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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

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.


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