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The Thesaurus

In this video, we are going to answer the question, Should I use a thesaurus to learn vocab. Now it’s a good question because you can learn a GRE word and then, hey, let’s go to the thesaurus and look up synonyms for that GRE word.

And suddenly you’ve learned ten words that all mean the same thing That’s the problem. Those words don’t necessarily mean the exact same thing. Oftentimes the thesaurus lumps words together. So they’re vaguely related.

But the problem is, the GRE could write a text completion in which two answer choices which the thesaurus says are synonyms. Actually can’t both be the correct answer. One of them works.

One of them doesn’t. and so you have the sentence, you look down, two words look to be the same, but only one of them really works. And what you do wanna understand are the subtle differences between the words, I give an example here of prosaic and hackneyed because in my thesaurus and many thesaures or thesauri, these two words would be grouped together.

Oh, Prosaic means hackneyed; hackneyed means mundane, means quotidian, and you just lump all these words there, but there are subtle differences. Prosaic means something that is just dull, lacking in imagination, sort of this commonplace thing.

Hackneyed, on the other hand is more negative. It describes someone’s creative output and it’s saying that person is unoriginal. They just come up with trite ideas. It is a little bit stronger. and so there is actually a text completion in the GRE official guide in which prosaic is the answer but hackneyed isn’t.

And so this is just one example, but again, You want to be careful, because you don’t want to be tripped up test day. So what should you do, well you should be careful always to note any important differences on your own.

And where can you find that out? A dictionary of course, so if you’re going to the thesaurus, but if you’re going to rely on a thesaurus, I would encourage only to do so once your vocab is already pretty big and you just wanna kind of look up a word and see if there are any synonyms you don’t know, but even then, always look up these words to see if there are any important differences so you’ll know lots of vocab words.

You’ll come up with synonyms clusters as you remember from the other video, it’s simply saying, think of a word like belligerent and think how many words can you think of, GRE vocab words, that are similar?

truculent, contentious, disputatious. But then when you start coming up with these synonym clusters, always be careful. Go back to the dictionary. Look at the definitions of the words and say, hey, are there any subtle differences. If not, then fine, you can lump them together.

But if there are, make note of those differences. And again, as far as the question goes, how should I use a thesaurus, the answer is, well, use it sparingly and use it carefully.

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