GRE Premier 2017 with 6 Practice Tests


Chapter 4. Verbal Foundations and Content Review

Introduction to Verbal Foundations and Content Review

The GRE Verbal section tests critical thinking skills that are essential to handling graduate-level work. To do well on this section, you will need to grasp how ideas relate to one another in sentences and passages. To measure this skill, the GRE evaluates your mastery of college-level vocabulary and your ability to read dense academic text for meaning. There are many strategies you can use to improve your vocabulary and reading comprehension.

·        To improve your vocabulary:

o   Learn words in context

o   Tell stories about words

o   Use flashcards

o   Keep a vocabulary journal

o   Think like a thesaurus—word groups and word roots

o   Use all your senses

o   Use other people

o   Use other languages

o   Use online resources

o   Learn very common GRE words

·        To improve your reading comprehension:

o   Attack the passage

o   Change your reading habits

This chapter will cover all of these strategies to improve your GRE vocabulary and reading comprehension, boosting your performance on Text Completion, Sentence Equivalence, and Reading Comprehension questions. In addition, you’ll find short practice sets that will introduce you to each of these question types.

The Kaplan Guide to Improving Your Vocabulary

According to the Global Language Monitor, there are over 1,000,000 words in the English language. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, there are “only” about 170,000 words in current use. Either way, that’s a lot of words. Estimates put the vocabulary of most American college graduates at around 20,000 words. If you’ve taken a practice test and thought, “There are so many words I don’t know!” you’re not alone.

Fortunately, you can efficiently build your GRE vocabulary and see a significant increase in your Verbal score. You can do this by choosing a few strategies from the following pages that appeal to you and working with them every day over a number of weeks or months.

Be warned: You won’t feel as though you’re making progress at first. You’ll learn a bunch of new words, then do some practice questions and see a plethora of words you still don’t know. That’s because there are an awful lot of words. You may feel discouraged. But don’t give up! By spending at least 10 minutes a day on vocabulary, using the effective strategies given here, you will reach critical mass so that you can eliminate incorrect answers on Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence questions and choose the answers that match your predictions. Here are some facts that should help you feel confident about this task.

·        The testmaker prefers certain types of words. On the test, you can expect to see the kind of vocabulary that commonly appears in literature and in academic journal articles. Also, you can expect to see a preponderance of words with Latin and Greek roots and prefixes. Thus, it is virtually unthinkable that you would need to know what gabelle means (a gabelle was a tax on salt in France before the French Revolution, and the word was derived from Arabic). However, a word like incontrovertible (from Latin, with in- meaning “not” and controvertible relating to “controversial,” so “not controversial” or “undoubtedly true”) is a word that the testmaker would expect you to be familiar with or to be able to figure out. After all, in graduate school you may well need to discuss whether an idea is incontrovertible or not.

·        You often don’t need to know the exact definition of a word to get a question correct. In fact, often just knowing whether a word has a positive or negative connotation is enough. Consider the word ignominy. That’s not a word most of us use every day. But think about words you know that start with igno…, like ignore and ignorant. It’s not nice to ignore someone, and no one wants to look ignorant in front of other people. If the sentence is “It took her years to overcome the  of giving such an important speech when she was completely unprepared,” you can predict “something bad” for the blank and make a good guess that ignominy fits. (In fact, ignominy means “shame” or “humiliation”—it’s very negative, and it fits the sentence perfectly.)

The following strategies will help you learn the general meaning of the words you’re most likely to see on the GRE.


When you’re not studying for the GRE, where do you see words and need to know what they mean? In things you read. Therefore, a good way to expand your vocabulary is through reading. When you read, you see words in a context that will help you remember them.

Your neighborhood or campus library has hard-copy books, magazines, and newspapers that you can read for free, and increasingly libraries can loan out ebooks as well. Check with a library near you to see what’s available. If you don’t want to worry about getting the book back on time, classic literature is generally available for purchase in bookstores or online for low prices. Moreover, a lot of excellent, vocabulary-rich material is available online at no charge. You can have reading material with you, whether in your bag or on your mobile device, all the time, so you can improve your GRE Verbal score throughout the day whenever you have a few minutes!

When you’re reading, make sure to have handy (a) a notebook or notes app so you can jot down the words you don’t know (see “Keep a Vocabulary Journal” below) and (b) a good dictionary or dictionary app so you can look up the words. (In a lot of e-readers, you can highlight or double-click a word to bring up its definition.) When you look up a word’s meaning, also see what the dictionary says about its etymology and synonyms/antonyms and check whether the dictionary shows the word used in a sentence. If it does, compare how the word is used in the sentence you just read with how it’s used in the dictionary’s example sentence. If it doesn’t, then make up your own sentence, using the word in a way that’s relevant to you. You might also make flashcards (see “Use Flashcards” below) with your new words so you can easily keep practicing them.

Oh, and if you come across any words in this chapter that you’re unfamiliar with, write them down and look them up! There’s no time like the present to start improving your GRE score.

Here are some ideas for reading where you will encounter a myriad of GRE-type words. As you consider these resources, think about what you like to read. If you try to force yourself to read material you find tedious, you’re unlikely to keep up the regular routine your GRE vocabulary growth depends on, so read things you find interesting. Ask yourself these questions:

·        Are you a more avid reader of fiction or nonfiction?

·        Do you prefer to immerse yourself in books, or does short work better fit your available time or attention span?

·        Are there particular topics that interest you?

The lists of resources below are far from exhaustive; feel free to explore the library, bookstores, your own bookshelves and those of friends and family, and the Internet for more ideas. And, of course, the Internet is a dynamic entity, so while all URLs provided here work as this book goes to press, we can’t guarantee they will work forever.


All of the publications listed here are available at newsstands and bookstores and by subscription, and they offer extensive content online at no charge.

·        The Atlantic ( publishes a selection of nonfiction articles and short stories written at a high level. A visit to this publication’s website quickly turned up words such as affluentensue, and notorious.

·        The Economist ( covers current world events with an international focus. On a visit to this website, we soon encountered putativesectarian, and opulently.

·        National Geographic ( is known in part for the amazing photography that illustrates its stories about the natural environment and human societies. Words found there included riposteharried, and mesmerizing.

·        The New Yorker ( publishes in-depth feature articles on a wide variety of topics as well as short fiction. A visit to the magazine’s website quickly turned up words including candidendemic, and neophyte.

·        Scientific American ( covers science for a lay audience with topics ranging from dinosaurs to DNA to dreams. This is an excellent resource for readers with a background in the humanities or social sciences to get more comfortable with science reading. A few cool words found here: herbivorousravagedmalady.

Again, have you seen any words you don’t know? Jot them down and start expanding your GRE vocabulary right now!


By reading newspapers, you will improve not only your vocabulary but also your knowledge of current events, which are often excellent examples to draw from when writing your essays for the Analytical Writing Assessment. You will find the following publications a rich source of GRE words.

·        The New York Times ( is a daily newspaper of national and international scope. On the website, you can access section front pages and read up to 10 articles a month at no charge. The New York Times is also available in print and digital subscriptions, and single issues are available at many newsstands and bookstores.

·        The Wall Street Journal ( is published Monday through Friday and focuses on national and international news with implications for the economy and business.

·        The Washington Post ( is a daily newspaper with substantial reporting on national politics and international news coverage.


If you enjoy fiction, try acquainting yourself with GRE words by reading novels and short stories from the canon of English literature. No matter whether your tastes run more toward Jane Austen or Alice Walker, Ray Bradbury or Charlotte Brontë, Willa Cather or Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens or Junot Díaz, Ralph Ellison or Ernest Hemingway, Daphne du Maurier or Toni Morrison, Amy Tan or J.R.R. Tolkien, John Updike or Herman Melville…

Alternatively, grab yourself a smorgasbord of authors in the form of a short-story anthology; collections with titles containing phrases such as “Best Short Stories,” “Great Short Stories,” or “Classic Short Stories” are good bets.

