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GRE Article of the Month – December 2013

By Joshua Henkin for The New York Times

This month’s article, from the New York Times, is short and sweet—and very relevant. That is, if you are studying GRE vocab nightly, wondering how to get all those words to stick (or adhere to your brain), you’ll be able to commiserate with the author of this piece entitled A Nose For Words. He recounts his first exposure with vocabulary (after he bombs the PSAT) and how he ultimately falls in love with words (he became a writer after all).

So if you find yourself at first recoiling from the horrors of such unwieldy constructions as perfunctoriness and heterogeneity, don’t despair. Over time, you can develop an affinity for certain words based on how they sound or look (diaphanous, gossamer, and crepuscular—at least to my ear—are beautiful sounding words). And perhaps, like the author, you can go on to develop a lifelong appreciation of the variety of colorful words offered up the English language.

After you read this article, you may wonder which of the words the author mentions could actually come up on the GRE. I’d say all of them—except perhaps quondam, which the author himself admits is pretty obscure. Erstwhile (also mentioned in the piece), is a synonym for quondam, and is not at all obscure: it has actually been one of the answer choices on an actual GRE Sentence Equivalence question.


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