Tag Archive for 'GRE verbal'

GRE Vocabulary – Mellifluous


From Greek Mythology, Pan, the god of the wild, was often depicted playing the pipe, whose sound was described as piercing, sweet, and mellifluous.

mel·lif·lu·ous məˈliflo͞oəs/ adjective

Mellifluous is an adjective that means “having a smooth, rich flow.” It is often used to describe a person’s voice or the flow of a sentence.

The origins of mellifluous are Latin –the Latin words mell and fluere mean honey and to flow, respectively. Putting them together, we get “to flow as honey.” True to its origins, the word mellifluous often connotes a sweetness and pleasantness.

Sample Sentence

The highlight of Jake’s evening was hearing his daughter’s mellifluous voice resonating throughout the stadium as she sang the national anthem before the big game.

In this sentence, the word mellifluous is being used to describe a girl’s voice. There are a couple context clues in this sentence that can help you understand the positive connotation of the word mellifluous. The first is that hearing his daughter’s voice was “the highlight” of Jake’s evening. One can assume that, had her voice not been beautiful and sweet, hearing her sing would not have been a “highlight.” The other is a bit of a stretch, but not unreasonable – it’s safe to assume that Jake’s daughter has a lovely voice, otherwise she would not have been chosen to sing the national anthem before a a big game in front of a stadium audience.

GRE Verbal Reasoning Text Completion Example Problem

Electoral College 2016

This is a graphic of what the Electoral College will look like in 2016.

Here is an example of a simple Verbal Reasoning question you might see on the GRE.

Many concerned citizens believe the Electoral College and the Presidential electoral process is _____; they are concerned the system does not meet or respect the representative needs of America’s contemporary electorate.

(a). redundant

(b). antiquated

(c). draconian

(d). plebeian

(e). contemptible

Explanation: The key word and phrase in this passage is “contemporary electorate.” Its usage suggests the answer choice should have something to do with the age of the system. Of the available answer choices, only “antiquated” references the age of the system. Thus the answer is (b) antiquated.

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

Something is redundant if it is needlessly superfluous or repetitive. It is redundant to repeat the definition of redundant, because that would be redundant; not only would that be redundant, it would be very redundant.

Antiquated can refer to something’s age through its characterization of that thing as an antique; however, antiquated should be better understood as the characterization of something as obsolete or outdated (not simply old).   

Draconian means exceedingly, or unduly, harsh or severe.

Someone or something is plebeian if they are common or characterized by being common, vulgar, or coarse. It may also more specifically refer to the common people of ancient Rome.

Contemptible means deserving of contempt; to be contemptible is to be deserving of disdain, to be despised, or even scorned. Contempt also has a special meaning in a legal context, which refers to being openly disrespectful or disobedient to a court or legislative body.


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GRE Vocab – Country Mouse, City Mouse


Arthur Rackham’s classic illustration of Æsop’s fable.

In this GRE Vocab post, we’ll discuss words that have to do with the country and the city. Comparisons between country life and city life have probably been around since urban centers first arose some 10,000 years ago (give or take a few), and one of the most famous examples can be found in Æsop’s fable of the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, reproduced in Joseph Jacobs’ 1894 translation below:

Now you must know that a Town Mouse once upon a time went on a visit to his cousin in the country. He was rough and ready, this cousin, but he loved his town friend and made him heartily welcome. Beans and bacon, cheese and bread, were all he had to offer, but he offered them freely. The Town Mouse rather turned up his long nose at this country fare, and said: “I cannot understand, Cousin, how you can put up with such poor food as this, but of course you cannot expect anything better in the country; come you with me and I will show you how to live. When you have been in town a week you will wonder how you could ever have stood a country life.” No sooner said than done: the two mice set off for the town and arrived at the Town Mouse’s residence late at night. “You will want some refreshment after our long journey,” said the polite Town Mouse, and took his friend into the grand dining-room. There they found the remains of a fine feast, and soon the two mice were eating up jellies and cakes and all that was nice. Suddenly they heard growling and barking. “What is that?” said the Country Mouse. “It is only the dogs of the house,” answered the other. “Only!” said the Country Mouse. “I do not like that music at my dinner.” Just at that moment the door flew open, in came two huge mastiffs, and the two mice had to scamper down and run off. “Good-bye, Cousin,” said the Country Mouse, “What! going so soon?” said the other. “Yes,” he replied; “Better beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear.”

Gustave Doré’s depiction of the interrupted feast in the city.