There are over 50,000 titles available online for free through Project Gutenberg via the website at Alternatively, the website at americanliterature.comfeatures thousands of classic short stories and novels. The website—which is not actually confined to American literature—has a Short Story of the Day feature; bookmark it and read something different every day.


Literary nonfiction is a great source of GRE vocabulary as well. Look for collections of classic essays on a range of topics by searching for anthologies with phrases like “Great Essays” or “Best Essays” in the title. Enjoy a particular topic? Search for books with phrases like “Best Science Writing” or “Best Political Writing.”

Another good choice for high-level vocabulary is long-form journalism. You’ll find these in-depth pieces in the magazines and newspapers listed above. Online, check out for current and historical articles covering just about any topic you can think of and easily searched by subject. ( also features a selection of literary short stories.)


The previous section explained how seeing words in context can help you remember their meaning. As we mentioned earlier, Appendix C: Common GRE Words in Context actually provides context for you. In addition, when you study words using flashcards or lists of words, such as Appendix A: Kaplan’s Word Groups and Appendix B: Kaplan’s Root List at the back of this book (see below for more on flashcards, word groups, and word roots), you can make up a meaningful context that will help you remember each word.

Take the word gregarious as an example. Do you know someone named Greg who is gregarious? (It means “sociable.”) Or maybe your friend Greg isn’t gregarious at all. Either way, you’ve got a little story to tell about that word.

Sometimes words look like they mean one thing but actually mean something completely different, and while this may be confusing at first, it can actually be an opportunity to learn the word. Here’s how this works. Take the word noisome as an example. You might reasonably deduce it means something like “noisy”—but it doesn’t. It actually means “offensive” in some way and is especially used to mean “really bad smelling.” Now, if you were given a choice of roommates, whom would you prefer: the noisy one or the noisome one? Have you ever had a noisome roommate? When you make up a sentence that contrasts the word with its non-meaning, you won’t forget what the word really means.

Here’s another example. Most people instinctively think the word pulchritudinous must have a negative connotation; it just looks and sounds unpleasant. However, it actually means “very beautiful.” Are you surprised when a pulchritudinous movie star dates someone who isn’t very attractive? The etymology of a word, or how the word has come to mean what it means, can be a great starting point for storytelling about the word. Take the word decadence. It turns out that the root cadere is from the Latin for “to fall.” Thus, you might fall hard for that decadent chocolate cake and fall right off your diet. Someone with a cadaverous appearance looks very ill, as though she might fall right over dead any minute and become a corpse (a cadaver). The past participle of cadere in Latin is cas, so a cascade is a waterfall. You might have heard the expression “a cascade effect,” meaning a series of events that come one after another in a manner similar to a waterfall. Can you imagine going over a cascade with your decadent chocolate cake in hand and becoming a cadaver? Or, less dramatically, eating decadent chocolate cake during a picnic by a beautiful cascade and not becoming a cadaver? Again, by telling these little stories and forming vivid mental images, you’ll lock in the meanings of words and won’t forget them.

Stories don’t have to be based on personal experience or made up. They can come from current events, popular culture, or history. Here’s a history lesson with a GRE vocabulary lesson inside it: During World War II, the Germans used the Enigma machine to encrypt messages. However, the Allies figured out how to decrypt these messages, and knowing what the Germans were planning was a great benefit to the Allied side. Enigma means “mystery,” so it was a good name for an encryption machine since encrypt means “to put a message into code.” As you might imagine, decrypt means the opposite—“to decode.” The adjectives enigmatic and cryptic mean “mysterious” and “secret,” respectively. You can see that by connecting the words you learn in a story, you can commit their meanings to memory.

Bottom line: Memorizing lists of hundreds of words and their definitions would be very boring. Plus, it can be a futile strategy since you may forget the words soon after you learn them, well before Test Day. Instead, think up a sentence or story that uses the word. If it’s funny or weird, or has special personal significance, it will be extra memorable—and the word will stick with you, too.


Flashcards are one of the most popular ways of preparing for the GRE Verbal section. You have several options, depending on whether you prefer cards you can hold in your hand or the convenience of a phone app. The purchase of a boxed set of flashcards may include access to a phone app as well, so you may be able to kill two birds with one stone.

If you choose to work with printed cards, you can buy a set of flashcards, such as Kaplan GRE Vocabulary Flashcards. Look for cards that include each word’s part of speech. A lot of words mean different things depending on whether they’re being used as, for example, a noun or a verb. For instance, a malevolent person seeking vengeance might desert(“abandon”) his foe in the desert (“arid area”) without leaving her any water. Also, look for cards that include not only the definition of the word but also a sentence using the word. As we said above, learning the word in context is the best way to remember it. Finally, cards that include synonyms for the word are extra helpful because the associations with other words will help you learn this word and you’ll learn groups of words at a time (see “Think Like a Thesaurus” below).

Another option is to make your own cards. This is certainly more work, but by the time you look up the word and then write out its part of speech, its definition, any synonyms, and a sentence using it, you may know the word pretty well.

If you are a visual learner, consider color-coding your flashcards. Here’s one way to do this: If a word has a positive connotation, write it in green or put a green dot next to it; if it has a neutral connotation, write it in black or use a black dot; if it has a negative connotation, write it in red or use a red dot. Then on the test, if you see the word penury and can’t quite remember the definition, you might still remember seeing it on the flashcard with a big red dot next to it and know it’s negative (penury means “extreme poverty”). As we said at the beginning of this chapter, often just knowing the charge of a word is enough to choose it as a correct answer or eliminate it as incorrect on the GRE.

It’s hard to beat the convenience of flashcards on your phone. Waiting in line at the store? Waiting for someone to text you back? Waiting for the bus? Hey, how much of our lives do we spend waiting anyway? Well wait no more. Instead, whip out your phone and add a few more words to your GRE vocabulary. Look for the same things in a phone app as in hard-copy cards: part of speech, definition, synonyms, and an example sentence.


Keeping a vocabulary journal may sound like a lot of work, but it’s actually an efficient way to capture words so their meanings stick with you. Especially if you are a kinesthetic or visual learner, a vocabulary journal can be the key to unlocking your GRE Verbal score. A number of studies have shown that writing out words by hand helps some people learn better. So get a notebook and start keeping that vocabulary journal.

What do you write in a word journal? Pretty much the same things you would put on homemade flashcards: unfamiliar words, their definitions, synonyms and antonyms, and sentences using the words. However, you have more room in a notebook, so you can write more. For example, you could make notes about the etymology of a word, or you could write a couple of different sentences using the word. Use different colors of ink to help you remember the positive, negative, or neutral tone of words or to make the word stand out in the example sentences you write. Some students like to illustrate the word by drawing a picture or affixing a picture from a magazine or that they print out from a website. Every couple of pages, you could write a brief story (a few sentences) that uses all the words on those pages, and maybe some of their synonyms and antonyms as well.


When you encounter a word you don’t know, you may not have time to look it up just then. No problem. Write it down anyway and give it half a page. Later when you’re studying, you can fill in some of the information about the word. Then when you review it again in a few days, you can add more information. By Test Day, you will be completely sanguine about your recall of every word in your journal. (Don’t know the word “sanguine”? Make it the first word in your notebook!)


Learning words one at a time is all well and good, but wouldn’t it be better to learn them in bunches? That’s where word groups and word roots really help. We’ve already alluded to these in previous sections of this chapter. For example, if you’re using flashcards or a vocabulary journal to study, use them to associate a word with its synonyms—a group of words with similar meanings. That’s what we mean by a “word group.” And in “Tell Stories About Words,” we discussed using a word’s root (like cadere in decadent and cadaver) to associate that word with related words.

