Sentence Completion Exercises

To develop your ability to handle sentence completion questions, work your way through the following three series of exercises. Warning: These series of exercises are graded in difficulty. The further you go, the harder the going gets, just as on a video game. Go all the way. Even if you do less well on Level C than you did on Level A, look on every error as an opportunity to learn. Study all the sentences that you found difficult. Review all the vocabulary words that you didn’t know. Remember: these are all college-level sentences, set up to test your knowledge of college-level words.

After completing each exercise, see how many questions you answered correctly. (The correct answers are given at the end of the sentence completion exercises.) Then read the answer explanations for questions you answered incorrectly, questions you omitted, and questions you answered correctly but found difficult.

Level A


You should feel reasonably comfortable answering most of the sentence completion questions on this level of difficulty. Consider the four practice exercises that follow to be a warm-up for the harder questions to come.

Note: Whether you are working on Level A, Level B, or Level C, each section of the following practice exercises will begin with one or two relatively easy questions; each will also include some challenging vocabulary words. Do not expect to answer every question correctly.

Each of the following sentences contains one or two blanks; each blank indicates that a word or set of words has been left out. Below the sentence are five words or phrases, lettered A through E. Select the word or set of words that best completes the sentence.




Fame is ----; today’s rising star is all too soon tomorrow’s washed-up has-been.



(A) rewarding

(B) gradual

(C) essential

(D) spontaneous

(E) transitory






   1. The Cabinet member’s resignation was not a total ____: rumors of his imminent departure had been making the rounds in Washington for a week.

       (A) withdrawal

       (B) success

       (C) shock

       (D) eclipse

       (E) pretense

   2. The wagon train leaders chose to ____ their route when they realized that the heavy rains had made fording the river too ____ a task.

       (A) question…uncomplicated

       (B) disregard…common

       (C) abandon…legitimate

       (D) alter…impracticable

       (E) follow…elusive

   3. It is possible to analyze a literary work to death, ____ what should be a living experience as if it were a laboratory specimen.

       (A) questioning

       (B) dissecting

       (C) amending

       (D) nurturing

       (E) reviving

   4. Anthropologists traditionally argue that the male-female division of labor in hunter-gatherer societies arose because it ____ the nuclear family’s joint interests and thereby represented a sound, ____ strategy.

       (A) impaired…collaborative

       (B) respected…divisive

       (C) ignored…disinterested

       (D) restricted…provisional

       (E) promoted…cooperative

   5. Because of its strength, adhesiveness, and invaluable qualities as a nest-building material, many species of birds ____ silk into their nests.

       (A) smuggle

       (B) jettison

       (C) incorporate

       (D) entice

       (E) dissolve

   6. The recruit was ____ by the sergeant’s scathing rebuke; nobody had ever ____ him like that before.

       (A) flattered…honored

       (B) touched…noticed

       (C) stung…reprimanded

       (D) astonished…questioned

       (E) discouraged…intrigued

   7. Her memoirs are quite unlike those of her predecessors, for she is bold and aggressive where they are ____ and conventional.

       (A) audacious

       (B) exuberant

       (C) reticent

       (D) brazen

       (E) contentious

   8. The report was relentlessly ____ to the scientist, interpreting one complex event after another to his ____.

       (A) generous…dismay

       (B) disparaging…initiative

       (C) complex…indifference

       (D) hostile…discredit

       (E) polite…detriment

   9. People who don’t outgrow their colleges often don’t grow in other ways; there remained in Forster’s life and imagination a ____ of the undergraduate, clever but ____.

       (A) dislike…talented

       (B) touch…judicious

       (C) trace…immature

       (D) fear…dormant

       (E) vestige…sincere

10. She ____ recognition and fame, yet she felt a deep suspicion and ___ for the world in which recognition and fame are granted, the world of money and opinion and power.

       (A) mistrusted…antagonism

       (B) worked for…respect

       (C) endured…veneration

       (D) shunned…enmity

       (E) yearned for…contempt

11. Unfortunately, excessive care in choosing one’s words often results in a loss of ____.

       (A) precision

       (B) atmosphere

       (C) selectivity

       (D) spontaneity

       (E) credibility

12. Just as the earliest stone tools left by humans may seem nothing more than rock fragments to a layperson, so a lot of fossils require a trained eye to ____ them.