While the moral of Æsop’s original fable was that riches aren’t worth risking one’s life for, when Beatrix Potter (of Peter Rabbit fame) retold it in 1918, she changed the story up so that the moral would be that tastes differ: some people prefer country life while others prefer city life. This is perhaps the most familiar version presented to children today, with its emphasis on tolerance rather than mortal terror.

One word that perhaps illustrates the city mouse’s self-image as a suave sophisticate is urbane. Urbane means having the polish and suavity regarded as characteristic of sophisticated social life in major cities. It came to English from Latin by way of French in the 1530s, when it originally simply meant urban. The sense of elegance and sophistication only came later in the 1620s. In many ways, rustic can be considered the opposite of urbane. Rustic can mean literally of, pertaining to, or living in the country; or it can mean simple, artless, or unsophisticated; it can even mean uncouth, rude, or boorish. It entered English in the 1440s from the Latin rusticus, meaning “open land or country.” The noun for the quality of being rustic is rusticity, but the noun rustication means something a little different. The verb to rusticate refers to the going to live in the countryside, but in the U.K. it can also refer to being expelled from an educational institution, thanks to the remarkable English talent for euphemism.  Back in the old days, when the sons of the English gentry came of age they would leave their family estates in the countryside to study at Oxford or Cambridge for university. If they did poorly, they would be “rusticated” – sent back home to their country estates – as punishment.

17th century French painter Claude Lorrain was famous for his pastoral subjects.

Lest one get the impression that all city words mean something good while all country words mean something bad, it is worth noting that there are also plenty of words that idealize the countryside, such as bucolic, idyllic, and pastoral. Pastoral means having the simplicity, charm, serenity, or other characteristics generally attributed to rural areas, and is often used to describe works of art, music, or literature that idealize the countryside. When it originally entered English from French, it simply meant having to do with shepherds; the words “pastoral” and “pasture” both derive from the Latin root pastor (which, incidentally, is also the root of the word pastor – pastor originally meant “shepherd”). An idyll is a poem or prose composition, usually describing pastoral scenes or events or any charmingly simple episode, appealing incident, or the like. If something is suitable for or suggestive of an idyll by virtue of being charmingly simple or rustic, then it is idyllic. The word idyll first entered English around the year 1600 from the Latin idyllium, although the genre of poetry goes back millennia to ancient Greece, where such poems were referred to as eidyllion. Bucolic means pastoral or of, pertaining to, or suggesting an idyllic rural life. It attained its current English form in the 1610s, although it existed as “bucolical” from the 1520s. It is derived from the Latin bucolicus, which is in turn derived from the Ancient Greet buokolikos, which came from the Greek work buokolos, which literally meant “cowherd.”

The word bourgeois, on the other hand, is a citified word with a somewhat negative connotation. As an adjective, it can simply mean conventional, middle-class, or even materialistic; as a noun it can refer to a member of the middle class or a person whose political, economic, and social opinions are believed to be determined mainly by concern for property values and conventional respectability. It derives from the French word bourgeois, which referred to the middle classes from the 1560s on. It in turn derives from the Old French borjois, which simply meant “town dweller.” Ultimately, the root of this word was the Frankish burg, which meant “town,” and continues to be used in modern German. For a thoroughly bourgeois and kitschy song and dance routine from the 60s further explaining the difference between urban and rural, see the video below! (Also, this is totally how my parents discuss their retirement plans.)

For one final pair of country/city words, consider agrarian and oppidan. The word agrarian means rural or agricultural (although it can also have more technical meanings related to agriculture and agricultural law). It entered English in the 1610s from the French loy agrarienne, or “agrarian law,” a term which was adopted from the Roman lex agraria. Interestingly, scholars believe that agrarian and acre share the same Proto-Indo-European root, agros, which originally meant “field.” Oppidan is a rather unusual word that is simply a synonym of urban. It entered English in the 1530s from the Latin oppid, which means town. While this word is rather uncommon, it’s a good one to save for when the dukes and maharajas invite you to tea – it’s sure to impress!

Always remember, if you want that extra edge on the competition on test day, you can always study with GRE experts like me at Test Masters. Until then, keep up the good work and happy studying!


GRE Vocab – Croesus, Mogul, and Nabob

Let’s face it: one reason why you want to go to grad school is so that you can get rich and famous (or at least avoid living on the streets). With this post, you’ll learn a few choice million dollar words that you can use as you move up in the world (and they’ll help you study for the GRE, too).