Word Groups

Remember that to get a Text Completion or Sentence Equivalence question correct, you often only need to know a word’s approximate meaning. Here’s how you can use word groups to know exactly that. In Kaplan’s word groups (the complete list is in Appendix A), you’ll find this list:

·        Investigate

·        appraise

·        ascertain

·        assay

·        descry

·        peruse

A good point of entry to this list is the relatively common word appraise, which means “to determine the value of something.” You may have performance appraisals at work (and if your boss thinks you’re doing a good job, then he will praise you). You may also have had or heard of having a home or a piece of art appraised in order to ascertain its worth. Ascertain is another word in this list that, if you don’t already know it, is easy to learn because it means “to make certain of.”

The other words in this group are less commonly used, but you can quickly master them by associating them with the words you do know. Assay can mean “to evaluate, analyze, or test.” For example, by assaying your strengths and weaknesses on the GRE, you can ascertain what topics you most need to study. Or perhaps you will assay your vocabulary knowledge by asking a friend to test you on the words in this book, because such an appraisal will help you determine which words to study. Then after assaying your current GRE skill by taking a practice test, you will raise your score by perusing (“reading thoroughly”) this book. These words are by no means synonyms, but they all relate to a careful study or evaluation of something. By making up a story that associates these words in a personally meaningful way, you can efficiently pick up their general sense.

Now let’s say that in the middle of the GRE, you see the word descry and you can’t remember that it means “to detect by looking carefully.” Uh-oh. But you do remember seeing it in that list with appraise and ascertain, so you know it must relate to a thorough examination. Is it a good fit for the blank in this sentence?

1.    Although the sailor climbed the mast every morning to carefully scan the misty horizon with the ship’s telescope, he was unable to  even a hint of land.

The word “Although” sets up a contrast between the great effort the sailor is putting forth to search for land and his inability to find it. Descry it is!


Word roots work much the same way. By studying words grouped by their roots, you can learn the meanings of handfuls of words at a time. This is an efficient way to study. As we saw above, you can also use word roots as the basis for making up sentences about words that help you remember them.

Remember the words desert (verb) and desert (noun) from the section on flashcards? These words are what are known as homographs, because they are spelled or written (the root graph) the same (hom) way. Homophones are words that are pronounced (phon) the same way, like air and heir or bore and boar. In Appendix B, you’ll find Kaplan’s list of word roots. Here’s what it says about these three roots:

(H)OM: same

GRAM/GRAPH: to write, to draw

PHON: sound

anomaly: deviation from the common rule

diagram: a figure made by drawing lines; an illustration

euphony: the quality of sounding good

homeostasis: a relatively stable state of equilibrium

epigram: a short poem; a pointed statement

megaphone: a device for magnifying the sound of one’s voice

homogeneous: of the same or a similar kind of nature; of uniform structure of composition throughout

grammar: a system of language and its rules

phonetics: the study of the sounds used in speech

homonym: one of two or more words spelled and pronounced alike but different in meaning

graph: a diagram used to convey mathematical information

polyphony: the use of simultaneous melodic lines to produce harmonies in musical compositions

homosexual: of, relating to, or exhibiting sexual desire toward a member of one’s own sex

graphite: mineral used for writing, as the “lead” in pencils

telephone: a device for transmitting sound at a distance


photograph: a picture, originally made by exposing chemically treated film to light


Just as with word groups, you can find a point of entry to a word root by starting with a word you know. You certainly know what grammar is because you’ve studied it in school, and you know what a photograph and a diagram are, but the word epigram is less common. If you don’t know what epigram means, you can learn it now: Was her terse epigram written with good grammar? In his presentation, what worked best to get his point across: his diagram, his photograph, or his epigram? An epigram is something short written to make a point.

The history of words’ meanings provides stories that help with learning them, too. For example, starting with the Ancient Greeks and continuing into early modern times, physicians believed that four humors based on bodily fluids determined health. Today we still have the words sanguine (“optimistic, confident,” from old words for “blood”), choleric and bilious(“irritable,” from words for “yellow bile”), phlegmatic (“calm, lacking energy,” from “phlegm”), and melancholic (“sad, gloomy” from words for “black bile”). So the same medical beliefs that led to draining blood from sick people to make them “better” live on in our language.

Do be careful when studying word roots. Watch out for these potential pitfalls:

·        Just because two words look similar does not mean they share the same root. Here’s an example. The words aver and avert differ by only one letter. However, aver (“to state or prove as true”) comes from the Latin vērus (“truth”) and shares a root with verityverifyverdictveracity, and verisimilitude, while avert (“to turn away, prevent”) comes from the Latin vertere (“to turn”) and is related to convertsubvertintrovertextrovertincontrovertible (from the top of the chapter), and vertigo. The two words have no relationship.

·        The same root or prefix can have different meanings. Take for example embellish and belligerent. Both have bell as a root, but embellish means “to make prettier” and comes from the Latin bellus for “pretty,” while belligerent means “at war or eager to fight” and comes from the Latin bellum for “war.” Confusing? Yes. However, this is yet another opportunity to learn these similar-looking words, because you can tell a story that associates them but makes their different meanings clear. For example, if you accused someone of embellishing his war stories, he might become angry and belligerent. Have you ever pointed out that someone was stretching the truth and seen them get angry? If so, then you’ve got embellish and belligerent. Next!

·        Smaller words inside larger words aren’t necessarily a Greek or Latin root. Consider the word adumbrate. It would be easy to see the word dumb (“not intelligent” or “not able to speak”) in the middle and think that was the root. In fact, the root is umbr (“shadow”), the same root as in umbrella, which shades you from the sun or rain. The prefix ad- means “toward,” and adumbrate means “to foreshadow,” or to give a hint of what’s coming, as in “The ticking clock in the first paragraph adumbrates the fact that the protagonist runs out of time at the end of the story.”

In addition to Appendix B in the back of this book, there are many print and online resources you can use to learn more about word roots. Most dictionaries provide a short summary of words’ origins. In addition, some students have found Word Power Made Easy, by Norman Lewis, entertaining as well as chock-full of engaging descriptions of what words mean. A popular website for finding out about the history of words is The site has search functionality and a bibliography.


We’ve emphasized the importance of reading words in the context of other words, but reading isn’t the only way to learn words. Plus, learning words in other ways can be fun—it can feel like playing charades or Pictionary. Here are some ideas that engage different parts of your brain in learning.

·        Say the word aloud. Speaking engages Broca’s area of the brain, just above the left ear in most people. Plus, you hear yourself say the word, engaging still more of the brain. While you’re at it, say the word’s definition and a sentence using the word out loud, too. Want to make the word even more memorable? If you’re comfortable doing so, say the word in a funny voice that matches the meaning or “charge” of the word. You’d say insouciant (“carefree”) in a very different voice than you’d say moribund (“near death”).

·        Make up a song with the words you are learning in it. Singing engages even more of the brain than speaking. If you learned the English alphabet song as a kid, you could probably still sing it, along with a lot of other children’s songs. This can be a great way to learn a group of related words.

·        Not going to sing, not even in the shower? Write a poem with the word in it. No pressure—you’re not trying to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, just learn vocabulary words. Everyone can write haiku (traditionally, a three-line poem with five syllables on the first line, seven on the second, and five on the third). Or maybe you could write silly rhymes like Dr. Seuss.

·        Draw a picture representing the word. For instance, you might draw someone wagging her finger and looking disapproving to illustrate discountenance (“to disapprove”). Work the word into the picture if you can. Or you can write words in your journal or on flashcards in a font that you design to match their meaning or charge.

·        If you’re having someone quiz you on GRE words and you find yourself answering with a hand gesture—“Oh, attenuate … that means, you know [move your hand while bringing your thumb and fingers together]”—go with it! Attenuate means “to become thinner or weaker,” and if you can associate a hand gesture with that definition, then you know the word.