       (A) excavate

       (B) appreciate

       (C) disseminate

       (D) antedate

       (E) educate

13. According to a noted art critic, one would have to be completely immune to the sensuous pleasures of painting to be ____ Lucien Freud’s mesmerizing art.

       (A) drawn to

       (B) overcome by

       (C) enamored of

       (D) unaffected by

       (E) consistent about

14. Skulls are the Rosetta stones of anthropology because they bear unique features that let scientists ____ whether two fossil samples come from the same type of creature.

       (A) determine

       (B) prophesy

       (C) disregard

       (D) initiate

       (E) recollect

15. For years no one could make this particular therapy work in animals larger than rodents, but now two research groups have demonstrated its ____ in dogs.

       (A) efficacy

       (B) defects

       (C) variability

       (D) origin

       (E) virulence

16. Thanks to the emerging technology of active noise control, automakers may soon be able to ____ noise inside a car and create the long-promised “quiet ride.”

       (A) mute

       (B) endure

       (C) undertake

       (D) concentrate

       (E) augment

17. Despite her father’s ____ that “a woman’s place is in the home” and a ____ reception from her professors and fellow graduate students, Marian Cleeves went on to become the first woman to receive a doctorate in anatomy from the University of California at Berkeley.

       (A) warning…gratifying

       (B) reprimand…lavish

       (C) encouragement…respectful

       (D) admonition…cool

       (E) maxim…hospitable

18. John Keats, Dylan Thomas, Arthur Rimbaud—all these were poets who had to be poets, whom no one or nothing short of death could have ____ their courses.

       (A) confirmed in

       (B) derailed from

       (C) lauded for

       (D) interested in

       (E) convinced of

19. By arguing that much of what scientists think they know about the focusing mechanism of the eye is untrue, this radical scholar has gained a reputation as ____ in the field.

       (A) a fugitive

       (B) a convert

       (C) an artisan

       (D) a maverick

       (E) a peacemaker

20. The philosopher Auguste Comte ____ the term altruism to ____ unselfish regard for the welfare of others.

       (A) avoided…rationalize

       (B) coined…denote

       (C) applied…lessen

       (D) explained…refute

       (E) understood…terminate



   1. Given the ability of modern technology to _____ the environment, it is clear that, if we are not careful, the human race may soon be as extinct as the dinosaur.

       (A) enhance

       (B) destroy

       (C) analyze

       (D) repair

       (E) nurture

   2. As founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, Marian Wright Edelman has ensured that, even though the young cannot vote or make campaign contributions, they are nevertheless not ____ in Washington.

       (A) represented

       (B) distrusted

       (C) ignored

       (D) committed

       (E) welcome

   3. Using novel concepts and techniques previously unknown in commercial advertising, the ____ advertising campaign broke new ground in the field of marketing.

       (A) questionable

       (B) interminable

       (C) imitative

       (D) inadequate

       (E) innovative

   4. The attorney’s vibrant voice and ____ sense of timing were as useful to him as his prodigious preparation, attention to detail, and ____ of the law.

       (A) deficient…conception

       (B) excellent…ignorance

       (C) shaky…command

       (D) outstanding…mastery

       (E) impeccable…deprecation

   5. By putting the entire Woolf archive on microfilm, the project directors hope to make the contents of the manuscripts more ____ to scholars.

       (A) accessible

       (B) objective

       (C) appealing

       (D) implicit

       (E) relevant

   6. Some spiderwebs are sheets or tangles of threads that delay the ____ of prey, allowing the spider, ____ by vibrations that travel through the threads, time to make its way over to the entangled victim.

       (A) escape…alerted

       (B) consumption…frightened

       (C) capture…thwarted

       (D) pursuit…soothed

       (E) sighting…irritated

   7. Janet Malcolm depicts the biographer as a nosy, intrusive figure, ____ his subject’s private papers.

       (A) protecting

       (B) restoring

       (C) invading

       (D) acknowledging

       (E) compiling

   8. Because fruit juice fills babies’ small stomachs and ruins their appetite for foods that contain nutrients they ____, consuming large quantities can actually prove ____ to babies less than 24 months old.

