Manhattan Prep GRE Blog

Visual Dictionary: Clandestine

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Welcome to Visual Dictionary, a series of posts about words that are better expressed in pictures.

clandestine

Perhaps this fellow is incognito because he has
some clandestine business to attend to.

While clandestine means “secret,” it’s not a secret that the clandestine arm of the CIA is called the National Clandestine Service.

Some other words for “secret” are furtive and surreptitious.

While clandestine and furtive have similar meanings, furtive has a somewhat negative connotation. People have clandestine romantic affairs, but they furtively snoop through someone else’s email.

Take a Free Practice GRE Online

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Manhattan GRE has developed 6 full-length GRE computer adaptive tests and is giving one away for free. Obviously, after massively augmenting your lexicon from its formerly pedestrian status to its currently redoubtable one, you will want to get a score on that thing.

After the practice test, you’ll see a results area that will not only give you a score (actually, a score for quant and a score for verbal, with percentiles), but also:

  • A rundown of all the problems you did
  • Your answer to each problem and the correct answer
  • Explanations for each problem
  • The difficulty level of each problem
  • The amount of time you spent on each problem
  • The cumulative time you spent over the course of the test versus the target cumulative time at various junctures during the test

If you take additional practice tests (you can also purchase access to all six exams here for $30, or get access to them by purchasing Manhattan GRE’s books or taking a class), you will be able to run assessment reports that will break down — among other useful statistics — what percent of problems you are getting correct or incorrect in specific areas such as Triangles, Exponents, Inference Questions in Reading Comp, etc.

Go here to take the free practice test.

Visual Dictionary: Unctuous

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Welcome to Visual Dictionary, a series of posts about words that are better expressed in pictures.

This guy is unctuous.

He’s trying to sell you a used car with 250,000 miles on it, and telling you that, if you don’t like the car, you’ll easily be able to resell it for a profit on the internet, and also the car is a total babe magnet.  Doesn’t this guy look like he would say “babe magnet”?  Unctuous.

Slugs are often thought to be unctuous.

Seriously unctuous.

Unctuous means greasy or oily, like an unguent. But we often use the word as a metaphor. That guy with the phone — kind of gross, right? It’s like he’s sliming your brain.

Bill’s unctuous uncle called him up asking for money. “Look, nephew … I know I haven’t called you since you were six, but I’ve got this unguent business, and I just need a few thousand bucks to get it off the ground, and also pay my rent. I’ve always liked you better than your cousins.”

Bill wasn’t that gullible. He told his unctuous uncle, “I don’t want any part of your unguent business.”

Pop Quiz: Let’s Make Groups

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pop quizPop Quiz!

The following six words can be grouped by meaning into two categories.

Mentally place them into two synonym groups, then click “more.”

AUGMENT
DISSEMBLE
DISSIMULATE
AGGRANDIZE
DISINGENUOUS
COMPOUND

Read more

Visual Dictionary: Sagacious

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Welcome to Visual Dictionary, a series of posts about words that are better expressed in pictures.

This monk is sagacious.

Sagacious is the adjective form of sage, a wise person. A wise person is sapient (like Homo sapiens).

A very perceptive person could be called sharp, astute, perspicacious, or canny.

An educated person is erudite; an intellectual person is cerebral.

Let’s try an Antonyms problem:

PERSPICACIOUS:
A. inept
B. ambivalent
C. tepid
D. tantamount
E. opaque

Choose your own answer, then click “more.”

Read more

Three-Letter Words: Pat

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definitionSome of the most perplexing words on the GRE are diminutive. Who doesn’t see PAN : REVIEW and metaphorically scratch his or her head, or wonder what, exactly, a nib or a gin is on its own? Welcome to Three-Letter Words. A few of them might make you want to deploy some four-letter words.

Of course you can pat someone on the head, give someone a pat on the back, or use a pat of butter. You can also have something down pat.

But what does it mean when someone gives you a pat answer? As it turns out, pat can mean apt or right to the point, but it can also mean glib or facile. Thus:

I tried to help her get started with her philosophy paper by asking her “What is virtue?” Her answer was a little too pat: “It’s whatever the best qualities are.”

Complicated questions deserve more than pat answers. The answer to homelessness isn’t “build more homes.” Rather, a host of interrelated factors create the circumstances that cause homelessness in the first place.

Choose your own answer before clicking “more”:

PAT:
A. insipid
B. rueful
C. penetrating
D. sidereal
E. permeable

Read more

Visual Dictionary: Hedonist

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Welcome to Visual Dictionary, a series of posts about words that are better expressed in pictures.

Hedonists

There is no dearth of English words for seekers of pleasure. Sybarite and voluptuary are pretty good synonyms for hedonist. A sensualist is a person given to indulging the senses and appetites.

There are many more words expressing similar ideas, but with notable differences. For instance, an oenophile is a connoisseur of wines, but a carouser is a drunk.

Epicure, epicurean, gastronome, and gourmand all mean “lover of fine food and wine.” A glutton is a person who eats too much.

These words have negative connotations:

Debauchee – a debauched person, “addicted to excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures”

Lecher – as one GRE student put it, “It means perv.”

Libertine – a person who is morally or sexually unrestrained

Rake – “a dissolute or profligate person, esp. a man who is licentious”

And finally, wanton, bacchanalian, and dionysian are related adjectives.

Wanton has the sense of totally letting yourself go, which makes it a nice word for the covers of romance novels, but it can also pop up in the sense of “wanton violence” or “wanton disregard for human life.”

The GRE instructor hesitated when asked what bacchanalian means: there is not a dictionary definition in the world that doesn’t contain the word “orgiastic.”

You wouldn’t believe what that guy suggested on the first date — and before we’d even gotten our appetizer. When I reminded him of the place’s “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” policy, he rolled his eyes and suggested the same thing to our waitress. What a rake.

It took months before she came up with the perfect name for her burlesque-themed Asian broth company: Wanton Soup.

Pop Quiz: Pair the Pair

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pop quizPop Quiz!

Which two words below are SYNONYMS?

(Note: there are NO synonyms questions on the GRE, only antonyms. These pop quizzes use a variety of formats to get your brain to think about words in new ways).

EQUABLE
EQUIVOCAL
FETID
FECUND
AMBIVALENT
ENIGMATIC

Read more

Three-Letter Words: Vie

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definitionSome of the most perplexing words on the GRE are diminutive. Who doesn’t see PAN : REVIEW and metaphorically scratch his or her head, or wonder what, exactly, a nib or a gin is on its own? Welcome to Three-Letter Words. A few of them might make you want to deploy some four-letter words.


To vie is to strive for victory. It is typically followed by for, as in:

Its star quarterback having made a full recovery, the team was more than ready to vie for the title.

Try a sample Antonyms problem:

VIE :
A. lose
B. vanquish
C. capitulate
D. truncate
E. weaken

Choose your own answer, then click Read More for the solution.

Read more

Easily Confused Words: Knell and Knoll

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knell ≠ knoll

Knell is often heard in the expression “death knell.” What is a death knell, exactly? It sounds awful! A knell is the sound of a bell being rung slowly, such as for a funeral. You can also use knell as a verb. “The bell knelled!” she yelled: we were late to the funeral!

A knoll, however, is a small, rounded hill. As in, the “grassy knoll” that was instrumental in the assassination of JFK. A synonym is for knoll is hillock.

Here is the grassy knoll on Elm Street in Dallas, Texas, where a witness claimed to have seen a man holding a gun prior to the shooting of President Kennedy.

It doesn’t sound like as good of a conspiracy theory if you call it a “grassy hillock.”