GMAC, and Business Because. In his time at Magoosh, Chris has taught countless students how to tackle the GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT, MCAT (CARS), and LSAT exams with confidence. Some of his students have even gone on to get near-perfect scores. You can find Chris on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!

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