Articles published in Vocabulary

How to Really Remember a GRE Vocabulary Word

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - How to Really Remember a GRE Vocabulary Word by Chelsey CooleyYou can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free. Crazy, right? Check out our upcoming courses here.


Think about your least favorite GRE vocabulary word. You know the one—every time you see it in your flashcards, you get that sinking feeling of dread. You always get this one wrong. You know it’s important, but for some reason, it just won’t stick in your head.

Okay, do you have a word in mind? Let’s conquer it—right here and now. Read more

GRE Vocab Words You Think You Know…But Don’t

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - GRE Vocab Words You Think You Know...But Don't by Chelsey Cooley

Did you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


Some researchers estimate that there are as many as a million words in the English language. However, you won’t see words like mylohyoid, ekphrasis, or cotyledon on the GRE. In fact, even though English has a huge number of extremely rare words, the GRE almost never tests them. Instead, it focuses on a set of words we’ll call rare but reasonable. Read more

Are GRE Verbal Questions Subjective?

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - Are GRE Verbal Questions Subjective? by Chelsey Cooley

Did you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


A lot of people think that GRE Verbal questions can have more than one right answer. The GRE itself doesn’t do anything to dispel this myth, since Verbal questions often include wording like which of the following is best supported? or with which statement would the author most likely agree?. These questions make it sound as if you’re supposed to read five pretty good answers and pick the best one, even if the other ones are okay, too. However, this mindset will hurt you on test day. Read more

Why Isn’t My Vocabulary Knowledge Helping Me on the GRE?

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - Why Isn't My Vocabulary Knowledge Helping Me on the GRE? by Chelsey CooleyDid you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


You’re up to your ears in flashcards. You know the meanings of ‘nostrum’, ‘pelf’, and ‘maculated’. Maybe you’ve even used the spaced retrieval technique; here’s a piece that I wrote on this technique, and here’s another from my colleague, Céilidh Erickson. But when you take practice tests, your hard work with vocabulary doesn’t seem to be paying off. Why are you still missing GRE Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence problems? Read more

How I Got a 340 on the GRE

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - How I scored a 340 on the GRE by Chelsey CooleyDid you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


The last time I took the GRE was about a year ago, and I scored a perfect 170 on both sections. Obviously, it helped to have taught GRE classes for years! But that wasn’t the whole story. Here are a few notes on how I studied, and how I took the test. Read more

Hack the GRE Vocab: Use Spaced Repetition to Get Maximum Results with Minimum Time Investment

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - Hack the GRE Vocab - Used Spaced Repetition to Get Maximum Results with Minimum Time Investment by Ceilidh EricksonDid you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


Your time is a limited commodity. Studying vocabulary for the GRE can be tedious and time-consuming, and worst of all…inefficient.

If you’re like most students, you flip through flashcards (either premade or hand-made) and quickly try to remember what was on the back. After a few dozen repetitions over a few weeks you probably remember many of them. But…you don’t retain that information for long, and you might not recognize the words when used in a slightly different context.

Vocabulary is a significant component of GRE verbal, but it’s not actually something that you should invest a significant portion of your time studying! That’s because there’s no way to determine which words you’ll see on test day – you might see a dozen of the words you studied, or you might not see any at all.

So, you want to learn as many words as you reasonably can between now and test day with the minimum time spent studying! Read more

Here’s What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do on GRE Vocab

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - What to Do When You Dont Know GRE Vocab by Chelsey CooleyDid you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


While you’re taking the GRE, you’ll encounter words that you just haven’t learned. It happens to everyone: I’ve gotten a perfect score on the GRE (twice!), and both times, I saw multiple Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence answer choices that I couldn’t define. What does a smart test-taker do when this happens? Read more

GRE Tip: Hack Your Memory with Memorable Mnemonics

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blog-brainhackCan’t get enough of Neil’s GRE tips? Few can. Fortunately, you can join him twice monthly for a free hour and a half study session in Mondays with Neil.

In front of you sits a big stack of GRE vocab words you want to memorize. How do you get all of these words in your long-term memory as quickly and efficiently as possible? You could just try to cram things into your head through sheer force and repetition. But in my experience, that’s too slow, and students often learn the word-for-word definition without actually processing what the word really means. I’ve had more than one student tell me that “obsequious” means “servile” without knowing what “servile” means… Read more

GRE Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence: A Little Grammar Does a World of Good (Part 1)

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2-9-LittleGrammarWhile studying for the GRE Text Completion (TC) and Sentence Equivalence (SE) questions, you naturally want to study vocabulary.  After all, that’s what the test is testing, right?

Yes and no.  The GRE does test vocabulary, but it also tests your ability to analyze a sentence and divine the author’s intended meaning.  (And for those of you keeping score at home, did I use the word ‘divine’ correctly?  Are you familiar with this less common usage?)

And so, we preach (sorry, with the word ‘divine’ earlier, I had to!) a method for TC and SE that involves identifying the Target, Clues, and Pivots in the sentence.  All well and good, but how do you to this?  Here’s where the following limited grammar discussion should help, because although the GRE does not directly test grammar, a little grammar knowledge can be immensely helpful!

We begin with the core elements that every sentence contains: the subject and the verb.  Separating the subjecting and the verb from other elements (which I will generically call descriptors) is part 1 of my TC and SE analysis.  Part 2 is matching each descriptor to what it describes.

So let’s see two examples.  One is a TC example from Lesson 1, the other is a SE example from the 5 lb. Book.
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Clothes Make the Man: 10 GRE Vocabulary Words Related to Clothing

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gre-vocabularyOne of my favorite ways to learn vocabulary is to sort my vocabulary words into various categories. Somehow, searching my mind for ways to group them together really helps them to stick with me in a way that flashcards and sentences sometimes don’t.

The GRE has done a good job, if you can believe it, at reducing the number of antiquated, profession-based words on the exam. But because those words get used often and have a pronounced place in literature, they probably won’t leave vocabulary tests completely any time soon.

In this article, we’ll review ten words related to clothing. It’s important to remember that most of these words, if they show up on your test, won’t be used in sentences about clothing. They are more likely to be used in a comparison to something similar, as part of a simile or metaphor.

(1) Mantle. A mantle is a loose, sleeveless cloak or covering, generally worn by a woman. It’s something that covers the whole body like a blanket. Because of that, it’s second meaning is that a mantle is some broad or important role that is passed down from one person to another. “Mantle” is also a verb, which means to cover completely or envelop.

I generally picture an important cloth robe, such as the robe of a shaman or town elder, which covers the person entirely and will be passed down from family member to family member. That image bundles together all the definitions of “mantle” for me and helps me keep them clear in my mind.

(2) Poncho. A poncho is a blanket-like shawl worn over the shoulders, sometimes made of plastic in order to keep away rain. Its key quality is that it covers something up, which is the quality that’s likely to be referenced in a metaphor.

(3) Raiment. “Raiment” is just another word for “clothing”. It is most likely to be used literally, but could also be used to describe the covering or costume on something in a metaphorical way. This is a good word to memorize because it is a tough one to “figure out” during the test – not a lot of roots or other similar words to tie it to.

(4) Unravel. To unravel something means to unwind it so that it comes apart, like you would do with a spool of thread or a piece of cloth. While “unravel” is often used literally, it’s perhaps more often used more metaphorically to mean “come undone” in the sense of a plan or someone’s mental health “coming apart at the seams”, to use another clothing-derived expression.

Annoyingly, the word “ravel” means “to unravel something”. Yikes. It also means to tangle, knot, or complicate it. As a noun, a “ravel” is a tangle or cluster.

(5) Sartorial. “Sartorial” is an adjective meaning having to do with tailoring, clothes, style or fashion. If someone has a sartorial flair, for example, he or she has a flair for style and clothing. I am a big fan of the website The Sartorialist, where a respected fashion photographer photographers people with unique style and tailoring the world over. Checking it out might help you remember what this word means!

(6) Millinery. Specifically, “millinery” means “women’s hats”, or the business of making or selling women’s hats. Talk about something we don’t need a word for. Not the world’s most common GRE word, but if it shows up, it’s fairly hard to guess or figure out that specific meaning if you don’t already know it.

(7) Pleat. A pleat is a fold stitched into cloth, such as you would have in a pleated skirt. The word “pleat” can be used metaphorically to mean fold or crease in something other than cloth. For example, mountain ridges could pleat the landscape.

(8) Plait. A plait is a braid. While you commonly see braids on cloth made of ribbon, cord, or string, you can braid everything from hair to bread dough. When you realize that to braid means to wind, weave, or tie together, you can see how this word is often used metaphorically: you can plait together ideas, concepts, or words, among other things.

(9) Sheathe. A sheath is the protective cover that holds a weapon such as a knife or sword, and to sheathe something is to put it in such a protective covering. The verb “sheathe” is often used metaphorically to mean put something “sharp” or dangerous in a covering so that it can’t do any damage or have any effect. For example, you might want to sheathe your razor-sharp wit when you are in court, or sheathe your sharp tongue when talking to your child’s vice principal.

(10) Ragamuffin. Growing up, I spent lots of time with my grandmother, who is turning 90 in two weeks, so I definitely know the definition of “ragamuffin”, because I was called one all the time. A ragamuffin is someone, usually a child, dressed in ragged or messy clothes. Someone who’s unkempt (which is another GRE word). A guttersnipe, if you want another weird word.

Picture the orphans from “Annie” or the street kids from “Oliver Twist” and you’ll have a good idea what a ragamuffin is. Or, in my grandmother’s world, anyone with holes in their jeans or wearing (gasp!) a sweatshirt.

Can you think of any other GRE words that have to do with clothing? Share them in the comments!