·        You don’t need to stop with hand gestures. Feel free to move your whole body to act out the meaning or charge of a word. For exalt (“to praise”), maybe you jump up and give an invisible friend a high-five; for commiserate (“to sympathize”), maybe you give your invisible friend a hug.


You don’t need to learn GRE vocabulary on your own. Your friends, family members, and coworkers may be excited to get in on the action. If you carry flashcards around with you, whip out a few and ask someone to quiz you. As they learn the words too, they may think of sentences or little stories that will help you remember them. This can definitely be a group project.

You can also incorporate the words you are learning into your everyday conversation. Did you make a mistake at work? You can tell your coworkers, “I hope our boss merely reproves[gently criticizes] me instead of castigating [harshly scolding] me.” They may be impressed. More likely they’ll be amused, or possibly bemused (“confused”). Maybe they’ll even want to get in on the fun. Feel tired after a long day? Tell your friends you are flagging and enervated. They’ll say that if you’ve been using words like that all day, it’s no wonder. Then you could say that a promise of ice cream afterward would indubitably galvanize you into wanting to go out to a movie.


If you’ve ever studied (or grew up speaking) a Romance language such as Spanish, French, or Italian, it will help you on the GRE. If you’ve ever studied Latin, even just for a year a long time ago, it will help a lot. The only language tested on the GRE is English, but if you’ve learned a Romance language, you’ve probably noticed that quite a few words were spelled similarly and had similar meanings in that language and in English. Here are just a few examples:




affable (friendly)



apprehend (to learn)



extraordinary (exceptional)



indubitable (undoubted)



liberty (freedom)



salutary (healthful)



Overlaps between words in these languages usually indicate a common Latin root, so when you noticed the similarities, you were learning the roots of words. This knowledge will help you recognize other related words in English.


Several publishers of dictionaries host websites with not only the ability to search for words’ meanings but also a thesaurus feature, quizzes and games, and a word-of-the-day feature. Sign up to get the word of the day and wake up every morning to a new word on your phone. Then make sure to use the word at least three times during the day! Most online dictionaries are also available via mobile apps. Here are some sites to check out:

· (largely based on the Random House Dictionary)

· (based on the Macmillan English Dictionary)

· (based on Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary)

· (produced by the publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary)

Another site that many GRE students enjoy is, which will quiz you on one word after another. The words start out very easy, but as you answer correctly, your level goes up and the words get tougher. For every question you get right, this nonprofit website donates 10 grains of rice to the United Nations’ World Food Programme. You’ll see bowls filling up with rice as you answer questions correctly. So build your vocabulary and feed hungry people—truly a win-win.

These resources aren’t targeted at the kinds of words that show up frequently on the GRE, the way the words in Appendixes A, B, and C of this book are. Nonetheless, these are fun, convenient ways to help you sharpen your vocabulary consciousness every day. By looking at a “word of the day” every morning as you wait for your bread to toast, you’re preparing your brain to learn words all day. The same thing happens when you take a break from whatever else you’re doing and play a few rounds of a vocabulary game. And did we mention these are fun? There’s no rule against having fun while you expand your word knowledge. In fact, approaching your prep in a spirit of play will make it even more effective!


Maybe you’re ready to use some of these strategies to improve your vocabulary and your GRE score, but you’re not sure where to start. After all, there are a lot of words. Rest assured, no one knows all the words in the English language, nor will the GRE test them all. Your best bet is to memorize common college-level vocabulary words, such as the ones on this list, because words like these are the most likely to appear on the GRE.


































Start with these, which are listed in Appendix C: Common GRE-Level Words in Context at the end of this book. Then move on to the 150 other very common GRE words in that section. It is very likely that at least a few of these words will appear on your GRE test, and they’re an excellent starting point for learning even more words.


You’ve been in school a long time, and you’ve read a lot of words. You may feel as though a lot of GRE vocabulary is new to you, but it almost certainly isn’t. At some point, you’ve seen almost every word you’ll see on Test Day, and you understood it well enough in context to understand what you were reading. Those words have left some trace in your brain’s neural pathways. Your job in studying words is to activate those connections and strengthen them so the words’ meanings are readily available to you during the test.

Not only have you seen most of these words before (even if you don’t remember them), but once you start to learn them, you’ll begin to see and hear them everywhere—on your favorite television shows, in news stories, even in social media memes. This will be more reinforcement of your learning!

Choose a couple of strategies from this chapter to use every day. When you take the practice test toward the end of this book, make sure to review the explanations for each question thoroughly and use your vocabulary-learning strategies to study every word you weren’t sure of. This definitely applies to words in the Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence questions, but if you encounter words in Reading Comprehension passages that are unfamiliar, make sure to learn those words, too.

To acquaint you with the types of GRE questions that test critical thinking skills along with vocabulary knowledge, here is a short practice set of Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence questions. See how many words you know and don’t know and then, as you read the explanations, think about how you are going to learn the obscure words so they’ll be familiar the next time you see them.

Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence Practice Set


2.       Directions:

For each blank select one entry from the corresponding column of choices. Fill all blanks in the way that best completes the text.



1.    All Jon cared about was getting an A, so because the team project did not count toward his grade in the course, he felt  the work and did not do his share.

1.    apathy toward

2.    zeal for

3.    loathing for

4.    cheerful about

5.    antagonism toward

2.    To her friends’ (i) , because she had never expressed an interest in travel, Lovia decided to teach English in Thailand, (ii)  in that country for a year.

1.      delight

2.      astonishment

3.      dismay

4.      sojourning

5.      retiring

6.      persevering

3.    The citizens met with their senator to express (i) , arguing that if tax rates (ii)  any further, taxes would become (iii) , allowing hard-working individuals to keep little of their well-earned income.

1.      euphoria

2.      composure

3.      apprehension

4.      economized

5.      escalated

6.      elaborated

7.      congruent

8.      confiscatory

9.      consummate

4.       Directions:

Select the two answer choices that, when used to complete the sentence, fit the meaning of the sentence as a whole and produce completed sentences that are alike in meaning.



4.    Our manager holds as a  that an employee with a messy desk is irredeemably lazy, and she therefore demands that all members of her staff keep their work areas meticulously organized.

1.    whim

2.    dogma

3.    hypothesis

4.    fancy

5.    tenet

6.    polity

5.    Elena liked Joe a great deal, but she soon tired of his friends, pseudointellectuals who propounded inane theories based on  interpretations of neo-Marxism and existentialism.

1.    spurious

2.    terse

3.    fallacious

4.    succinct

5.    bellicose

6.    blithe

6.    Despite the many pleasures of staying in a hotel, such as a hot shower and clean sheets, many people  such comforts in favor of cold water from a nearby stream and a sleeping bag in order to savor a revitalizing proximity to nature.

1.    extol

2.    deprecate

3.    renounce

4.    spurn

5.    discountenance

6.    eulogize

Answers and Explanations


1.    A

The sentence begins by telling you that Jon only cares about getting an A, and then it says that the team project did not impact his grade. The blank needs a term for how Jon “felt” about the project, and the keywords “so because” indicate that the blank will be consistent with the information given. Furthermore, the keyword “and” in the last part of the sentence means the blank will be consistent with Jon not doing his share of the work. Predict that Jon will not care about the team project or will feel “indifference” toward it. Answer choice (A) apathy is a match for your prediction and the correct answer. Apathy is composed of a- (“not”) and path (“emotion”) and is related to words like empathysympathy, and antipathy. Learn these words as a group with the same root.

