Lucas Fink

TOEFL Tuesday: Vocabulary for the GRE and TOEFL

Yes, I’m the TOEFL guy, not the GRE guy. But Magoosh helps students prepare for both tests (as well as others!) and I know the GRE well. All of the words below could easily tested on a GRE, but they could be helpful for your TOEFL, too!

(to) Exacerbate

This word looks and sounds like “exasperate,” so sometimes native speakers confuse them, but the meaning is quite different. “Exasperate” is similar to “frustrate,” and is used for people. If you “exasperate” somebody, you make them angry.

But “exacerbate” is used for situations, not people, and means “make a problem worse.”

Practice for your TOEFL exam with Magoosh.

For example, imagine you are writing in pencil. You make a mistake, and so you try to erase the mistake. But the eraser doesn’t work well, so instead of erasing you smudge the letters. So you try to erase more, but it only makes the smudge bigger. Now you have a big black spot on the paper. Trying to erase the mistake only exacerbated the problem.

(To be) Prolific

Something that is “prolific” creates or reproduces a lot. We use this often when talking about writers or artists who often have new work.

Stephen King is a great example of a prolific writer. When he started writing, it was standard to only publish no more than one book per year. But King wrote so much that he used a second, fake name in order to publish more.

(to) Augment

This word is similar in meaning to “add to,” but it is usually used when adding an improvement or a resource (especially money).

Imagine a woman named Janine, who has a baby. Let’s say Janine works one job during the day, but then starts a second job in the evenings. She is probably starting that second job because she wants to augment her income.

(an) Apex

We don’t usually use this word to describe a physical place, but if we do, it is at the very top of something, such as a mountain. More often, an apex is a time when something is at its best or most numerous.

A professional athlete, for example, will usually hit his or her apex somewhere around 25 to 30 years old. That is a career apex. Most athletes in their 40s don’t perform as well as younger athletes, because it is harder to stay healthy and strong as we grow older.

More words

There are plenty more GRE-level words for you in Magoosh’s TOEFL flashcard app! Use the most advanced words to study for both tests for free.


  • Lucas Fink

    Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.

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