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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Advanced GRE Words

Much of the GRE requires you to know how to use relatively straightforward words in dense, convoluted sentences. Then there is the other part of the GRE in which the sentences are even more convoluted, and the words much more difficult. That is not to say that the words below wouldn’t show up in the first verbal section—which is medium—though you are more likely to see them in the difficult section.

 

Probity

Nope, probity does not mean probably. It actually means honesty. If someone is known for his or her probity, that person has high moral standards and can be trusted.

 

Vitiate

Just from the sound of this word you know it can’t be good. Vitiate—which is pronounced “VISH-i-ate”—doesn’t mean vicious. It means to corrupt or lessen the effectiveness of something. Some would argue that partisan politics has vitiated the healthy functioning of the U.S. government. Many would argue that bad writing ultimately vitiates a lot of television series that come to rely on increasingly implausible plot turns as their seasons lumber on.

 

Aplomb

This word sounds like “a plum” –though you can’t pick it from a tree. If you are cool under pressure, not letting even a trying situation ruffle your feathers, you handle life’s lemons with aplomb. A racecar driver taking a turn at 120 km/hr (70 mph) better have a aplomb or he’ll grab the wheel in fright and go spinning off the road. And test day, when you get a long reading passage that seems inscrutable at first glance, you will handle it with aplomb, breathing deeply and remembering your reading comprehension strategies.

 

Subterfuge

At some point, we have all tried to evade detection or pulled some elaborate ruse to get what we want. Such behavior can accurately be described as subterfuge. Maybe you are having a surprise birthday for your significant other. In other to not let the cat out of the birthday bag, you have to engage in subterfuge: you must stall and make up excuses for why you are not driving home sooner, and you must make up fake plans with people, all just to make sure that the moment of surprise is completely unexpected. This example is one of benign subterfuge; often times a person engages in subterfuge for some nefarious end.

 

Clandestine

Clandestine is similar to subterfuge. It does not describe dissembling for a purpose as much as it describes the secretiveness involved in some illicit activity. During the reign of communism many citizens had to have clandestine meetings lest the authorities would inevitably conclude that any meeting of more than two people was a sign of sedition. At that time, on the other side of the iron curtain, the United States C.I.A had a clandestine services branch, which was involved in spying. The clandestine branch of the C.I.A. is stil intact, so if you want to be a spy, you know where to apply.

 

Captious

Receiving constructive criticism is great—it can help you become better at whatever it is you are trying to learn. Somebody who is captious, on the other hand, is only out to find fault. A captious instructor will criticize every little thing you do.

 

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