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GRE Verbal – Fill in the Blank

Did you know that Test Masters’ GRE course provides students with a(n) ______ method to solving those ______ fill-in-the-blank questions?

(a)   celebratory … facile

(b)   economical … sassy

(c)   melodramatic … scandalous

(d)   derogatory … petulant

(e)   effective … bothersome

If you answered (e), then you either know what you are about or have already taken the Test Masters GRE course. Test Masters is an industry leader in professional exam preparation; every Test Masters GRE course, whether online or in-class, comes with a ten point Score Increase Guarantee.

Check out the video below, which is an excerpt from the Test Masters GRE online course, for a little more instruction on how to go about correctly answering those tricky GRE vocabulary questions.

See more excerpts from Test Masters online course on the Test Masters YouTube channel.

Remember, if you want to do well on GRE Verbal, study your GRE Vocabulary!


GRE Reading Comprehension – Primative Behavior


Realistic lithograph by artist Kevin Hayler

“It’s Not GREek” is happy to present its readers with yet another GRE Reading Comprehension example problem. Consider the short passage below, the question and answer choices, and try to determine the correct answer on your own before moving on to the solution. Let us know if you have questions about this passage, or GRE Reading Comprehension in general!

Passage: In the 1960’s, long-term studies of primate behavior often used as subjects tamarians, small monkeys that were thought ideal because they require only small cages, breed frequently, and grow quickly. Field studies were not used because they were costly and difficult. Tamarians were kept caged in male-female pairs, because otherwise, serious fights erupted between unrelated females. On the basis of the fact that breeding occurred, tamarians were viewed as monogamous.

The view taken by the researchers concerning the monogamy of tamarians depended on a questionable assumption. Which of the following could have served as that assumption?

(A)   The suppression of fighting between related females serves to protect their common genetic inheritance.

(B)   Adult male tamarians contribute to the care of tamarian infants.

(C)   The social system of tamarians requires monogamous pairing.

(D)   Male tamarian monkeys do not display aggressive behavior in the wild.

(E)    The way the tamarians were kept in cages did not affect their mating behavior.

Solution: Here we are presented with a short passage discussing the presumed mating habits of tamarians; the question asks us which questionable assumption supports the view that tamarians are monogamous.

The passage states, “Tamarians were kept caged in male-female pairs”; of all the answer choices, the belief that “the way the tamarians were kept in cages did not affect their mating behavior” is thus the most questionable assumption that could have served to support the belief that tamarians are monogamous. By being kept in cages containing only one male-female pair, the researchers in effect forced them to be monogamous- the tamarians had no opportunities for infidelity. If tamarians were studied in the field, the scientists might have observed different breeding habits. The other answer choices do not address the most obvious flaw in this study, the way male-female pairs of tamarians were housed, and thus, the correct answer is (E).


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Sometimes it is GREek: Panacea


This symbol, which is of a staff entwined with snakes, is known as the Rod of Asclepius; it has been associated with the art of healing and medicine since the time of the Greeks.

“It’s not GREek!” loves to discuss new words that are likely to appear on the GRE.  We aim not only to give you a new word to memorize, but also to provide you with some background and etymological history to help you remember it.  At the end of the post, we will also give you a sentence with a few other new words to add to your flash cards.  By following this weekly series, you should be more prepared than ever to tackle the sentence completion, sentence equivalencies, and reading comprehension questions on test day.

This Week’s Word: Panacea

A panacea is a cure-all; medicinally, it is a remedy for any and every illness, evil, or disease. Panacea can also mean an answer or solution to a complex or convoluted problem, or more specifically a solution to any problem.

Panacea is often used in a negative or sarcastic context, as in, “The governor thinks this proposal will act as a panacea for the budget, even though it will slow growth with new taxes.” The reason for this is because, unfortunately, there is no such thing as a panacea.

Panacea finds its etymological roots in the Greek pan-, meaning ‘all,’ + akḗs, or ‘a cure.’ As a prefix, pan- is especially important to remember as meaning ‘all’; you will almost certainly see other words that employ it on test day, like pandemic, pantheism, or even Pangaea. Though used today in a largely negative sense, as an illusory, erroneous, or deceptive solution, in ancient Greece, Panacea was revered as a goddess of healing.

According to Greek mythology, Panacea, one of four daughters of Asclepius (the god of the medical art), possessed a poultice or potion which she used to heal the sick; this poultice was an effective cure against all maladies. This, of course, brought about the idea of a panacea in medicine, a single cure for any illness.

Sample Sentence:

Pitying pulchritudinous Pat’s pathologically pink pimples, Peter purloined putrid purple poultices, possibly perceiving potentially prettifying panaceas.

