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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).

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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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13 Responses to GRE Vocabulary 2015

  1. Anghellix June 10, 2016 at 1:49 am #

    Thanks for the wonderful words!

  2. mvk February 10, 2015 at 1:33 am #


  3. Chirag August 14, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    The Magoosh Vocab Flashcards are an excellent way of learning the vocab. The order and structure of how the words become mastered helps much more than just reading through vocab lists. One suggestion would be to add another view of the individual decks that allows you to go through all the words in order (no option for “I know this” or “I didn’t know this”). It would be a good way to do a quick review of an entire deck to make sure you still remember the words.

  4. Sivakumar April 22, 2014 at 11:29 am #

    Hi Chris,

    I’m reading for 2014 GRE and I’m done with Magoosh Vocabulary book. Now I’m going through flash cards for Magoosh 1000. Apart from that what list you suggest; Manhattan or Kaplan?


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 23, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

      Hi Sivakumar,

      I’d recommend Manhattan, now that you’ve gone through the Magoosh. Good luck 🙂

  5. pickety pocket April 13, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    Hello, wonderful post.
    I was referencing the dictionary (you know for pronunciation) and I found that objurgate is actually a verb. Is this a mistake? Objurgatory is the adjective form in my dictionary which the computer claims is misspelled. Now I am thoroughly confused. But I do believe I can understand how it can be an adj, such as– she has an objurgate tongue. However, it makes more sense as a verb.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 17, 2013 at 9:57 am #

      No, no…you are totally correct! I made a careless typo :(. ‘Objurgate’ is indeed a verb; ‘objurgatory’ is the adjective. Thanks for catching that pickety pocket – I’ll make the correction :).

  6. Vaz March 10, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    Will this list be updated regularly?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 11, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

      Hi Vaz,

      I don’t think I’m going to change this list, at least for the time being. Most likely, I’ll wait for 2014. The thing is it is hard to know exactly which words will be on the test. If I actually take the test and see words, I can’t broadcast those words (without running afoul of the agreement :)).

  7. Mariam January 30, 2013 at 2:31 am #

    Hello! Your blog’s been super helpful to me! I have my gre in a few weeks n m not incredibly well prepared but I need to get done with it now! This particular post has scared me though 🙁 seems like all words iv’e been learning might not be helpful *gasp* 🙁 Any tips o

    • Chris Lele
      Chris February 1, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

      I’m happy that it’s been helpful, and I definitely don’t want to scare you. I think at the end of the day, even if you move on to the most difficult verbal section, you are unlikely to get too many words you don’t know (as long as you’ve been studying from the list of usual words). Remember, context goes a long way in understanding words. Even if there are two words you don’t know, but you’ve eliminated all the other answer choices, it’s still a 50/50.

      Hope that helps, and I encourage you to keep studying the “usual suspects” in terms of vocabulary lists.

      Good luck :)!

  8. taru January 28, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    Hello Chris

    Just yst I reached midway of magoosh vocab list n today m stumped with a new meaning of arch.thanx a lot for keeping me on my I wud also like to thank u for the Kaplan review posts.insights by Melvin,pedmas n u have gvn me the right direction.keep up the good work.


    • Chris Lele
      Chris January 28, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

      Hi Taru,

      Great! I’m happy it was helpful :). Look forward to more fun vocab posts :).

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