       (A) prefer…beneficial

       (B) choose…counterproductive

       (C) require…helpful

       (D) need…detrimental

       (E) ingest…advantageous

   9. Telling gripping tales about a central character engaged in a mighty struggle with events, modern biographies satisfy the American appetite for ____ narratives.

       (A) brief

       (B) colloquial

       (C) digressive

       (D) undemanding

       (E) epic

10. According to poet John Berryman, there were so many ways to ____ a poem that it was quite amazing good ones ever got written.

       (A) dedicate

       (B) begin

       (C) ruin

       (D) recite

       (E) categorize

11. Musk oxen survived in isolated arctic habitats, but in the nineteenth century they declined rapidly even there, their numbers ____ by the armed enthusiasm of explorers, whalers, fur traders, and Eskimo.

       (A) swelled

       (B) augmented

       (C) devastated

       (D) underestimated

       (E) calculated

12. The aorta is like a tree trunk from which other major arteries ____.

       (A) escape

       (B) subtract

       (C) clamber down

       (D) branch off

       (E) strip away

13. He loved his friends, but he held people in general in ____ and maintained that human virtues were unworthy of comparison with a dog’s devotion.

       (A) reverence

       (B) abeyance

       (C) contempt

       (D) affection

       (E) honor

14. Rejecting Professor Marian Diamond’s work showing that rat-brain structure can increase by 5 to 7 percent, one ____ neuroanatomist stated flatly, “Young lady, that brain cannot ____!”

       (A) astounded…function

       (B) aghast…deteriorate

       (C) dumbfounded…think

       (D) skeptical…grow

       (E) finicky…die

15. For all his protestations of ____, Judge Learned Hand had been deeply ____ at being passed over for the United States Supreme Court, where Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Benjamin Cardozo, and countless others said he belonged.

       (A) innocence…embarrassed

       (B) disbelief…enervated

       (C) indifference…disappointed

       (D) despondency…frustrated

       (E) affection…commiserated

16. Always trying to look on the bright side of every situation, she is a born ____.

       (A) opportunist

       (B) antagonist

       (C) optimist

       (D) maverick

       (E) zealot

17. The most crucial issue for wildlife in this arid land is unimpeded ____ water.

       (A) passage through

       (B) freedom from

       (C) access to

       (D) saturation in

       (E) overflow of

18. According to Lionel Trilling, the paradox of liberalism is that in its quest for freedom it must move toward greater organization, stricter legislation, and increasing ____.

       (A) anarchy

       (B) self-realization

       (C) stagnation

       (D) control

       (E) levity

19. Our mood swings about the economy grow more extreme: when things go well, we become ____; when things go poorly, ____ descends.

       (A) restive…anxiety

       (B) euphoric…gloom

       (C) prudent…benevolence

       (D) ascetic…misery

       (E) ambivalence…optimism

20. Abandoning the moral principles of his youth, the aging emperor Tiberius led a ____, wanton life.

       (A) celibate

       (B) rudimentary

       (C) dissipated

       (D) circumspect

       (E) peripatetic



   1. Although a few of her contemporaries ____ her book, most either ignored it or mocked it.

       (A) dismissed

       (B) disregarded

       (C) deprecated

       (D) misconstrued

       (E) appreciated

   2. All critics have agreed that the opera’s score is ____, but, curiously, no two critics have agreed which passages to praise and which to damn.

       (A) intolerable

       (B) melodious

       (C) unsurpassed

       (D) conventional

       (E) uneven

   3. A man incapable of ____ action, he never had an opinion about something that he had not worked up beforehand, fashioning it with lengthy care.

       (A) premeditated

       (B) coherent

       (C) spontaneous

       (D) calculated

       (E) self-conscious

   4. Even as the local climate changed from humid to arid and back—a change that caused other animals to become extinct—our almost-human ancestors ____ by learning how to use the new flora.

       (A) anticipated

       (B) survived

       (C) diverged

       (D) deteriorated

       (E) migrated

   5. Marketing specialists have begun ____ what had once been a ____ audience into innumerable segments based on age, sex, income, and a host of pop sociological categories.

