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The Top 20 Most Common GRE Words

Okay, I know, every list purports to be the Top 10 or 20 Most Common GRE words. Just study those words and, voila, you’ll get the coveted 800 verbal score. While no list can truly be the definitive list of top GRE words, the ones below have been culled from my years as a GRE instructor. These are words that I’ve constantly encountered in ETS’s published materials.

Knowing these 20 most common words can only help your chances of doing well on test day. Not knowing these words, on the other hand, is a liability come test day.

Common GRE Word List

Common GRE words

Extant (adj.) – in existence.

Few documents antedating the advent of papyrus are extant today.

Ephemeral (adj). – short-lived

Youtube has made fame truly ephemeral. Just ask Rebecca Black.

Test yourself: Click here to try a question using ephemeral from our GRE product.
Capricious (adj.) – unpredictable, whimsical

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Because Mario was so capricious his friends felt they could not rely on him.

Test yourself: Click here to try a question using capricious.
Corroborate (v.) – to confirm, make stronger

Three witnesses were able to corroborate Lucy’s alibi that she had been at the bowling alley at the time of the murder.
Loquacious (adj.) – talkative

Carl was so loquacious his friends usually didn’t like to watch a movie with him.
Esoteric (adj) – known to a select few

Many jazz artists once deemed esoteric have emerged due to the greater access users have to avant-garde music on-line.

Test yourself: Click here to try a practice question using esoteric.
Erudite (adj.) – scholarly

A Rhodes Scholar, Maxine was a true erudite, and a formidable opponent on Jeopardy.

Test yourself: Click here to try a practice question using erudite from our GRE product.
Pragmatic (adj.) – practical

Edna never cared for abstract thinking and preferred the pragmatic world of business, in which every action, ideally, has an intended consequence.

Test yourself: Click here to try a practice question using pragmatic.
Ambivalent (adj.) – having contradictory feelings

Erin was ambivalent about her freshman year in college; her classes were fascinating but she missed her high school friends.
Soporific (adj.) – inducing sleep

Professor Moore’s lectures were soporific to the point that students, before they nodded off in class, would usually quip, “It’s time for Professor Bore.”
Prolific (adj.) – producing or creating abundantly

Irving Berlin had one of the most prolific careers in song-writing history; dozens of his hundreds of tunes are familiar to us. Anyone dreaming of a “White Christmas?”
Auspicious (adj.) – favorable

The team’s run for the pennant started auspiciously with 24 wins. Two starting pitchers snapped their elbows mid-season, clearly an inauspicious sign.
Sanguine (adj.) – cheerful; optimistic

A Yale graduate with a 4.0, she was sanguine about finding a job right out of college.
Enervate (v.) – to weaken; drain the energy from

Sitting in the windowless room, the tropical humidity soaking through the walls, I was enervated before noon.
Magnanimous (adj.) – big-hearted; generous

Upon receiving his first Wall Street paycheck, Jerry was so magnanimous he not only bought his Mom a car, he bought his Dad one too.
Mercurial(adj.) – 1. Changing one’s personality often and unpredictably. 2. Animated, sprightly

One never knew exactly what the professor’s class would be like; he was so mercurial that many of his students thought of him as two different people.
Belligerent (adj.) – Inclined to fighting

After a few drinks Stevie was convivial; after two six-packs he became belligerent, challenging anyone around him to a head-butting contest.
Fastidious (adj.) – nitpicky

A fastidious eater, Herman would only eat the center of anything he touched. As a result, his plate was strewn with the remnants of his dinner, an eyesore for the hapless dinner guest.
Reticent (adj.) – tightlipped, not prone to saying much, reluctant

Paul was reticent and preferred observing others mannerisms.
Inculpate (v.) – to charge with wrong-doing; accuse

To inculpate Eddy with the murder was absurd; he’d been bowling with Lucy.
And Don’t Forget

Come back to this post in a few days, and see how many of these top 20 most common GRE words you can recall. Remember, unless you quiz yourself on newly acquired material, you are likely to forget whatever it is you learned. Come on, don’t be ambivalent.  Read my approach to GRE vocabulary to understand why practice makes perfect. And check out our GRE prep product if you are looking for more practice.

P.S. Ready to improve your GRE score? Get started today.