The word zeal (“strong interest”), choice (B), is the opposite of what is needed. Note that zealous means “very enthusiastic” and a zealot is “a fanatic” for some cause. Another word beginning with zzest, also means “great enthusiasm.” Learn these words as a group with related meanings. Choice (D) cheerful is incorrect for the same reason; it is positive, but you need a neutral or mildly negative word. Choice (C) loathing means “extreme dislike” and choice (E) antagonism means “dislike” or “conflict”; both words are too negative. While Jon does not care about the project, he has no reason to hate it. When you studied literature, you may have learned that the protagonist is the main character of the story and the antagonist is the person with whom the main character experiences conflict.

2.    BD

The sentence says that Lovia had never been interested in travel but she is going to Thailand. Her decision would come as a “surprise” to her friends, and choice (B) astonishment is correct for blank (i). There is no evidence to support the idea that her friends are feeling either delight (A) or dismay (C) about her decision. You need a neutral word for this blank.

Lovia will be abroad for a year, so the choice that fits blank (ii) is (D) sojourning (“staying temporarily”). This word is related to journey, which also relates to travel, and to journal. You might think of a personal journey as a record of one’s “trip” through life. She is not (E) retiring because she will be working as a teacher. (F) persevering means “being persistent” or “overcoming obstacles,” and nothing in the sentence indicates that she will encounter adversity.

3.    CEH

People can “express” a wide range of thoughts and feelings (blank (i)), and tax rates can go up, go down, or stay the same (blank (ii)). Start with the third blank, which has the most context clues.

The word for blank (iii) must be consistent with the last part of the sentence, which is about not letting people keep their money—or taking their money away from them. The match is choice (H) confiscatory (“seizing property”). This word’s root is the same as in the word fiscal, meaning “financial”: Your fiscal condition is reduced if the authorities confiscateyour property. Choice (G) congruent means “in agreement”; when you study geometry for the Quantitative section, you will study congruent shapes, which are identical to or in complete agreement with each other. Choice (I) consummate when used as an adjective means “perfect.” This has the same root as summit, or “highest point,” and if someone describes you as the consummate professional, she is saying that you bring together (con-) the highest or best qualities of a professional.

Given that the tax rates might become confiscatory, the citizens must be concerned that taxes will “rise,” so this is your prediction for blank (ii). Choice (E) escalated is correct. Think of riding up an escalator in a building. Or think of scaling, or climbing, a wall—escalate and scale share the same root. Choice (D) economized would relate to “spending less money,” and choice (F) elaborated would mean “to develop.” Neither of these choices describes rising taxes.

Now for blank (i): Because the citizens believe taxes will go up and take most of their money, and they are meeting with their senator about this prospect, they are undoubtedly worried. Choice (C) apprehension conveys worry or fear and is correct. Apprehension is an interesting word because it can mean “capture,” “understanding,” or “fear.” Here’s a sentence to think about: If the criminal had apprehended that the police would soon apprehend him, he would have felt apprehension. Choice (A) euphoria means “bliss” and is the opposite of what these folks are feeling. Choice (B) composure means “calm” and also does not reflect what the citizens feel.

4.    BE

When this manager sees a messy desk, she forms a harshly negative opinion of the employee, and as a result (“therefore”), she “demands” that her staff keep their desks clean. Based on the sentence, you can conclude that the manager holds a “strong belief” on this subject. Answer choices (B) dogma and (E) tenet both mean an “idea held to be true” and are the correct answers. If someone is dogmatic, that person is very opinionated. Imagine someone refusing to let go of an idea like a dog refusing to let go of a bone! Tenet comes from the Latin word meaning “to hold” and shares its root with tenable (“can be held, defensible”) and tenacity (“holding on persistently”).

Choices (A) whim and (D) fancy both relate to a “passing thought.” While these words can have similar meanings, they do not fit the context of this sentence. Choice (C)hypothesis is a “guess” or a starting point for exploring a problem, not a strongly held belief. Choice (F) polity means a “government” (think “politics”) and does not fit the sentence.

5.    AC

Elena liked Joe, but the keyword “but” indicates she has a negative view of his friends. Why? They are “pseudointellectuals” and their theories are “inane.” The prefix pseudo- means “fake,” and inane means “silly.” Either one of these clues tells you that they don’t understand the complex philosophies mentioned in the sentence. Predict that the word in the blank means their “interpretations” are actually misinterpretations; that is, they are “false.” Choices (A) spurious and (C) fallacious both relate to “falseness” and fit the sentence. The word spurious is derived from the Latin word for “illegitimate child.” It is not etymologically related to the word spur, but you can think of a railroad spur, which looks like any other track but is not the main line and doesn’t go very far. Fallacious, like fallacy and false, comes from a Latin word for “deceive.”

Choices (B) terse and (D) succinct both relate to “not using many words,” and the sentence gives no reason to believe Joe’s friends do not talk much (one rather imagines the opposite). Choice (E) bellicose means “looking for a fight” (the root is bell meaning “war”), and while this is a negatively charged word, it does not fit the clues in the sentence; his friends are wrong but not necessarily argumentative. Choice (F) blithe means “cheerful” or “without worries” (it shares a root in Old English with bliss, which is “extreme happiness”); this is a positively charged word.

6.    CD

The keyword “Despite” signals a contrast, so people who camp instead of staying indoors “reject” the comforts of a hotel. Choice (C) renounce means “to put aside,” and choice (D)spurn means “to reject scornfully.” You may have heard or read the expression “to spurn someone’s advances,” meaning to let someone know that you are absolutely not interested in a romantic relationship. These words both give the sentence the same sense and are correct.

Choices (A) extol and (F) eulogize both mean “to praise highly.” People who opt for camping would praise being close to nature highly, according to the sentence, but this blank relates to the hotel experience. Thus, these are the opposite of what is needed. By the way, don’t confuse a eulogy with an elegy: Both are often written about someone who has died, but a eulogy is prose while an elegy is a poem and the focus of a eulogy is on praising the subject while an elegy’s focus is on expressing grief. Choices (B) deprecate and (E)discountenance are negatively charged, which might have made them tempting. However, both mean “to express disapproval,” and while the sentence indicates that nature lovers reject staying in a hotel for themselves, there is no evidence that they disapprove of other people staying in hotels.

The Kaplan Guide to Improving Your Reading Comprehension Skills

Many people preparing to take the GRE give Reading Comprehension little attention. There are a few reasons for this. One is that they’ve been reading since they started school as children, so the idea that they need to practice reading now seems ridiculous. “I know how to read!” they think. “So why put limited study time into reading?”

Another reason is that the correct answers to Reading Comprehension questions can seem subjective. A test prepper might take a practice test or try some practice questions and think, “I’m never going to understand why this answer is better than that one. I’m just never going to grasp how the testmaker thinks. Better to invest my study time elsewhere.”

Yet another rationale is that learning all the words that might appear on the Verbal section seems like such a daunting task (see the previous section of this chapter for tips to make it less intimidating) that test takers allocate all their Verbal study time to vocabulary, with none left over for reading.

Let’s rebut these one at a time:

·        GRE Reading Comp requires a particular kind of reading. You are probably skilled at reading for school and work, and you may enjoy reading for fun. But to do well on the GRE Verbal section, you need to read to answer very specific kinds of questions, and this is a skill that takes practice.

·        The answers to Reading Comp questions are not subjective. The test will not make you guess among correct answers, one of which is “better” than the others. Instead, there are right answers and wrong answers, and every wrong answer is incorrect for a reason. You can objectively evaluate answer choices based on information in the passage.

·        Only half the Verbal section consists of Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence questions. The other half is Reading Comp. Thus, it is important to your Verbal score that you master the reading passages and questions.

If you have taken a practice test and answered almost all the Reading Comprehension questions correctly, then by all means, invest your preparation efforts elsewhere. If that is not the case, read on.