Perhaps you hope your degree will help you become a nabob, a mogul, or a Croesus. All of these words refer to rich people, but their origins and histories give them slightly different meanings. All three of them have to do with European fascination with the riches of the orient, and the association of great wealth with exotic Asian potentates.

Solon and Croesus, by Gerard van Honthorst (1624).

Solon and Croesus, by Gerard van Honthorst (1624).

The oldest of the three is Croesus (pronounced cree-sus), as in the proverbial saying “rich as Croesus.” Croesus reigned from 560 to 547 B.C. as the last King of Lydia, a region in Asia Minor (or modern day Turkey), and he was known for his immense wealth. This wealth did not buy him wisdom in all things, however; when the celebrated Athenian lawmaker and sage Solon came to visit the Lydian court, Croesus asked Solon if he had ever seen anyone happier than Croesus himself. To this, the wise Solon replied that only those who have died happy can be said to be truly happy, for the fates are fickle and the riches of the living are often transient. Croesus was displeased with this answer, and paid it no heed at the time. It was only later when the flames were licking at his toes as he sat awaiting his death upon a funeral pyre, his kingdom overrun by Cyrus the Great of Persia, that he said to himself, “Maybe that Solon knew what he was about after all.” (Fortunately for Croesus, Apollo intervened and brought a rainstorm to douse the flames, so Croesus was saved. For more on Croesus and other colorful characters from long ago and far away, I highly recommend the Histories of Herodotus.)

The Taj Mahal, symbol of Mughal opulence.

Moving forward in time and further East, we come to the moguls. The word mogul is derived from the Mughal dynasty, which ruled India from Babur’s victory at Panipat in 1526 to the Empire’s decline in the early 1700s. The Mughals ruled at a time of great prosperity in India and they were known for their opulent lifestyles (Shah Jahan famously built the Taj Mahal as a memorial to his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, after her tragic and untimely death). The word “mogul” was a British corruption of the dynasty’s name, and in English it quickly came to refer to people of immense wealth and power, especially captains of industry. Today, for instance, a media mogul is someone who owns many newspapers, TV networks, etc.

The word nabob also has its roots in the India of the Mughal dynasty. Under the Mughal Imperial system, a nawab was a viceroy or regional governor. After the disastrous 27 year war that ended the Mughal empire in the early 18th century, many nawabs declared independence and became rulers of smaller states. Not long after this balkanization of India, the British East India Company began to increase its activities in the subcontinent, and the British once again employed their inexhaustible talent for mispronouncing the words of their colonized peoples to give us the term nabob. The British even began to apply it to themselves, and a nabob came to be a British man who went to India to make his fortune. Today, while nabob can still refer to a person, especially a European, who has made a large fortune in India or another country of the East, it can also more generally mean any very wealthy, influential, or powerful person.

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GRE Text Completion

GRE vocab

GRE Text Completion is no mystery, you just have to know your GRE vocabulary!

Here is an example of a simple Text Completion question you might see on the GRE.

  1. Despite the best efforts of our nation’s most thorough reporters, the candidates’ economic reform policies remain _____; it is not enough to comment on the country’s financial straits, clearly explain to the public exactly how you intend to fix them.

A. Perspicuous

B. Loquacious

C. Diffusive

D. Opaque

E. Gratulatory

Explanation: The key phrase in this passage is “clearly explain.” The biggest reason someone would be desirous of having something “clearly explained” would be if that subject or topic is unclear. This phrase suggests the candidates have not yet “clearly explained” their positions. The answer choice in this example would then be the word that best suggests the candidates economic policies are not “clearly explained.” Of the available answer choices, only “opaque” refers to something that is not clear. Thus the answer is (d) .

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

Something is perspicuous when it is clearly expressed and easy to understand.

People are loquacious if they are very talkative or garrulous.

To be diffusive is to physically disseminate something, as in to pour, scatter, or spread something about, to speak at length, or to make something less brilliant, to soften.

Opaque is the opposite of transparent and translucent. To be opaque is to be murky and unintelligible.

Gratulatory is a great word because it is a less common way of saying congratulatory; the biggest difference between the two words is that gratulatory is more closely associated with the emotions of being thankful or grateful.

There are many difficult questions on the GRE, but vocabulary-type questions should never be one of them. The Text Completion question type is simply a matter of memorizing your GRE vocabulary. If you continue to have difficulty with these question types there are certain strategies you can employ to aid you in answering them on test day. One of the best strategies for GRE Text Completion questions is memorizing common word roots.

Want to know more about other study strategies for GRE Text Completion questions? All you have to do is ask. Want more example problems? Find them here.

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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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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.

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