Antonyms are words which are opposite, or nearly opposite, in meaning. In this section, you are given a capitalized word and asked to choose a word, or phrase, which is most nearly opposite in meaning to that word.

When you are doing the antonym portion of the GRE, keep in mind the prefixes, suffixes, and roots that you learned while developing your vocabulary. Remember, however, that some words can have several meanings. Very often the word that is most nearly opposite to the capitalized word is also opposite to a secondary meaning.

Many of the words you encounter in this section, and in the GRE itself, will be challenging; thus, it really is important that you maximize your vocabulary. When you read, write down words you have never seen before. See if you can guess at the word’s meaning from the context before checking its definition in a dictionary. Once you have looked up that word, check it to see if it has secondary meanings–often the GRE focuses on those secondary meanings. Finally, look up that word in a thesaurus for possible synonyms.

Your brain is like a computer. If you know several synonyms, one may act as a trigger to remember the others. Choosing the correct antonym while working under time pressure, as you do while taking the GRE, often triggers that memory system subconsciously. For this reason, the more words you can substitute for a particular word, the better your chances to do well on the GRE.

One difficulty of the antonym section, is that you cannot guess at a meaning from the context because there is no context. Consequently, perhaps the best tactic for working on antonyms, if you don’t know what the capitalized word means, is to look at the list of words that follows. Often after eliminating those words that are either all positive or all negative, there is only one opposite. See the example below: