Dr. Rob Rosenthal


The following words frequently appear in the Critical Reading section of the SAT and the Verbal section of the GRE. In the passage-based question section, there are often questions about the author's tone.

The tone may be that of


objective adj. unbiased; n. a goal

impartial adj. unbiased, unprejudiced

neutral adj. not aligned with either side

dispassionate adj. not influenced by emotion

impersonal adj. showing no emotion, having no personal connection

or could convey the following


wistful adj. wishful, yearning, melancholic

nostalgic n. bittersweet desire for the past

indignation n. anger aroused by cruelty/ injustice

harmony n. agreement; pleasing combination

tranquil n. peaceful

wary adj. watchful, guarded

provocative adj. stimulating

lament v. to feel sorrow

cantankerous adj. ill-tempered

somber adj. gloomy

complacent adj. content, self-satisfied

sanguine adj. cheerful, confident

However, the tone is not likely one of


apathetic adj. lack of interest or concern

indifferent adj. lack of interest or concern

detachment n. indifferent, aloof

Questions may be posed about what the author


affirm v. to declare, confirm

allege v. to claim, assert as true

justify v. to give reasons for

validate v. to confirm, justify

assert v. to affirm, state positively, declare

speculate v. to conjecture, infer, consider

presume v. assume, take for granted, speculate

infer v. to deduce, ascertain, assume

derive v. deduce, infer, obtain from a source

hypothesis n. tentative explanation that accounts for facts, conjecture

These words indicate

clarity, or lack thereof

lucid adj clear, easily understood

explicit adj clearly expressed

articulate adj using clear language

unequivocal v. clear, unambiguous

equivocate v. to avoid making a clear statement

elusive adj. hard to grasp

convoluted adj. complicated

cryptic adj. puzzling

ambiguous adj. uncertain, open to interpretation

ambivalent adj. uncertain, indecisive, having opposing feelings

The following words convey

support or respect

substantiate v. to support with evidence

extol v. to praise highly, to acclaim

advocate v. to support

endorse v. to give approval

laud v. to praise highly

venerate v. to revere

empathy n. understanding another's feelings

reverent adj. respectful

tolerant adj. respectful; enduring

foster v. to nurture or aid

eulogy n. praise highly in speech or writing

In contrast, these words connote

rejection or disapproval

refute v. to disprove

belie v. to contradict, to misrepresent

renounce v. to reject, to give up

disdain v. to despise

dismissive adj. disdainful

condescending adj. disdainful

contempt n. scorn; disrespect of a court’s will

condemn v. to denounce; to sentence

undermine v. to weaken or impair

divisive adj. creating disagreement

repudiate v. to deny, reject, disavow

discredited adj. disbelieved, disgraced

defy v. rebel, go against orders

impugn v. dispute, question, contradict

insolent adj. rude, disrespectful

These words are


skeptical adj. doubting, questioning

cynical adj. skeptical about human behavior

incredulous n. skeptical

implausible adj. doubtful

dubious adj. doubtful

While these are


parody n. a satire or lampoon

mock v. ridicule

satire n. irony used to show human folly

facetious adj. humorous, flippant, insincere

deride v. ridicule, mock

irony n. use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning