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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Words from the New ETS Books

This week, ETS released two official practice guides, and , each chock full of practice problems. In other words, we get to see what ETS is up to on the question creation front. In terms of vocabulary, the news is good. Many, many of the words have been featured on Vocab Wednesday. In fact, there are so few large GRE-looking words that aren’t already part of Vocab Wednesday that I’ve been forced to choose some words that, while they might be new to you, look downright demure.



You might have heard this word used in the context of love and romance. While it is true that woo means to court and seek a person’s love, the word can more generally apply to trying to win over. Lobbyists try to woo over politicians; a company can woo another company, if it hopes to get acquired. A highbrow author, after a couple of middling sales, might try to woo a mass audience by making her plots a little more conventional.


You might have heard of this word in the phrase “kindred spirits”, which describes two people who are similar. In a broader sense, kindred can apply to any two things that are related. You and your kindred spirit could share an interest in kindred books (sci-fi and cyberpunk), kindred television (detective shows and thrillers) and kindred music (jazz and ragtime).


Something trivial or of little importance is trifling. Taking the GRE and gaining admission into a program is not trifling. Missing your favorite T.V show because you have to study for the GRE is trifling.


Impetus is the motivating or driving force. Almost everyone taking the GRE—yes another GRE example—has an impetus. That is, they are not taking the GRE for the fun of it, so they can “hang out” in grad school. Each has his or her driving passion. That impetus could be the desire to add to an intellectual field, or, for the iconoclast, to challenge it. This word is reserved for the non-trifling things in life. So it doesn’t make sense to say, “The impetus for me walking to the fridge was I was hungry.”


I love this word. It describes music, writing, or anything being conveyed that tries to overwhelm you with cheesy emotions. The last scene in the movie Titanic; the music of Celine Dion in general; and those romance novels in the 10-cent heap, full of lines like “Being with her was agonizing bliss. It cut me, yet it nurtured my soul”—all embody cloying to the cloying degree.


Sticking with tradition? Uncomfortable with change? Well, you are very likely hidebound: you don’t like to rock the boat. Is the GRE hidebound, sticking to the same old format? I would argue with an affirmative ‘no’. Three years ago, ETS completely overhauled the GRE, showing us that even something as seemingly inviolate as the GRE can change.


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