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31 Responses to The Top 20 Most Common GRE Words

  1. Shayan January 19, 2018 at 5:53 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    I have about a week and a half left to study for the GRE exam. I tried following the month daily plan but due circumstances only managed to learn about 250 words from the GRE Magoosh Flashcards App. In your opinion, would learning the Common Words sections thoroughly be enough to attain a good score or should I go ahead and try and memorize the Basic and Advanced sections for the Verbal section of the GRE even though I am restrained with time? If there is any other way you see fit, which I should follow, please let me know.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 20, 2018 at 12:59 pm #

      Hi Shayan,

      Thanks for reaching out! First, let me discuss a little bit about how we come up with our vocabulary lists 🙂 There is no official set of words released by ETS, so each test prep company creates their own list based on their experience with the test. So while it’s very likely that you will see some of these words on the test, it’s not guaranteed. You’ll also find, however, that most test prep companies have the same words int heir vocabulary lists, just because they are so common! So, I would say that you should stick to the Common Words section of the flashcards–these are the ones that are most likely to come up on the test. The Advanced and Basic words are not quite as targeted–it would be helpful to know them, but probably not as important as the most common words.
      We recommend that students stick to learning 5-10 words per day–that is about as many words as you can actually learn and remember in a given day. If you try to do more, you will likely over-saturate your brain and have a hard time remembering more. Also, keep in mind that it’s important to learn “vocabulary in context” when studying for the GRE. It’s not enough to just memorize words–you should understand how they are used in context. Here’s an article about this approach:

  2. Ramin April 9, 2017 at 5:29 pm #

    Hello Mr. Chris,
    I have studied Manhatan’s 500 essential and 500 Advanced words. Besides Barron’s 800 words. When doing practice test I counter still lots of words that I do not know. What should I do in order to get a good score in verbal? is it possible that non of the words I knew be at the exam?

    Thank you in advance for your response,
    Yours Sincerely,

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 10, 2017 at 7:15 am #

      Hello Ramin,

      That is a great question! You are right to think that word lists are important. And the Barron’s 800 and Manhattan 500-500 are pretty good lists. I also recommend checking out Magoosh’s GRE Vocabulary Flashcards and GRE Vocabulary Builder App, if you haven’t done so already.

      Like I said, you are right that word lists are useful and important in GRE prep. But you’ve also correctly observed that those lists simply don’t cover every word you might see on the test.

      It’s very unlikely that none of the words form your lists will appear on the exam. But at the same time, you are sure to encounter some words on test day that you aren’t very familiar with– or have never seen before at all.

      This is why word lists and flashcards alone are not enough. You should combine word list memorization with good reading strategy. Be sure to build your GRE Verbal vocabulary-in-context reading skills. Also make sure that you practice active reading strategies for the GRE. With these two strategies, plus word lists, you’ll know a lot of vocabulary on test day, and you’ll also be able to guess the meaning of difficult words and passages based on context clues.

  3. Shota March 27, 2017 at 6:34 pm #

    Hello Mr.Chris,
    I am Georgian Shota again. I want to ask you a question. I ordered GRE book of magoosh that recently published (As I know that is the only published book of your company). I also want to get the online aviable practice tests and videos ,6 month premium version. Do the book that I already bought, includes that excercises and practice questions?
    If they are different, in that case I will buy the online 6 month premium practice questions and lessons.
    And the last question, can this help me to improve 5 point in each part of GRE? and what I need if I want more the 5 points?:)

    Thank you for your response and advice,

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 28, 2017 at 7:19 am #

      Hi Shota,

      The book is 200 of the “greatest hits” from Magoosh, so those are part of the premium program. The online program also includes another 800+ questions, our catalog of 200+ lessons, access to email support with the tutors, and our score guarantee. The guarantee is 5 points overall, though, not on each part. Of course you can strive for more, but we don’t guarantee increases greater than 5 points with the refund protection. (Many students achieve 10+, 15+ or 20+ outcomes, though!)

      If you have further questions, please reach out to us at where our team is better equipped to talk about these questions. 🙂

  4. Shota March 25, 2017 at 4:10 pm #

    Hello Mr Chris,
    I have some question. I recently finished Barron s 800 words, and I am about to finish Manhatan’s 1000 ( essentia+Advance) words. Just left 300 words to finish. I am realy tired studying GRE words:( . I am also going to study barrons 300 roots. I am also going to get the newly established GRE book of Magoosh for practice purposes. Do you think that it is time not to spend time on studyng addtional GRE words? Or I should finish also magoosh’s words too.

    Thank you in advance for your response,

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 26, 2017 at 8:13 am #

      Hi Shota,

      In my opinion, it sounds like it is time for you to transition to reading high quality text for in-context vocabulary learning rather than just studying words. You want to be able to handle the reasoning part of the reasoning part of the verbal reasoning questions, after all. Knowing words is important, but being familiar with complex structures is also really important.

  5. Divyanshi Sharma October 18, 2016 at 7:04 am #

    A correction: in Soporific: “Professor” Moore’s lectures…

    Otherwise, the words, and their sample sentences, are great! 😀

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 18, 2016 at 8:48 am #

      Hi Divyanshi,

      Great catch! I made that correction, so it should be correct now 🙂 Thanks for catching our mistake and letting us know!