Miss the last “Sometimes it is Greek?” Check it out here! Want more GRE vocabulary? Click here for the free Test Masters GRE vocabulary list with over 2,000 words!



GRE Math – Angles You Should Be Familiar With!

The GRE Quantitative Reasoning section (aka GRE Math) is foundational in the sense that many of the questions can be answered with the creative use of basic mathematics; this means you will be asked a lot of different questions types that are ultimately foundational in nature. Getting back to the basics is an important part of the concepts and strategies employed in the Test Masters GRE Online course. Check out this sample clip below, in which a Test Masters instructor explains some of the basic properties of angles you should be familiar with.

Test Masters is an industry leader in test preparation innovation; every Test Masters GRE course, whether it is online or in-class, comes with a 10 point Score Increase Guarantee. You can learn more about Test Masters here.

The New GRE – Sentence Equivalence

test prepSentence equivalence problems are a new type of question on the Verbal Reasoning section of the new GRE. In this type of question, you will be given a sentence with an omitted word. You will choose two answers from a list of six answer choices that will give the sentence the same (or as close to the same as possible) meaning. No partial credit is given for partially correct answers.

Sentence equivalence may be new to the block, but actually, they’re a lot like another type of question with which you’re probably already familiar – sentence completion. You can (and will) use pretty much the same strategies to solve these problems. The most important of these strategies is context clues, which is using other words in the sentence to help you figure out what word should go in the blank.

Let’s look at an example.

Given the existence of so many factions in the field, it was unrealistic of Anna Freud to expect any kind of ——- of opinion.

(A) freedom
(B) homogeneity
(C) reassessment
(D) uniformity
(E) expression
(F) formation

In this problem, the most important piece of context is in the beginning of the sentence: “the existence of so many factions in the field.” The existence of many factions implies the existence of many opinions – therefore, wouldn’t it make sense to say that it would be unrealistic of Anna Freud to expect all these opinions to be exactly the same? Using this logic, we can identify (B) and (D) as the correct answer choices, because “homogeneity” and “uniformity” both mean “the same.”

It’s also important to remember with this type of question that, while another answer choice may fit well, there must be another answer choice that gives the sentence the same meaning. Even if you find an answer choice extremely attractive, if no other answer choice means the same thing, then it can’t be right.

Test Masters offers the most comprehensive and successful GRE preparation course available. Test Masters’ GRE Course comes with a 10 point Score Increase Guarantee.


Ask Test Masters: Which Study Book Should I Use for the GRE?

ASK TM“Ask Test Masters” is a free informational service offered by Test Masters, the fastest growing professional exam preparation company in the United States. You ask, we answer. KJ, a graduate school hopeful, wants to know which GRE study book to use in the preparatory process.

KJ writes, “Which GRE study book is most effective for doing well on the test overall?”

Dear KJ,

This is an excellent question; the materials you use to prepare for the GRE will have a significant impact on how well you do on the exam. A study guide is no substitute for taking a preparatory course; however, when you are operating on a budget, studying on your own can sometimes be necessary. Test Masters prides itself on using only the best and most accurate course materials; included with every Test Masters GRE course is an Official GRE Study Guide (2nd edition). This guide is the most up to date and comprehensive independent study guide available, and if you intend to prepare for the GRE on your own, it is a must-have. The Official GRE Study Guide is available for purchase at the Test Masters book store.

Hope this helps! Let us know if you have any more questions.


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Want more? Check out the last “Ask Test Masters” post here!



GRE Vocab and the Seven Deadly Sins: Part II – Avarice

An early sixteenth century Dutch depiction of the seven deadly sins, by a follower of Hieronymus Bosch.

An early sixteenth century Dutch depiction of the seven deadly sins, by a follower of Hieronymus Bosch.

Last time on GRE Vocab and the Seven Deadly Sins, we discussed words that have to do with the sin of lust and the virtue of chastity. This time, we move on to another deadly sin, avarice, and its corresponding heavenly virtue, charity.

What is avarice? In short, avarice means greed. It comes from the Latin verb avere, which means “to crave.” If  someone is guilty of the sin of avarice, you would say that that person or that person’s behavior was avaricious. In Catholicism, avarice is the sin of excessive desire for wealth and material possessions, especially when accompanied by a disregard for the well-being of others. Theologically, it is seen as the rejection of heavenly, spiritual treasures in favor of worldly, material ones.

