The GRE vocabulary is fairly advanced, as you might expect from the Graduate Record Examination. While it’s not necessary to memorize the definitions of a huge vocabulary list for the test, it does help to expand your vocabulary, especially for the Verbal Reasoning GRE section. This particular section tests you reading comprehension and your knowledge of advanced vocabulary, so having a good handle on more common GRE vocabulary words and their meanings can help. In this blog, we’ll explore what you need to know about the GRE’s vocabulary, a list of common words you’ll see, tips on how to improve your GRE vocabulary and some sample questions to test your knowledge.

>>Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here.<<

Listen to the blog!

Article Contents
4 min read

GRE Vocabulary: What Words Do You Need to Know? Strategies to Improve Your GRE Vocabulary GRE Vocabulary: Practice Questions to Test Your Vocabulary FAQs

GRE Vocabulary: What Words Do You Need to Know?

To ace the GRE, there is no set list of vocabulary words you must write down the definitions of and memorize. As a graduate school level standardized test, the GRE naturally has some more advanced vocabulary, so it does help to expand your vocabulary to better understand the questions on the exam.

However, since every GRE test will be slightly different in terms of questions, problems and text passages featured in the reading comprehension portion of the test, there is no definitive list of GRE vocabulary.

That being said, there are some words that will appear more commonly on the test. Below we’ve listed some examples, along with their definitions.

Examples of Hard GRE Vocabulary

Why is GRE Vocabulary Important?

Broadening your vocabulary of the English language is important for the GRE, and can even help you get a good GRE score.

This is because the Verbal Reasoning, one of the GRE sections, relies on your understanding of complex text passages, the meaning of words and the relationships between words. There are 3 different types of questions in the GRE verbal reasoning section:

  1. Reading comprehension – Answer questions based on a short text passage.
  2. Sentence equivalence – Complete a sentence using the correct word(s) based on partial information.
  3. Text completion – Create a whole, coherent sentence by filling in the blanks with the correct word(s).

As we can see, you may be asked to choose the correct word or words based on their meaning or definition. You won’t be asked to provide the definition of any given word, but it does help you understand the text and questions in this section much better if your vocabulary is more advanced. While it’s possible to make your best guess on these types of questions, knowing the meanings of advanced GRE vocabulary words can definitely increase your confidence in your answers and help you more quickly identify the right answers, leading to a much better score overall in this section.

Not only this, but a higher level of vocabulary will come in handy once you get into grad school, as you may encounter assignments or academic research which uses more complex language.

Strategies to Improve Your GRE Vocabulary

Improving your GRE vocabulary is just a small part of how to study for the GRE, but it’s a studying task that can easily be added to your GRE study guide.

1. Reading of GRE-level texts

The first strategy to improve your vocabulary is, of course, to read. Add regular reading tasks into your GRE test prep, specifically the kinds of texts you would encounter on the real GRE. This means you should source articles from journals or periodicals, read trade books, editorials and feature articles in magazines and newspapers such as the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.

Try to vary the source and topics every once in a while, to keep it engaging for you, and make notes of any words you don’t recognize so you can look up their definitions in a dictionary. Practice summarizing what you read so you can get a firm grasp on the material.

2. Flashcards

Flashcards are a handy way to test yourself when you’re on the go, and add a few minutes of vocabulary testing to your day. Write down the definitions, some synonyms and antonyms for some common GRE words, then test yourself. Knowing the synonyms and antonyms will help cement the meaning of different words in your mind so even if you can’t recall the exact definition, you have an idea of the general meaning.

3. Quizzes

It’s easy to create mini vocabulary quizzes for yourself using apps or online resources, so this is another quick and easy way to add a few minutes of vocabulary building to your study schedule. If you’re enrolled in a GRE prep course or you’ve hired a GRE tutor, ask if they can work with you to create a vocabulary quiz or add vocabulary expansion exercises to your schedule.

4. Practice test review

Write a GRE practice test or complete some GRE practice questions. Highlight any unfamiliar or difficult words. Then look up the definitions and re-read the questions or text passages. How has your understanding of the text or questions changed? Does it change your answer? Did it help you identify the correct answer?

Some questions have key words or “hints” that point you in the right direction when it comes to choosing the correct answer. As you answer practice questions, highlight these hint words and explain to yourself why this word indicates the correct answer to a text completion or sentence equivalence question.

Preparing for grad school interviews? Check out these grad school interview questions!

GRE Vocabulary: Practice Questions to Test Your Vocabulary

Below we’ve listed some common GRE words and potential definitions. Test your knowledge of these words and then check your answers!

Word: Ubiquitous

Word: Capricious

Word: Perspicacious

Word: Propinquity

Word: Mellifluous

Word: Excoriate

Word: Pernicious


1. What vocabulary words are on the GRE?

There are a number of words that will appear on the GRE fairly regularly, but there is no concrete list since every test is different. The GRE features a higher level of vocabulary since it prepares test-takers for graduate school. Some words that commonly appear on the GRE might be mellifluous, ubiquitous, pernicious and desultory.

2. How do I improve my GRE vocabulary?

To improve your GRE vocabulary takes regular reading of challenging texts similar to the content featured on the test and regularly testing your knowledge of higher level vocabulary. Some good ways to do this are to use flashcards or vocabulary quizzes. 

3. What should I read to improve my GRE vocabulary?

The GRE features text passages taken from various sources in the humanities, sciences, social sciences, arts, business and more. Read scientific journals, periodicals, editorials and even opinion articles in magazines or newspapers.

4. How hard is the verbal reasoning section of the GRE?

The Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE is difficult in that it requires strong reading comprehension and a good grasp of higher-level vocabulary, as well as critical analysis of complex texts. You have a fairly limited time to both read the passages, questions and select your answer, so the time limit can be hard, too. While this can be a tough section, it is possible to master it with some practice and prep.

5. Is it worth it to improve my GRE vocabulary?

Yes. Even if you feel your vocabulary is already quite broad, it’s worth checking out some of the common GRE vocabulary words to see if there are any you don’t know and reviewing the definitions of these words. Every test is different, so you might come across a word you don’t know. The better you understand the language used in the test, the easier it will be to confidently select the right answers. 

6. Do I need to memorize words for the GRE?

While you don’t need to memorize exact definitions, it helps to know the meaning of common GRE words, and maybe some synonyms or antonyms. 

7. How long should I study GRE vocabulary?

It’s good to work some vocabulary study into your GRE study guide, but you don’t need to spend hours and hours learning and reciting definitions of GRE words. Focus on reading regularly and completing practice questions. Then, maybe take an hour every week or two to quiz yourself on vocabulary words or use flashcards to review definitions.

8. What is the best study resource for GRE vocabulary?

The best study resource will depend on the individual, but flashcards, quizzes, practice questions and practice reading will be some of the most useful tools to help you learn more vocabulary. And of course, a dictionary and thesaurus are good tools to keep with you!

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

Want more free tips? Subscribe to our channels for more free and useful content!




Apple Podcasts




Like our blog? Write for us! >>

Have a question? Ask our admissions experts below and we'll answer your questions!