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GRE Vocabulary 2015

Update: Hey Magooshers! We updated this post for 2015, to keep you up-to-date on the ways in which the GRE tests vocabulary. Turns out, the words are still tough in 2015. Good luck studying!

Is there really such a vocabulary list?

There really is no such thing as a special set of words for 2015, as though ‘moribund’ is on its way out, so to speak. At the same time, I’ve always wondered: is ETS reading my posts? Are they going through the MGRE vocab deck thinking, “’unequivocal’ is high-frequency?…we’ll see about that!”?

Even if some lone dude over at ETS is a fan of Vocabulary Wednesdays (thanks, lone dude!), I hardly think that will influence what goes into the tests. The GRE is testing words that a grad school bound student should know, words that not only tend to pop up in academic papers but also pepper the conversations of the erudite (NPR, grad school seminars, etc.).

Or at least I like to think so. Another, more cynical part of me, begs to differ: okay, ETS has to make sure students don’t game the system by studying all the Kaplan, MGRE, and Magoosh words. If students did so, then the old standardized part of ‘standardized test’ would be compromised. Meaning, many students start scoring higher on the GRE.


What’s taking place on the SAT (the GRE’s sister test)

I’ve actually noticed something interesting on recent SAT tests: the vocabulary words on the most difficult Sentence Completions (these are cousins of the Text Completions) are really tough words, such as ‘picayune’, that I wouldn’t have even thought of teaching my SAT students. And that is the whole point: the SAT, which is also written by the folks over at ETS, under the guise of College Board, has to pick words that students at SAT centers aren’t learning (at this rate, we’ll see the likes of  ‘borborygmus’ and ‘sesquipedalian’ come 2020).


The case with the GRE

The good news is many of the words that were in the Magoosh vocabulary ebook showed up on the GRE tests I’ve taken (there was even a Text Completions that was eerily similar to one I’d written). So, at least as of now, I think the GRE is making the sentence structure increasingly difficult, while choosing words that, for the most part, are contained within the lists (well, at least Magoosh’s list and our GRE Flashcards).

So today, I’m not going to choose the usual suspects, meaning words from the lists. At the same time, I’m not going to choose ridiculously obscure words, such as ‘anfractuous’. Instead, I’m going to pick words that have never been part of the Magoosh’s vocabulary ecosystem, nor words from the MGRE book. These words will fall into the category I described above: they are words that pop up in intellectual discourse.


Top 10 GRE vocabulary words for 2015

1. Arch – (adj.) having a playful/witty sense of humor

2. Mordant – (adj.) bitingly sarcastic

3. Cavalier – (adj.) not displaying proper seriousness or concern, nonchalant

4. Mellifluous – (adj.) sweet sounding, as in a voice or a melody

5. Solipsistic – (adj.) totally and utterly self-absorbed (comes from the philosophical school that believes that the self is the only thing that exists).

6. Untrammeled – (adj.) unrestrained, not held in check

7. Objurgate – (v.) scold harshly, excoriate

8. Prurient – (adj.) preoccupied with perverse details

9. Mawkish – (adj.) overly sentimental, often to a sickening degree

10. Desideratum – (n.) anything that is highly desired


Any predictions you might have for words (or types of words) we’ll be seeing on the GRE? Let us know in the comments below! 🙂


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