Avidity, cupidity, rapacity, and acquisitiveness are all synonyms of avarice. You may know the word avid, which is an adjective that means showing great enthusiasm for or interest in something, as in “he is an avid reader.” The word avid came to the English language in the 1700s from the French word avide, which in turn was derived from…the Latin verb avere, the same root from which avarice is derived. It’s interesting to see how these two words evolved to have rather different meanings and connotations even though they come from the same root. Avid has lost its sinful connotations and has come to mean “enthusiastic,” whereas avarice is an official deadly sin. Avidity, a noun form of the adjective avid, retains the meaning of greed, however.

A 1610 painting of Cupid by Schedoni.You might think that the word cupidity would have something to do with love, since it has the name Cupid in it, and in Roman mythology Cupid was the son of the goddess of love, Venus, and he famously would cause people to fall in love with each other by shooting his arrows into their hearts. Originally, in Latin the word cupiditas (which derives from the Latin verb cupere, which means to desire, and is also a root of concupiscent, which you may remember from the post on lust) did have erotic overtones; the Romans sometimes gave their gods names that were literally the words for the abstract forces they were supposed to control, and so Cupid literally meant “desire.” Another name for him was Amor, which literally meant “love.” When the word moved from Latin to English in the 1400s, the desire for flesh transformed into a desire for gold. Cupidity today always means greed.

Rapacity is another word for greed. The adjective form of this word is rapacious, and you may have noticed that these words sound like another word you know: rape. All of these words derive from the Latin verb rapere, which means “to seize.” The word “rape” first entered what was then Middle English in the 1200s from French, which inherited the word from Latin itself. Given this organic evolution and the violent nature of life in the Dark Ages, it is not surprising that the word came to refer to the forcible  seizing of women. The words rapacity and rapacious, however, entered English directly from Latin some 400 years later during the 1600s, and were probably invented by Latin speaking scholars. These words thus retained more of their original, unsexualized, Latin meanings of seizing things in general, and over time came to refer to insatiable and even violent greed for material wealth.

The Worship of Mammon, by Evelyn de Morgan. Mammon was a demon associated with avarice.

The Worship of Mammon, by Evelyn de Morgan. Mammon was a demon associated with avarice.

Acquisitiveness, or the quality of being acquisitive,  also refers to the desire to amass material possessions, although it does not necessarily have as negative a connotation as the other words we have been discussing. An innocent stamp collector, for instance, could be in an acquisitive mood when she goes shopping for stamps on eBay. It can also, however, have nasty, greedy overtones depending on the context in which it is used. You may have noticed the word “acquire” lurking in these words. Acquire derives from the synonymous Latin verb aqcuirere, which has changed little over the years as you can see.

Avarice isn’t just about acquiring lots of stuff, though; it’s also about hoarding it all to yourself and refusing to share with others. The words miserliness, niggardliness, parsimoniousness, and penuriousness all have to do with this other aspect of greediness. A miser is a person who hoards money for its own sake and doesn’t even enjoy it. Ebeneezer Scrooge, from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol,  is the ultimate miser (at least, until he gets some ghostly visits on Christmas Eve). Even though he is very rich, he refuses to spend money on coal to heat his offices properly, and his own home is shabby, drab, and dark. As the narrator informs us, “Darkness was cheap, and Scrooge liked it.” If a person behaves like a miser, you might call him or his actions miserly, and the quality of being miserly is miserliness. In Latin, miser originally meant wretched. You might also call a miser a skinflint, a pinchpenny, a tightwad, a cheapskate, or a niggard.

A what?! Despite what you may think, the word niggard has absolutely no relation to the denigrating racial epithet that derives from the word “negro.” Niggard comes from the Middle English word nyggard, which in turn came from the old Swedish word nygg, which simply meant stingy. Niggardly is a synonym of miserly, and niggardliness is a synonym of miserliness. The word “negro” came from the Spanish and Portuguese words for the color black, which were in turn were derived from the Latin word for black, niger. Even though the two words have completely different etymologies and meanings, the word niggard has fallen out of use in public speech because it sounds a lot like that other word, although sometimes it still can occur in written language where the distinction between the two words is clear. While this word is most likely disappearing from the English language, the GRE can still test you on it, so you still have to know it.

As a final note on avarice, I offer you this charming song from Gounod’s Faust, in which the demon Mephistopheles encourages the village folk to worship the Golden Calf, a symbol of money and greed from the Old Testament. It’s pretty catchy:

In Catholicism, the heavenly virtue meant to combat the sin of avarice is charity. According to the Roman Catholic Church, charity is not only the action of giving away money and possessions to the poor; the Latin word caritas from which the English word charity is derived is a synonym of the Greek word agape, which in Christian texts refers to universal love for all humanity. Charity is thus a form of love for humanity that is the opposite of the selfishness implied by greed or avarice. Words that relate to the heavenly virtue of charity include philanthropy, altruism, largesse, liberality, and munificence.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was a Guilded Age steel magnate who gave away the equivalent of 4.8 billion 2010 USD throughout his life to various projects, including Carnegie Hall, Carnegie-Mellon University, and countless public libraries.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was a Guilded Age steel magnate who gave away the equivalent of 4.8 billion 2010 USD throughout his life to various projects, including Carnegie Hall, Carnegie-Mellon University, and countless public libraries.

