The Challenging Vocabulary Test


By: Patrick Hyde

6 Min Quiz

Image: izusek / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Most college-bound students will tangle with challenging vocabulary words on the reading and vocabulary section of the SAT. This standardized test provides you with the obscure or academic words you will need to know in order to succeed in college. But while words like amiable, expedient and ineptitude can stump SAT test-takers, those who take the GRE are thrown into the deep end of the dictionary, tasked with knowing rarely used words like prevaricate, internecine and agog.

The Graduate Record Examinations, or GRE, is the standardized test used for graduate school admissions for most programs in the United States. The test is intended for people who have already earned an undergraduate degree and want to further their education. Students in the humanities or liberal arts disciplines should prepare to score a high score on the verbal section of the test, which pulls some of the most obscure and confounding words in the English language.

This test will prepare you for GRE-level vocabulary. Using definitions from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, you will need to be able to determine the definition, antonym, synonym and correct use in a sentence for these difficult words. If you pass, then you are well on your way to a great GRE score. Do you have what it takes?

When someone is using a malapropism, they are _______.

A malapropism is when someone uses a similar-sounding word in place of the correct word. An example being, "Hoisted by his own regard," with the word regard used in place of petard.


Which of the following words is the closest synonym to exultant?

Picture a crowd streaming out of a stadium after watching their team win the championship game. Chances are they are going to be exultant or jubilant, expressing joy and triumph through cheers and shouts.


Fill in the blank. Following weeks of disobedience and backtalk, the parents finally grounded their _______ son.

As a parent, it can be a real pain having to deal with a recalcitrant child. The main meaning of the word is describing someone or people who refuse to follow authority or be restrained. It can also mean resistant to treatment.


Which of the following words is the closest synonym to garrulous?

Garrulous and loquacious are two big words that are used to describe someone who is extremely talkative. We have all had the garrulous coworker who just could not keep their opinion to themselves, no matter how many times you asked.


Incubus is not only the name of a popular alt-rock band from the 2000s. In the dictionary definition it means _________.

The famous rock band, Incubus, took its name from a word that means a major source of stress and anxiety. For example, "The looming foreclosure of his family's house was an incubus for an already troubled John."


Which of the following words is the closest synonym to vagabond?

A vagabond is known to be someone who spends lots of time wandering around without a fixed home. These lovers of freedom live an errant lifestyle, which is also a word to describe someone who wanders around.


Fill in the blank. Anna reclined in her sitting chair and let out a deep sigh. Nothing had happened in days and she was overwhelmed with a listless ________.

Our poor, bored Anna is filled with ennui, which is boredom and dissatisfaction resulting from a lack of things to do. Generally, this condition is associated with the upper class and those who have enough financial stability to endure long periods of inactivity.


Which of the following words is an antonym of prodigal?

The archetypal prodigal son is a wasteful troublemaker who burns through his parents' resources on self-indulgence and vice. A frugal son would be trying to stretch every penny and denying himself​ unnecessary luxuries.


You're starting a new job as a ski instructor and one of your colleagues calls you a tyro. What do they mean?

In olden times, the Latin word tiro would refer to a young and inexperienced soldier. The word has persisted in the English language, now spelled tyro, and continues to refer to people who are novices in a profession.


Fill in the blank. Although the friends were thick as thieves in high school, they went on to lead very ____________ lives.

The word disparate is a synonym for different, used to describe markedly distinct and often incongruous paths. In the case of our friends here, they took very different paths in life.


When you describe someone as ebullient, you mean they are ________.

Give me an E! Give me a B! Give me a U-L-L-I-E-N-T! Three cheers for the ebullient people who are energetic and full of energy. These people can be a great motivation to help finish a project or a bit of a pest if you just want to relax and be left alone.


Which of the following words is an antonym of ostentation?

Think of a loud, crass, self-aggrandizing rich person and you are thinking of someone who displays ostentation. While ostentatious people are always bragging and trying to impress you, those who possess humility are humble about their accomplishments.


Which of the following words is the closest synonym to surfeit?

Surfeit is described as an overabundance or immoderate consumption. For example, "The college students planned a big party to celebrate their graduation and purchased a surfeit of beer, pizza and soda.


Fill in the blank. Pilgrims traveled from all over the world to _______ the saint's relics.

The religious devout venerate holy objects. In the case of the example, Catholics will venerate particular saints. To venerate is to regard with reverential respect or with admiring deference, especially with regard to ritual devotion.


Which of the following words is the closest synonym to macabre?

Goths, horror movie fans and true crime enthusiasts are all lured in by the macabre. Macabre and lurid both describe a fixation with the grisly or gruesome. A homicide reporter would ask a detective for the lurid details of a recent murder case.


