Test Your Vocabulary With This Quiz!


By: Becky

6 Min Quiz

Image: Pexels by Unknown

About This Quiz

Let's test your smarts and see if you have what it takes to earn a Ph.D. We've put together a quiz to test your brain and see if you're capable of recognizing and defining 35 words that all Ph.D. students should know. Let's get started to see if you have what it takes.

Do you easily recognize words and their definitions? Do you remember the long days of studying your vocabulary words for the dreaded (yet inevitable) tests that lay ahead? Some students choose to take education a step further and pursue a graduate degree such as a Ph.D. These students are faced with words that are more difficult than some of us can imagine. 

For example, most of us have heard someone say they have a conundrum, but do you actually understand the meaning of the word? A conundrum is defined as a confusing and difficult dilemma to which there is no simple answer. Ph.D. students are expected to know the definition of this word and a myriad of others. Do you know the definition of myriad? Myriad means countless or extremely large in number. These definitions and many others lie ahead for those who feel confident enough to answer them.

So take the quiz, and let's see how you rank against Ph.D. students!

So intense as to seem almost tangible; able to be touched and felt

To be palpable means to be readily or plainly seen, heard or perceived. In medical speak, palpable means something is detectable simply by touch. Palpable also stems from the same origin as palpitation.


To examine in detail with careful or critical attention

To scrutinize is to examine carefully for accuracy. This is often done with great attention to detail. In modern day England, a scrutineer is someone whose job it is to tally votes.


To relinquish the right or claim to a throne

When one abdicates, they formally and voluntarily give up their rights to a throne. King Edward VIII famously abdicated the crown of England in 1936. Remember the 2010 film "The King's Speech"?


Action that is performed by or affects only one side

When a decision is made unilaterally, this means it only affects or benefits one side, person or group. Generally, this decision is made without the prior agreement of other parties.


A small, rounded hill

A knoll is a heightened bank or ridge in the earth. Also known as a mound, a knoll is a natural occurrence and is not created by humans. Our modern word for knoll stems from Old Norse and Old English.


To stimulate or shock with an electric current

To galvanize is to stimulate and startle into an abrupt and sudden activity. In some cases, medical doctors use galvanization to stimulate muscles to react. The word stems from the surname of Italian scientist Luigi Galvani.


Dried out with heat, extremely thirsty

When someone says to you they are parched, this means they are feeling very thirsty and maybe even slightly dehydrated. Foods can also be parched in order to remove hydration prior to serving.


A confusing and difficult problem or question

A conundrum is a situation or problem that is extremely puzzling. It may be difficult or impossible to solve. Ironically, the origin of the word is also a bit of a puzzle and remains uncertain to this day.


Hard and black volcanic glass

Obsidian is the dark, hard rock that is formed by lava. This occurs when lava is cooled very quickly. The word's etymology credits Obsius as the individual who discovered obsidian.


Being on guard, watchful

When someone is wary, they're nervous or cautious that dangers or problems are around. These individuals are generally on the lookout and alert. Remember, it's always good to be wary behind the wheel.


To behave uncontrollably and disruptively

This word had a darker and more violent meaning when it was first introduced to the English in the 1600s. Today, when someone runs amok, they're typically out of control and behaving erratically.


Living in solitary; avoiding others

To be reclusive is to avoid interactions with others and prefer to live alone. Some people actually enjoy living a life of seclusion. People famous for being reclusive include author J.D. Salinger and Hollywood mogul Howard Hughes.


A countless or extremely large number

While it can be both a noun or an adjective, myriad means countless or extremely large in number. When someone says "a myriad of options," they generally mean the options are innumerable and are unable to be counted.


A person who is usually disliked or avoided

A pariah is a person who is excluded because they are disliked and avoided. Pariahs are typically outcasts and black sheep. In southern parts of India, a pariah is an individual living in a low caste.


Being sensitive when dealing with others or difficult issues

To be tactful is to be diplomatic and sensitive when faced with difficulties. A tactful person has a good sense of what is appropriate and avoids discrimination. You could also say that a person showed a great deal of tact.