       (A) carving up…mass

       (B) bringing together…fragmented

       (C) tearing apart…sophisticated

       (D) unifying…distinct

       (E) transforming…responsive

   6. Like a balloon that is ____, aneurysms (swellings in the walls of arteries) sometimes enlarge so much that they ____.

       (A) expanding…contract

       (B) punctured…dilate

       (C) elastic…stratify

       (D) weightless…stretch

       (E) overinflated…burst

   7. Critics ____ the ____ in developing the new weather satellite to unexpected problems in manufacturing and testing its components.

       (A) credit…timeliness

       (B) impute…success

       (C) attribute…delay

       (D) assign…importance

       (E) deny…threat

   8. As former Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger was fond of pointing out, many lawyers are not legal hotshots; they often come to court ____ and ____ professional skills.

       (A) ill prepared…lacking

       (B) hot-tempered…criticizing

       (C) reluctant…demonstrating

       (D) argumentative…manifesting

       (E) conservative…excelling

   9. A hypothesis must not only account for what we already know, but must also be ____ by continued observation.

       (A) refuted

       (B) interrupted

       (C) verified

       (D) discredited

       (E) outmoded

10Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories is a considerable ____, superseding Winifred Gerin’s learned biography of the English novelist.

       (A) failure

       (B) rationalization

       (C) accomplishment

       (D) recollection

       (E) muddle

11. Boccherini was a good and interesting composer whose reputation has not sufficiently ____ the decline into which it fell after his death.

       (A) contributed to

       (B) benefited from

       (C) recovered from

       (D) conflicted with

       (E) derived from

12. Having billed himself as “Mr. Clean,” Hosokawa could not ____ the ____ of a major financial scandal.

       (A) survive…acclaim

       (B) withstand…notoriety

       (C) identify…exposure

       (D) resist…charms

       (E) censure…temptation

13. A curious ____ of Florence’s history is that this great center of Italian ____ should time and again have been home to acts of appalling savagery and inhumanity.

       (A) example…conflict

       (B) paradox…civilization

       (C) result…brutality

       (D) convention…culture

       (E) distinction…quality

14. Illness can be ____ as how disease feels, the experience of being sick: at once a physical or natural condition and a social and cultural one.

       (A) cured

       (B) survived

       (C) acclaimed

       (D) defined

       (E) deprecated

15. Lamenting that something horrid had recently befallen the craft of biography, biographer Arthur Schlesinger ____ the glut of gossipy new lives on the market.

       (A) deplored

       (B) forgot

       (C) acclaimed

       (D) composed

       (E) abridged

16. Instead of taking exaggerated precautions against touching or tipping or jarring the bottle of wine, the waitress handled it quite ____, being careful only to use a napkin to keep her hands from the cool bottle itself.

       (A) fastidiously

       (B) reverently

       (C) nonchalantly

       (D) tentatively

       (E) ambivalently

17. The eighteenth century was a kind of golden age in deaf history because, with the establishment of schools for the deaf, these people emerged from ____ and began to appear in positions of eminence and ____—as writers, engineers, philosophers, and intellectuals.

       (A) retirement…ambiguity

       (B) seclusion…compromise

       (C) obscurity…responsibility

       (D) hiding…ignominy

       (E) solicitude…disrepute

18. The crisis is not ____; it will not affect us for years to come.

       (A) specious

       (B) fleeting

       (C) meaningless

       (D) minute

       (E) imminent

19. When Dorothy and her friends realized that, despite his claims, the Wizard of Oz didn’t know how to get them back to Kansas, they were sure they’d been ____ by a ____.

       (A) befriended…philanthropist

       (B) succored…magician

       (C) captured…genius

       (D) duped…charlatan

       (E) delayed…miser

20. Now better known for its racetrack, Saratoga Springs first gained attention for the ____ qualities of its famous “healing waters.”

       (A) diagnostic

       (B) commercial

       (C) therapeutic

       (D) overlooked

       (E) experimental



   1. Repeat offenders who continue to drive under the influence of alcohol face having their drivers’ licenses permanently ____.

       (A) issued

       (B) recorded

       (C) authorized

       (D) revoked

       (E) disregarded

   2. Excited and unafraid, the ____ child examined the stranger with bright-eyed curiosity.

       (A) apathetic

       (B) drowsy

       (C) timorous

       (D) inquisitive

       (E) hesitant

   3. Though masterminded by the Metropolitan Museum’s Guy Bauman, this survey of Flemish paintings in America was clearly a ____ operation, aided by scholars throughout North America.