The GRE will present you with academic passages, most of one paragraph but some of several paragraphs, and it will ask you predictable types of questions about certain features of the text. The GRE is primarily concerned with your ability to grasp the main idea of what you read, differentiate fact from opinion and one person’s opinion from another’s, make supported inferences based on the text, and understand how the author has developed her ideas or the structure of the passage. The GRE will also ask you to analyze the logic of arguments. While some questions will test your ability to accurately identify a fact or idea in the passage, the test is always open-book. That is, as questions come up on the right side of the screen, the passage will always be available on the left side of the screen for you to research.

Note that the GRE is not interested in testing your ability to learn facts about philosophy or physics or physiology. Thus, you are not studying to learn something about a topic, as you are accustomed to do in school. Passages are often full of details that you will not see a question about, so time spent learning them is time wasted.

In fact, if the word reading triggers you to begin studying, as you would if you needed to take a test or write a paper for class, then don’t think of this task as “reading.” Instead, think of it as attacking the passage.

Attacking the passage means interrogating the passage, actively asking the same questions the test is likely to ask you. What’s the author’s point? Why is the author comparing X to Y? What is the author’s attitude toward Z? By asking these questions as you read, you will be ready for the questions the test asks you. Watch a GRE expert take apart a science passage:

1.    There is no doubt that dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, since the last Ice Age. What is less certain is the process of domestication that brought wolves, a predator of livestock and a danger to humans themselves, into the family as helper and companion.

GRE expert’s mental paraphrase: What is the author’s topic? Domestication of dogs. What is the author’s position? Apparently, that we don’t know exactly how Spot got to sleep on the bed.

Attacking the passage means focusing on keywords that signal important ideas and changes in a passage’s direction, which are often the targets of questions. Focus on these sentences, making sure you understand what the author is saying. Keywords also indicate when the author is using an example to illustrate a main point or breaking an overall process into a sequence of events or steps. You can read these sentences more lightly, simply noting where the information is if you need it.

1.    There is no doubt that dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, beginning during the last Ice Age. What is less certain is the process of domestication that brought wolves, a predator of livestock and a danger to humans themselves, into the family as helper and companion. One widely accepted theory is that Paleolithic humans captured wolf cubs and raised them to serve as alarms when other large predators, such as cats in the Smilodon genus, approached. However, …

GRE expert’s mental paraphrase: Sure enough, “One … theory” indicates that there is more than one idea about this. Then “However” signals a contrasting theory. It will be interesting to see whether the author takes a side.

Attacking the passage means mentally paraphrasing as you read. GRE passages are often written in dense academic language, which makes answering questions about them harder. You can make answering questions easier by recasting the concepts in the same language you would use to explain them to a friend.

1.    There is no doubt that dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, beginning during the last Ice Age. What is less certain is the process of domestication that brought wolves, a predator of livestock and a danger to humans themselves, into the family as helper and companion. One widely accepted theory is that Paleolithic humans captured wolf cubs and raised them to serve as alarms when other large predators, such as cats in the Smilodon genus, approached. However, some paleoanthropologists are skeptical that humans would have befriended members of a species they viewed as inimical and sought to decimate. These scientists posit that some wolves—those best at reading human body language indicating hostile or tolerant intent and at adopting submissive, ingratiating behaviors such as tail wagging—approached early human settlements, first to scavenge and then to solicit handouts.

GRE expert’s mental paraphrase: So some scientists think taming wolves was our idea. But others think buddying up to us was actually their idea.

Attacking the passage means taking notes, or making a passage map. Writing down the passage’s broad topic, its narrower scope (the aspect of the topic the author’s interested in), and the author’s purpose, as well as the key ideas from each paragraph, will accomplish three goals. First, by digesting these important elements of the passage so you can briefly jot them down in a few words, you will ensure you really understand them. Second, if you capture the essential elements of the passage in your map, you can answer many questions just from your notes, saving time. Third, just as a road map tells you how to get to your friend’s house, your passage map will tell you where to find that detail the GRE is asking about, again saving time.

1.    There is no doubt that dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, beginning during the last Ice Age. What is less certain is the process of domestication that brought wolves, a predator of livestock and a danger to humans themselves, into the family as helper and companion. One widely accepted theory is that Paleolithic humans captured wolf cubs and raised them to serve as alarms when other large predators, such as cats in the Smilodon genus, approached. However, some paleoanthropologists are skeptical that humans would have befriended members of a species they viewed as inimical and indeed sought to decimate. These scientists posit that some wolves—those best at reading human kinesics indicating hostile or tolerant intent and at adopting submissive, ingratiating behaviors such as tail wagging—approached early human settlements, first to scavenge and then to solicit handouts. Natural selection then favored those wolves most pleasing to humans, specifically those most friendly and trainable, as these animals would elicit the most food and shelter; their descendants are today’s dogs, from Chihuahuas to Great Danes. Thus, if we accept that wolves took the initiative to join their lives with ours, it is not a much greater leap to believe that our species have coevolved such that those humans with traits that best satisfied wolves benefitted most from wolves’ protection and passed on those canid-friendly characteristics to their offspring. It is no wonder that so many people love dogs.

GRE expert’s passage map:

Topic: Domestication of wolves/dogs

Scope: Theories of how it happened

Purpose: To argue for idea that wolves approached humans

Theory #1: Humans caught wolf cubs, used them for protection

Theory #2: Wolves chose to hang out near human settlements, get fed. If true, then we “coevolved”—people selected for wolf-pleasing traits. People ♥ dogs → theory #2.

Attacking the passage does not mean reading faster. It means reading at a speed that allows you to do all of the above: interrogate the text, spot keywords and focus on the important ideas they highlight, mentally paraphrase, and map the passage. At first, this may mean reading more slowly than you will read on Test Day, given the Verbal section’s timing. However, as you practice, you will get faster. Even better, when you are thoroughly prepared to answer the questions, they will take much less time, thereby saving you time overall.

Bottom line: If you read the passage but then can’t answer the GRE’s questions about it, then reading it didn’t do you much good. Instead, attack the passage using the strategies briefly introduced here and discussed in much greater depth in Chapter 7. Then also use the approaches in Chapter 7 for analyzing the questions, researching and predicting the answers, and avoiding common types of wrong answers to master Reading Comprehension.


It can be hard to put away old reading habits in favor of attacking the passage. Fortunately, you don’t need to practice this skill only when you’re studying for the GRE.

In fact, you can practice anytime you are reading for school, for work, to keep up with current events, or any other reason. Approach the textbook chapter, memo, article, or whatever it may be as though you were taking the GRE. By practicing this type of reading whenever you have a chance, you will soon work past the initial awkwardness, and reading this way will become second nature. Plus, you are adding to the total time you are investing in your GRE score.

Then when you practice with GRE-type passages and questions, like the ones you’ll find next in this chapter and throughout this book (Chapter 7: Reading ComprehensionChapter 8: Verbal Reasoning Practice SetsChapter 20: Practice Test), as well as in your online practice tests (MSTs), you will see significant improvement!

Reading Comprehension Practice Set


2.    Questions 1–3 are based on the passage below.

3.    Among the earliest published literature by African Americans were slave narratives—autobiographical accounts of the lives of slaves who lived primarily in the American South in the early to mid-1800s. These accounts—which included letters, notes, and diaries—often discussed escapes, slave auctions, interactions with plantation owners and abolitionists, and the forced separation of family members, often parents and children. Some of the best-known slave narratives were written by Josiah Henson and Frederick Douglass. In the last three decades, a renewed awareness of the lives of enslaved African Americans has prompted a wave of novels and biographies, sometimes called “neo-slave narratives,” in which modern writers such as Toni Morrison and Octavia Butler offer a historical or fictional representation of the lives of slaves.



1.    The author would likely consider each of the following a slave narrative EXCEPT:

1.    an autobiography by a freeborn African American man who lived in New Orleans in the 1830s.

