Taming the Beast Part 3: Using ‘inclines’ to build GRE Vocabulary

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In our previous blog we discussed using Etymology as a neat mnemonic tool. We also elaborated about how Etymology helps make connections with words you’ve already learned and words that you will possibly learn. Making connections while learning vocabulary is important, it makes building vocabulary involving, entertaining and fun.

Once you’ve obtained a vast reservoir of words, you’ll realize that having all of them sorted in your head becomes a nightmare. What you need is a system that helps you clump up these huge amounts of words in a meaningful way.

A system that will help you not just organize them thematically, but also one that will help you remember the distinct differences in the tone and meaning of the words.

Inclines are meant to address exactly this!


An incline essentially clumps up similarly themed words, it’s an incline that signifies the degree of variation in meaning among the words. Look at the examples mentioned below.

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Starting from “timid”, which means to be shy: timid isn’t really a negative word, it just means that a person or thing is shy. The word diffident however indicates a lack of confidence, when a person doubts his or her own abilities.

“Diffident” has a negative connotation. So does the word “pusillanimous”, which again means to lack confidence, but also indicates that a person is cowardly. At the top is the word “craven” which means to be very cowardly and has a very negative connotation.

If a person calls you timid, he might actually mean it in a positive sense. Implying that you are of a shy and peaceable temperament. But, if someone calls you “craven” there is no doubt that they look down on you and have a very negative opinion of you.

Take a look at the other inclines as well. Do you see the distinctions in meaning?

When you learn words, make sure you learn them in context. Also, make sure you clump them up based on their common themes. When this is done, making inclines becomes much less arduous.

Sure, making inclines takes time and effort, but the rewards of spending the extra time to figure out the nuances in meaning among the words will definitely pay off on the GRE, especially with those tricky SE and TC questions!

Have you used inclines to aid your preparation? What has your experience been? Leave your comments in the comment section below!

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