Fill in the blank. My _______ grandfather rarely spoke, so when he did, everyone listened.

If your grandfather is very reserved with his words, you could say he is a taciturn man. This word, which is a synonym for uncommunicative, comes from the word tacit, which means reserved or without speech.


If someone describes themselves as an aesthete, they are implying that ________.

An aesthete is a person who has developed an appreciation for aesthetics, usually relating to sensory experiences like art and music. Aesthetes will cultivate their appreciation by going to museums, reading books on aesthetics and maybe participating in the creation of art.


A country that is in a state of penury is ______.

You don't want to experience living in penury, a state characterized by extreme poverty and need. Penury can be used to describe the poverty of an individual, a group or community, or even an entire state.


When used as an adjective, gossamer describes something that is __________.

A gossamer thread is light, thin, delicate and can be broken at any moment. Used as a noun, gossamer refers to a cobweb floating in still air. Gossamer can be used to describe weight, dreams, or any thin and precious item.


Iridescence is a difficult word to spell but a beautiful word to say. It refers to ________.

Something that is iridescent has a lustrous quality that is the result of refracting light. The result is a rainbow effect that changes color depending on your angle of viewing, like an oil slick or water on the road.


Which of the following words is an antonym of bereave?

To bereave is to deprive or steal away, so provide would be the closest antonym in this situation. Bereavement is often associated with death, as a family is bereaved of a loved one.


Fill in the blank. After studying esoteric philosophy and living by himself in the jungle for many years, Victor had an _______ view of the world.

After living in isolation and reading all that philosophy, it is likely Victor would have some idiosyncratic viewpoints. When something is idiosyncratic, it is peculiar or eccentric.


Which of the following words is the closest synonym for lackadaisical?

When you are lacking spirit, motivation or interest in something, you are feeling lackadaisical. It can also characterize a languid attitude when something is moving slowly and without direction.


When we talk about something fetid, we are talking about __________.

Plug your nose and break out the menthol rubs when you pass something fetid because it is going to have a very unpleasant smell. Some commonly fetid places are swamps, dumpsters behind seafood restaurants and meat rendering facilities.


Which of the following words is the closest synonym to vacuous?

Something that is described as inane or vacuous means that it is lacking depth and intelligence. For example, "Marianne's presentation was completely vacuous, full of generalizations and lacking any actionable ideas.


The irascible classmate in your Econ class is ___________.

If friends and family describe you as irascible, you should probably start looking for anger management programs. In non-GRE terms, an irascible person is someone who has a short fuse or a quick temper.


Fill in the blank. The harbormaster was astounded at the pirates' _______ after he learned they had forged their documents to conceal their identity.

Those deceptive pirates were up to some good old fashioned chicanery, which is an act of deception or trickery. This word stems from the French clinquant and was used by 17th century Englishmen who found themselves on the wrong end of falsehood.


Which of the following words is the closest synonym for minutiae?

When you are going through the minutiae of a report, you are checking out the minor details that you might otherwise miss at a glance. The word comes from Latin and means trifling details.


Which of the following words is an antonym of innate?

Innate is used to describe something that comes from within, often a characteristic trait or belief that someone has always held. So alien would be the antonym, meaning external or from elsewhere.


His political rival would constantly _______ him in the news, falsifying scandals.

The word malign has the prefix "mal-" which is a sure sign that something bad is happening. Whether it is malicious, malevolent, or maligning, these words stem from the Latin word malus, which means bad.


In the _______ of Prague, Bohemians threw Hapsburg envoys out of a window.

The Defenestration of Prague happened in 1618 and kicked off the 30 Years' War. Defenestration comes from the French word fenetre, which means window. So a defenestration is throwing someone or something out of a window.


Which of the following words is an antonym of antipathy?

The professor could not hide his antipathy when he called the cheating student into his office. Earlier, he had felt an extraordinary admiration for his star pupil when he graded her paper.


The citizens of Redhook were ________ about the big corporation opening an office in their town, knowing it would bring new opportunities and challenges.

When someone or a group of people have conflicting opinions about something, they are ambivalent to it. The word has the prefix ambi- which means both, which is why ambiverts exhibit both introverted and extroverted characteristics.


After nearly a decade in the club scene, the once-glamorous nightlife appeared ________.

When someone is no longer stimulated by pleasure or luxury because they have experienced so much of it that it has become commonplace, they have a blasé attitude towards it. Ty Dolla $ign's song by the same name is an excellent depiction of someone who finds life's pleasures blasé.


Which of the following words is the closest synonym to clangor?

A clangor is characterized by noise resulting from things clanging together. Cacophony is also used to describe a disharmonious collection of sounds and noises, as in the noisy cacophony of a construction site.


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