2.    personal papers of African American field hands who were enslaved in Alabama.

3.    correspondence between two sisters who were auctioned to different plantation owners in rural Georgia.

4.    a letter smuggled to an escaped slave from her brother, a slave in South Carolina.

5.    the diary of a Mississippi slave who was captured while attempting to escape.

2.    Consider each of the following choices separately and select all that apply. With which of the following statements would the author be likely to agree?

1.    No neo-slave narratives were published later than the early to mid-1800s.

2.    Neo-slave narratives are written primarily by women, while most slave narratives were written by men.

3.    Some neo-slave narratives are fictional, but all slave narratives are firsthand accounts.

3.    The passage provides the most support for which one of the following conclusions?

1.    The work of abolitionists in the Northern states helped bring about the publication of slave narratives.

2.    All of the narratives published in the early to mid-1800s were written by slaves living in Southern states.

3.    Most slave narratives were not published until over a century after they were written.

4.    In the mid-1900s, fewer people knew about slave narratives than have people in the last ten years.

5.    Neo-slave narratives such as those by Butler and Morrison have helped to bring attention to slave narratives by earlier writers.

5.    Questions 4–6 are based on the passage below.

6.    The problematic relationship between Heidegger’s political views and his seminal status as a philosopher is a continuing point of contention in the historical assessment of his achievements. His contributions to Continental philosophy in works such as Sein und Zeit have been read, in some circles, through the critical lens of his affiliation with National Socialism in Nazi Germany during the Second World War. His writing during that time covered a broad range of subjects, including philosophy, politics, and aesthetics. His work on ontology directly influenced his contemporary philosophical thinkers, such as Jean-Paul Sartre. Though he is widely regarded within philosophical circles as one of the preeminent luminaries, along with Husserl, in the modern development of ontology, certain scholars and thinkers militate against the value of his thought in its entirety. To regard Heidegger’s work highly would be, in their eyes, to absolve him of his support of the politics of Nazism, even though he is being evaluated solely on the basis of his contributions to the study of philosophy and not in any political context.



4.    Select the sentence in the passage in which the author summarizes the competing attitudes toward Heidegger within the academic community.

5.    Consider each of the following choices separately and select all that apply. The author asserts which of the following about Heidegger?

1.    Some academics view him positively for both his political and philosophical work.

2.    His legacy has been affected by opinions he expressed during World War II.

3.    Some academics view him positively, while others cannot countenance him at all.

6.    Which conclusion is implied by the author in his description of the status of Heidegger’s legacy?

1.    Heidegger’s work should not be given serious recognition due to his political views.

2.    The Second World War fostered a climate of intellectual innovation in Europe.

3.    It is possible to critically evaluate Heidegger’s contributions to philosophy while not absolving him of responsibility for his political views.

4.    Scholars should consider the entire body of work of a thinker, in every field to which he or she contributed, when assessing that thinker’s legacy in any one field.

5.    It is impossible to divorce the study of politics from the study of philosophy.

8.    Questions 7–10 are based on the passage below.

9.    A common misconception is that color refers only to a wavelength of light in the visual spectrum, from about 400 nanometers (violet) to about 700 nanometers (red). When an object reflects light of a given wavelength, we see that object as the corresponding color. So, for example, we might see a Braeburn apple as red and a Granny Smith apple as green because they reflect light of different wavelengths. However, color is not merely a property of an external physical object but rather the result of an interaction among that object, the light that shines on it, and, finally but most significantly, the manner in which the human eye and brain make sense of the reflected light stimulus. Thus, the study of color can properly fall as much within the realm of psychology as that of physics.

Experience is one psychological factor that informs our perception of color. For example, a child eating by a campfire that emits a great deal of yellow light may believe that the melted Cheddar cheese served on white bread on a white paper plate is actually a white cheese like Swiss or Monterey Jack. This occurs because the yellow light reflects off both the plate and the bread, which the child knows are white, and off the cheese, which the child isn’t sure about. All the objects therefore appear to be the same color, and the child assumes that color is white. On the other hand, an adult with experience viewing things in firelight would intuitively adjust her perception to account for the yellow light and would not make the same mistake.

Color is also perceived differently depending on its context. The noted abstract painter Josef Albers produced an influential body of work based on this phenomenon, including his series Homage to the Squarefeaturing nested squares of different colors. In one psychological experiment testing perception, the letter X is presented against two colored backgrounds. Although the letter is identical each time it is presented, it appears olive green in one context and lavender in the other context. This effect is achieved when the X is given a low-saturation blue color, or gray-blue, and the backgrounds are also low-saturation colors with hues on either side of blue on the color wheel. Because blue falls between purple and green on the color wheel, a gray-blue X against a gray-purple background will look gray-green, or olive, and the same Xagainst an olive background will look gray-purple, or lavender. In a similar manner, an intermediate color will look different against different primary color backdrops; teal, for instance, will look green against a blue background and blue against a green background.

Other subjective factors also influence the experience of color. These include cultural norms (Westerners most often name blue as their favorite color, whereas in China red is preferred) and simply what we learn about color. Consider that if a child learns that stop signs are “red,” the child will call them “red.” Another person in that society will also have learned to call stop signs “red.” However, whether the two people are experiencing the same color is unknown since that experience exists only in the mind. Therefore, if one were to tell an interior designer that color is an immutable physical property of objects, one would meet with skepticism. Before placing the electric blue sofa in a client’s living room, the designer considers the color of light the various light fixtures will emanate, the colors of the carpet and walls, and her client’s feelings about electric blue, which after all may not even be the same color in the client’s mind as it is in the designer’s.



7.    Which of the following statements best expresses the main idea of the passage?

1.    Color is primarily a psychological construct, and therefore the study of physics is not relevant to an understanding of how color is perceived.

2.    The phenomenon of color is a combined effect of the wavelength of light that shines on an object, the wavelength of light reflected by the object, and the human mind’s perception of the light stimulus that comes to the eye.

3.    Scientists have determined that although people may perceive color differently in different situations, color is an immutable characteristic of objects.

4.    Creative professionals, such as artists and interior designers, view color significantly differently than do scientists.

5.    To say that an object is a particular color is meaningless because color is a subjective perception influenced by experience, culture, and context and cannot therefore be ascertained to be a specific physical characteristic.

8.    The author would be most likely to agree with which of the following ideas?

1.    When attempting to achieve a particular aesthetic effect, a graphic designer should consider how the color used for the border of an advertisement will appear next to the color of the text.

2.    A decorator working for a client in China would not purchase an electric blue sofa for that individual’s living room, because blue is not a preferred color in China.

3.    Companies designing packaging for their products should avoid using gray tones because these would cause different customers to see the colors differently, thereby rendering the brand message inconsistent.

4.    Because red is a primary color, a wall should not be painted red if a sofa of an intermediate color will be placed against it, as the sofa’s color may be distorted by its proximity to the wall.

5.    Artists often explore the interaction of adjacent colors when juxtaposing different forms in the composition of their paintings.

9.    Consider each of the following choices separately and select all that apply. According to the passage, which of the following accurately describes human perception of color?

1.    A low-saturation color against a low-saturation background of an adjacent hue on the color wheel will appear a similar shade as the other adjacent hue.

2.    An intermediate color against a background that is one of the intermediate color’s component primary colors will be difficult to distinguish from that background.

3.    Letters written in an intermediate color or in a low-saturation color are more likely to be misread by children than by adults.

10.The author mentions Josef Albers in paragraph 3 in order to

1.    argue that artists are aware of how humans perceive color and use this phenomenon to enhance the impact of their work.

2.    illustrate the idea that color is fundamentally a subjective, aesthetic phenomenon rather than a scientific one.

3.    demonstrate that a child would probably see a painting in the Homage to the Square series differently than would an adult.