  6. iftikhar khan August 2, 2016 at 4:49 am #

    can i prepare for gre in 2 days? I just need to get 150 in each section

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 2, 2016 at 10:24 am #

      My knee-jerk response to your question would be “no.” But that’s not necessarily the right answer to give you. A select few students can successfully prepare for the GRE in just two days. But the only way two days will be enough time is if you already have excellent graduate-level skills in reading, writing and math. In that case, spending two full days getting acquainted with test structure, question types, and task types *might* be enough.

      Still, it’s pretty rare to get a top GRE score with just two days prep. If you have an absolute deadline of two days from now, it can’t hurt to try though!

  7. Ashu panwar April 27, 2016 at 7:14 am #

    Sir I wanted to do prepration for gre plzz suggest the way to study to score high

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 3, 2016 at 5:05 am #

      Hi Ashu,

      First, I recommend that you take a look at our Premium Plan options to get full access to our lesson videos and practice questions. In addition to the premium plan, we also have verbal-only and math-only plans. They cover the same content as our premium plan, except that they only offer verbal or math instruction and questions, not both. For this reason, they also do not include full-length mock tests. All three plans last six months from your date of activation and are accessible as often as you would like on any computer with an internet connection.

      I’d suggest you give us a try with a free 1-week trial. This will let you see how navigating our site feels and will give you access to a limited number of lessons and practice questions.

      To maximize your GRE prep to do as well as possible, I recommend that you check out our study schedules, which can help you keep organized and motivated during your studies. As you’ll see, we have 1-, 3-, and 6-month study schedules, depending on how long you plan on preparing. To help you figure out how long should you study, I suggest reading through this post: How Long Should I Study for the GRE?

      Now, we recommend starting right away with review and practice problem, an approach that we believe yields the best results, as long as you have a constructive attitude, will yield the best results. For more on this approach to studying, check out the following blog posts 🙂

      1. Good! I Got It Wrong!
      2. GMAT Study Approaches: Systematic vs Random

      I hope this helps to get you started! Good luck with your GRE prep 😀

  8. swara March 30, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

    Hi Chris, I am totally mad swallowing new words. Also, I am not much good in verbal when compared to quants. As I am working women, I would not be able to work on weekdays much. Do you have plan that works for weekends alone?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 11, 2016 at 6:06 am #

      Wonderful to hear that you’re building your vocabulary. And glad to hear that Magoosh is helping. 🙂

      Balancing GRE prep with work/life really can be a challenge, can’t it? I’ve seen many students in your situation take the activities from our one month study plans and stretch them out into a three to four month plan that’s mostly done on the weekends. It sounds like this may be a good option for you. Depending on how strong you are in quants, you may also be able to save some time by skipping some math activities and just focusing on verbal in your spare time.

      It’s still good to get in a little bit of Verbal practice during the week, so consider doing a handful of short activities that follow up your weekend work. And try to get occasional spare-time reading practice in during the week by surfing the web, reading GRE-like articles on news websites such as the New York Times.

  9. TKy March 16, 2016 at 2:08 pm #

    Is there a recent list of common GRE words? In other words, are these words still appear in nowadays exams?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 18, 2016 at 6:59 am #

      Hi there 🙂

      Although this post is from 2011, these 20 words are definitely must-haves in your vocabulary toolbox. For more high-frequency words, I recommend checking out our GRE Vocabulary eBook and/or our GRE Vocabulary Flashcards. Our flashcards are composed of 1000 words that often appear on the exam and are therefore really good to know!

      I hope this helps 🙂 Happy studying!

  10. H January 14, 2016 at 6:08 pm #

    This may be fastidious of me, but “inculpate” should be a verb, not an adjective.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 1, 2016 at 6:09 am #

      Hi Hunter!

      You’re totally right, and we fixed that error. Good eye! 🙂

  11. Apoorva December 10, 2015 at 8:49 am #

    Very helpful thank youuuuu

  12. Hani December 10, 2014 at 12:11 am #

    I took the gre 4 times so far.
    This world “Ephemeral”. I have seen it more than once.


    • Alex December 28, 2015 at 12:14 am #

      WeW, whats your score improvement so far 🙂

  13. Teja June 25, 2014 at 9:55 pm #

    good one and Thank you 🙂

  14. Linz June 24, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    Very helpful. Thank you for the very helpful articles you post on your blog.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 26, 2014 at 11:20 am #

      You are welcome 🙂

  15. chakri August 31, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    really helpful …..

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele September 3, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

      Thank you!

  16. johnnys19 July 16, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    In the soporific example, I think that the correct form is “nodded off” and not nooded off. Malapropism or what? 😛

    • Chris Lele
      Chris July 18, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

      Ha! Good catch :). I think it’s just a typo or my bad Scottish accent creeping into my prose!

  17. November 10, 2011 at 9:46 pm #

    I knew all of them. I’m taking the GRE tomorrow. ;s

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