GRE Vocab Wednesday: Words from the Hardest Verbal Section

Yes, Halloween is long gone. But doesn’t mean I can’t invoke the specter of frightening GRE words. Below are ten difficult GRE words: this is the level of vocabulary you can expect to see on the most difficult of the verbal sections.


If somebody aims to teach you something, usually in a way that is heavy-handed, that person is being didactic. ‘Didactic’ can carry an even more negative connotation: a didactic person often tries to teach something in a patronizing manner.

I cared little for my piano teacher Gary’s didactic style: instead of being treated like an obtuse child, I hoped for someone to catch my more subtle mistakes and nudge me towards virtuosity. 



Often, a group can implode: onetime comrades on the battlefield can turn on one another, renting the group asunder. ‘Internecine’ relates to this within-group strife.

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Internecine conflict has marred the rebels’ attempt to usurp leadership from the military junta.



If one is overly fussy, he/she is ‘persnickety.’ Perhaps, somebody in your family is a persnickety diner. Upon entering a restaurant, he/she will fret for five minutes trying to determine which window seat is best. The menu will not be up to standards, and he/she will have a myriad of questions for the server, only to find fault with each dish that finally arrives to the table.

For Nancy, teatime was no mere respite: she was so persnickety that each step of the process—heating, steeping, and stirring—was executed with the solemnity and exactitude of a surgeon.



Over the last year, with a change in the old guard, there have emerged many fledgling governments in the Middle East. These nascent ruling factions could rightly be dubbed inchoate: they are in a beginning, rudimentary stage. ‘Inchoate’ can be applied to any process that is in a basic or developing stage.

Even at the beginning of the 19th century, surgery was an inchoate field: oftentimes the surgeon would rely on nothing more than instinct coupled with sheer audacity, as he cut into the terra incognita of any given patient.



Do you want to hide the truth? Do you hem and haw in order to do so? Well then, you are tergiversating. To tergiversate does not only mean to equivocate; it can also mean to abandon your faith/to become an apostate.

Mike came from a highly religious family, so when it learned that he had become an atheist, Mike began to tergiversate about his tergiversation.



Shrugging the shoulders, and not giving a hoot, is the essence of insouciance. This word comes to us from French and means ‘no worries.’ If you remember the movie the Lion King, insouciance is the hakuna matata of the GRE vocab jungle.

For all her brilliance, Ada was undone by her insouciance: she vowed to actually study vocabulary for her GRE retake. 

What’s Next? Try Our GRE Vocabulary Flashcard Customizer!

Sometimes, it’s hard to figure out where to start your GRE vocabulary learning journey. To help you find the right set of vocab to study, we’ve created this quiz! Just answer a few questions, and we’ll recommend the right FREE GRE vocabulary flashcard set for you!


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  • Chris Lele

    Chris Lele is the Principal Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh. Chris graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology and has 20 years of experience in the test prep industry. He's been quoted as a subject expert in many publications, including US News, GMAC, and Business Because. In his time at Magoosh, Chris has taught countless students how to tackle the GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT, MCAT (CARS), and LSAT exams with confidence. Some of his students have even gone on to get near-perfect scores. You can find Chris on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!