To stray from the topic at hand

When someone says "I digress," they mean they've strayed from the main topic of conversation. This may occur when someone has gone off on a tangent, chased a rabbit trail or changed the subject.


A confused hand-to-hand fight between multiple people

With origins in Old French, a melee is a confused fight, skirmish or scuffle. It occurs among several people. One could also describe a melee as a brawl or fracas; however, a barroom melee doesn't seem to pack the same punch.


Of little or no importance; insignificant

Inconsequential means something is illogical or not important. To discuss inconsequential matters means to talk about things of no importance. In other words, there are bigger fish to fry.


Dealing with things in a practical way

Being pragmatic means you deal with things sensibly. A pragmatic person is capable of being no-nonsense and very practical. If one deals mostly with the facts and the details, they are a prime example of a pragmatic person.


Expression of extreme joy and happiness

Get ready to get loud. When one expresses jubilation, they are showing how happy and ecstatic they are. Very similar to a jubilee, a jubilation is often a joyful showing of celebration.


Creating fear through great size and strength

A formidable enemy or opponent is one that is horrendous, frightening and concerning. This generally occurs because of the size and strength of the person, which causes one to feel dread or alarm.


Noisy, energetic and cheerful; rowdy

A boisterous crowd is one that is rough and noisy. This occurs because of rambunctious excitement. At the same time, an individual from Great Britain might refer to the same rowdy scene as a rumbustious crowd.


Able to withstand attacks; not capable of being taken by force

Something that is impregnable cannot be broken into. It is strong and secure and able to withstand attacks from opposing forces. Did you know? The origin of this English word can be traced to Middle French.


When those with power or influence favor relatives or friends

Someone is accused of nepotism when they give preferential treatment to someone just because they are a friend or family member. Nepotism is not typically viewed as a good thing in any field.


Claiming to have the power of perceiving events beyond the range of natural vision

When someone says they are clairvoyant, they mean they are capable of seeing things that have happened in the past or things that will happen in the future. Other words for this are psychic and telepathic.


Commendable or desirable

When something is exemplary, it's the best of its kind. It is considered the ideal model. Similar words include example or exemplify, but they all descend from the Latin word "exemplum."


To clear someone from blame or suspicion

To vindicate means to exonerate or clear someone from blame. In court, this typically happens when someone is acquitted or found innocent of a crime. Interestingly, words that share an origin with vindicate include revenge and vendetta.


Getting ideas, style or taste from a wide and diverse range of sources

Eclectic means getting ideas or tastes from an extensive and wide range of sources. When someone says they have an eclectic taste in music, this means they enjoy music from many different genres.


An individual who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their ideals

A zealot is viewed as a fanatic who is often extreme in pursuing his or her ideals. This can be religious, political or militant in nature. In antiquity, the original Zealots fought against Roman rule in Palestine.


Light, airy or tenuous

Something that is viewed as ethereal is seen as light and perfect. Graceful, dainty and exquisite are also words used to describe something that is ethereal (or belonging to the ether).


To back out on a promise, undertaking or contract

When one reneges, they go back on something they've agreed to do. This is sometimes seen as breaking a promise. People familiar with the card game euchre are used to hearing this term on game night.


Careful and unwasteful with regard to money or food

Someone who is frugal is cautious when it comes to spending money or wasting food. These individuals like to be thrifty and economical. Frugal has a more positive connotation than other words like cheap or penny-pinching.


A person who is new to an experience

A novice is someone who is new to a field or type of work. These people are beginners. The Ancient Romans as well as Catholic and Buddhist monasteries all make use of some variant of this word to describe newcomers.


To develop gradually into a more complex form

To evolve means to advance or develop. When something evolves, it goes from a simpler form to a form that is more complex. Conversely, when something is thought to degenerate, it devolves.


Authorization, sanction or justification

A common term in law enforcement and finance, warrant means to authorize and sanction. When something is warranted, this means it is justified. The word warrant also has ties to the word guarantee.


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