A philanthropist is a rich person who gives away lots of money to charity. Philanthropy is this form of charitable giving. Philanthropy derives from the Greek roots philia and anthro. Philia is another Greek word for love (it specifically describes the kind of love that friends have for each other), and anthro means human (anthropology is the study of human cultures, for instance). A philanthropist is thus someone who loves humanity (and shows it by giving away lots of money). A misanthrope, on the other hand, is someone who hates humanity (in Greek, mis- indicates hatred. A misogynist is someone who hates women, for example).

Altruism is, according to the Random House dictionary, the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others. It was most likely coined by the nineteenth-century French writer Auguste Comte, who derived it from the Latin word alter, or “other.” Altruism is thus “other-ism” as opposed to egoism, which is “I-ism” (ego is the Latin word for “I”). An altruist is thus a person who puts the needs of others before his own needs, and might even go so far as to sacrifice his own well-being in order to help others. Such heroic deeds could be described as altruistic.

An allegory of Charity, presented as a mother by the painter Anthony van Dyck.

An allegory of Charity, presented as a mother by the painter Anthony van Dyck.

Largesse or largess is the generous bestowal of gifts, and this word was originally a French word that came to English in the late 1100s, and was probably first used in the context of feudal relationships. As you might guess, it has the same root as the word “large:” largus, a Latin word meaning ample or generous. Liberality, while it does contain the word “liberal,” is not an inherently political term. The word liberal derives from the Latin word liber, which means free. Back in the day, the word liberal referred to all sorts of qualities having to do with freedom, including freedom of thought and open-mindedness (as in the liberal arts) and freedom with one’s money, or generosity. Later, over the course of the eighteenth century, it came to be associated with proponents of political reforms and especially democratic government. Since then political liberalism has evolved in a number of different directions and can mean many things today, but, as modern political liberals like to point out, the word still carries many of its older meanings as well.

Munificence is the quality of being munificent, or unusually generous. It derives from the Latin word munificus, which means generous, bountiful, liberal. A generous person can be said to be munificent, and an especially generous gift can be said to be munificent as well.

That wraps up our discussion of avarice and charity for today. Remember, if you want even more help with trick GRE Vocab words, you can study them with me or another GRE expert through Test Masters. Until next time, happy studying!


GRE Verbal Reasoning Problem: A judicious biography

Each week “It’s not GREek!” will present you with question types you are likely to see on the GRE, as well as a brief explanation on how to arrive at the answer for each question. We’ll start by examining a Verbal Reasoning question:

  1. A judicious biography must be (i) ____ representation that depicts both the strengths and the weaknesses of the subject, avoiding the two extremes of (ii) ____ and indictment.

Blank (i)                                                                            Blank (ii)

A. a complimentary D. censure
B. a polarized E. eulogy
C. an equitable F. vindication


Explanation: The key phrase to answering Blank (i) is “judicious” and “both the strengths and the weakness.” These phrases tells us that the correct answer choice will be the word that best corresponds to the conditions of depicting a person’s positive and negative characteristics equally; it must the answer choice that best corresponds to fair and balanced. Of the available answer choices only “equitable” means just and impartial; thus the answer choice to Blank (i) is (C).

The way to go about answering Blank (ii) is to begin by recognizing you are looking for an antonym. You should recognize the phrase “avoiding the two extremes of ____ and indictment” is telling you the answer to Blank (ii) is the word most opposite in meaning to indictment.  “To indict” someone is to accuse of wrongdoing, or to make a formal accusation. Of the three answer choices, “vindication” is most opposite in meaning; it is an argument in support or justification of something.

You can never have enough vocabulary words; here are the definitions of all the answer choices:

Complimentary: Expressing, using, or resembling a compliment.

Polarized: To cause to concentrate about two conflicting or contrasting positions.

Equitable: Marked by or having equity; just and impartial. Fair.

Censure: An expression of strong disapproval or harsh criticism; an official rebuke.

Eulogy: A laudatory speech or written tribute, especially one praising someone who has died; high praise or commendation.

Vindication: The act of vindicating or condition of being vindicated. The defense, such as evidence or argument, that serves to justify a claim or deed.