4.    explain that humans perceive the color of regular shapes, such as squares, differently than they perceive the color of less regular shapes, such as food on a plate or a letter of the alphabet.

5.    provide an example that reinforces the importance of the concept that color is a subjective experience manufactured in part within the human mind.

Answers and Explanations


1.    A

The first two sentences outline defining characteristics of slave narratives and provide examples of the kind of content they might include. Of the answer choices, the only one that falls outside the scope of the question is (A); slave narratives were written by enslaved people, not by free people. Choices (B)(C)(D), and (E) all fit the passage’s criteria in terms of subject matter, authorship, and geography; choice (A) is the only one that deviates.

2.    C

The passage’s last sentence tells us that neo-slave narratives have been published in the last three decades, so clearly they have been published more recently than the mid-1800s. Choice (A) is incorrect. Although the authors of the slave narratives mentioned are both men and the authors of the neo-slave narratives mentioned are both women, there’s no basis for us to conclude that this distinction holds true on a broader scale, (B). Only choice (C) addresses a distinction the author draws between slave and neo-slave narratives. The passage supports the statement that all slave narratives were autobiographical, whereas neo-slave narratives may be biographical or fictional.

3.    D

This question asks us to evaluate which conclusions follow logically from what the author says. The mention of “renewed awareness” implies a previous lapse or reduction in interest, so (D) is a reasonable conclusion. The passage doesn’t mention abolitionists or the process that led to the narratives’ publication, so (A) is out of scope. The language of (B) is too extreme; you’re told that the narratives were primarily, not completely, authored by slaves from the South. Choice (C) directly contradicts the first sentence of the passage. Choice (E) reverses the order of events presented in the passage; renewed interest in the narratives led to Butler and Morrison’s writing, not the other way around.

4.    Though he is widely regarded within philosophical circles as one of the preeminent luminaries, along with Husserl, in the modern development of ontology, certain scholars and thinkers militate against the value of his thought in its entirety.

The sentence you’re looking for is one that sums up how the intellectual community, as a whole, views Heidegger. This means the sentence should encompass all parties, both those that are receptive to him and those that view him negatively. The second sentence, “His contributions to Continental philosophy in works such as Sein und Zeit have been read, in some circles, through the critical lens of his affiliation with National Socialism in Nazi Germany during the Second World War,” may be tempting, but this is telling you the way in which his work has been interpreted, not the reactions or attitudes of the academic community. It also doesn’t mention any “competing” feelings toward his work. The last sentence provides justification for why certain scholars view him as they do, but it does not account for the other schools of thought. The next-to-last sentence, “Though he is widely regarded within philosophical circles as one of the preeminent luminaries, along with Husserl, in the modern development of ontology, certain scholars and thinkers militate against the value of his thought in its entirety,” sums up the complete range of reaction to Heidegger across the academic community.

5.    BC

Choice (A) is incorrect. The author nowhere explicitly states or implies that anyone has a positive reaction to Heidegger’s political views. She only intimates that scholars working in the study of philosophy have been influenced by his work in that field. Choice (B) is correct because the author states that Heidegger’s work, even in philosophy, has been viewed through this “critical lens.” Answer choice (C) is also correct. The author cites philosophers, such as Sartre, who have reacted positively to Heidegger’s philosophy and asserts that those who view him negatively do so because they cannot abide absolving him of guilt for his support of the Nazis.

6.    C

This question asks you to engage the text at a deep level and to infer what the author is suggesting. It is important to pay close attention to the author’s tone. The passage’s main idea is the evaluation of a thinker’s body of work by academic scholars in different fields. The author points out both Heidegger’s tremendous accomplishments in the field of philosophy and his less-than-admirable involvement with the Nazi party. Choice (B) is dealt with nowhere in the passage. Choice (E) goes beyond the scope of the passage. Choice (A) is incorrect, because the author emphasizes Heidegger’s influence on philosophers like Sartre and makes certain to point out that it is in “their eyes” that Heidegger is so viewed, not the author’s own. Choice (D) is incorrect because it is the opposite of what the author implies. Choice (C) is the correct answer because, in the last sentence of the passage, the author stresses that it is only Heidegger’s contributions to philosophy that are being considered, not his political views. The author seems to be suggesting that the two can be judged apart from one another.Part Two

7.    B

In the first paragraph, the author states that color is not only a function of wavelength, and then the keyword “However” signals what color actually is: “not merely” a physical property “but rather” the product of an interaction among the object’s properties (specifically, how it reflects light), the light itself, and the human observer. The rest of the passage elaborates on this interaction of the physical properties of light and the perception of light. Answer choice (B) states this idea and is correct.

Choice (A) is extreme because of the words “primarily” in the first part and “not relevant” in the second part; in the last sentence of paragraph 1, the author says the study of color is appropriate for both psychology and physics. The word “immutable” in choice (C) means “unchanging” and thus directly contradicts the main idea of the passage, which is that color is a construct of multiple factors and these factors can vary for any given object. Choice (D) might be inferred from the passage, but this is not the main point of the passage, which is about the nature of color and not about people’s reactions to color. Choice (E) is extreme due to the word “meaningless.” Although objects may appear different colors to different people under different conditions, and one can never be sure what another person means by the word red, the author never says it is without meaning to, for example, describe an apple as red.

8.    A

To prepare to answer this Inference question, review the points the author has made in the passage. The correct answer must be true given what the author has said. In paragraph 3, the author states that the color of an object changes depending on nearby colors. Therefore, answer choice (A) is supported.

Choice (B) misuses the detail that blue is not the favorite color of most Chinese. This does not mean that no Chinese person would like an electric blue sofa—after all, most people own objects of many colors, including colors that are not their favorite—and some Chinese people may prefer blue. Choice (C) is not supported. Using low-saturation or grayish tones next to each other can result in colors looking different than they would in isolation or next to other colors, but it does not result in different people perceiving the colors differently. Choice (D) is a distortion. The passage states that an item of an intermediate color that is placed near a color-wheel-adjacent primary color, such as orange placed near red, will look more like the primary color on the other side of it (orange next to red will look more yellow). Nothing suggests this effect is undesirable, so choice (D)’s “should not” is unsupported. Also, the passage only discusses the interaction of intermediate and primary colors that are next to each other on the color wheel, but this answer choice refers to any intermediate color being placed next to red. Finally, although one artist, Josef Albers, worked with color in this way, the passage does not suggest that artists in general “often” do this, and choice (E) is incorrect.

9.    A

“According to the passage” signals a Detail question. Research each answer choice to determine whether it matches an idea stated in the passage. Choice (A) is stated in paragraph 3, as shown by the example of gray-blue looking either gray-blue or gray-green when placed against a background of the other color. Answer choice (B) is a 180, or the opposite of what is true. An intermediate color placed next a component primary color will look more like the other component primary color, thus contrasting more sharply. Choice (C) is incorrect. According to paragraph 2, children may interpret colors differently than do adults because children lack experience interpreting color under different lighting conditions, but this has nothing to do with intermediate or low-saturation colors.


“In order to” signals a Logic question. It is asking why the author included Albers in the passage. Review your passage map. It should note that the author’s overall purpose is to explain why color is as much psychological construct as physical property. Then the main idea of paragraph 3, where Albers is mentioned, is that people see color differently depending on context. Thus, paragraph 3 is about a particular aspect of how color is a psychological construct. The author must mention Albers to support this idea, and answer choice (E) correctly states this.

The author is not making an argument about artists, so (A) is out. Choice (B) is incorrect because the author says in paragraph 1 that color does result in part from the physical properties of light and can properly be studied by physicists; the author does not mention Albers to say that color is solely a nonscientific phenomenon. (C) uses an idea from paragraph 2; this is not the point being made in paragraph 3. (D) states a comparison between different types of shapes that the passage never makes.