       (A) marginal

       (B) derivative

       (C) worthwhile

       (D) circuitous

       (E) collective

   4. I am seeking an ____ solution to this dispute, one that will be fair and acceptable to both sides.

       (A) equivocal

       (B) infamous

       (C) equitable

       (D) idiosyncratic

       (E) overrated

   5. A New World lizard, the basilisk, occasionally does something that seems to ____ physics: it runs across the surface of water for distances of up to 30 feet.

       (A) defy

       (B) quantify

       (C) assess

       (D) exemplify

       (E) corroborate

   6. The most consistent qualities of Forster’s novels are the human isolation and passivity in them; his principal characters stand slightly apart and ____, but rarely ____.

       (A) sneer…collapse

       (B) interact…adapt

       (C) mourn…recollect

       (D) observe…act

       (E) domineer…participate

   7. Far from being distracted or immobilized by his inner conflicts, Keynes was ____ by them into becoming one of the most productive, effective, and buoyant personalities of the twentieth century.

       (A) neutralized

       (B) energized

       (C) incapacitated

       (D) enervated

       (E) inhibited

   8. A born teller of tales, Olsen used her impressive ____ skills to advantage in her story “I Stand Here Ironing.”

       (A) domestic

       (B) metaphysical

       (C) narrative

       (D) diagnostic

       (E) argumentative

   9. Waving broadly at the still-applauding crowd, the speaker was highly ____ by the ____ response to her talk.

       (A) exasperated…vehement

       (B) gratified…enthusiastic

       (C) bewildered…profound

       (D) intimidated…sincere

       (E) delighted….skeptical

10. As a scientific document, the book should stand for several years until further ____ again make revision ____.

       (A) developments…impossible

       (B) obstacles…optional

       (C) attempts…undesirable

       (D) failures…detrimental

       (E) advances…necessary

11. The jazz musician cannot play well if he is completely ____, as if lying half asleep in a Jacuzzi.

       (A) untruthful

       (B) autonomous

       (C) sincere

       (D) relaxed

       (E) talented

12. Why do some plant stems develop a protective bark that enables them to survive the winter, while others ____ at the first frost?

       (A) blossom

       (B) adapt

       (C) shrivel

       (D) mature

       (E) wake

13. Salvador Dali’s tendency to fabricate events makes it difficult for the biographer to tell the story of his life with any degree of ____.

       (A) vividness

       (B) accuracy

       (C) solemnity

       (D) spontaneity

       (E) artistry

14. If Amelia Earhart’s acceptance was by no means ____, her fame was unusually widespread and her popularity long-lived.

       (A) universal

       (B) ambiguous

       (C) expedient

       (D) partial

       (E) genuine

15. Throughout his career he demonstrated strong belief in individual faith but powerful ____ about the organized church.

       (A) modesty

       (B) skepticism

       (C) devotion

       (D) discernment

       (E) ambition

16. The text abounds with details, but there are no overarching theses to ____ them.

       (A) specify

       (B) exaggerate

       (C) confound

       (D) unify

       (E) modify

17. The senator contended that, rather than being a ____ concern, global warming is a critical problem that imperils not just Americans but all life on Earth.

       (A) significant

       (B) hazardous

       (C) strategic

       (D) planetary

       (E) peripheral

18. It would be beneficial if someone so radical could be brought to believe that old customs need not necessarily be ____ and that change may possibly be ____.

       (A) defensible…premature

       (B) outdated…required

       (C) evil…salutary

       (D) invaluable…temporary

       (E) worthless…inadvisable

19. T. S. Eliot, famous for his ____, nevertheless accepted posterity’s interest in his life, ____ that his correspondence with his lady friends eventually would be read.

       (A) reticence…assuming

       (B) modesty…prohibiting

       (C) boastfulness…remembering

       (D) vanity…intimating

       (E) curiosity…regretting

20. Waiting impatiently in line to see Santa Claus, even the best-behaved children grow ____ and start to fret.

       (A) fidgety

       (B) noisome

       (C) sonorous

       (D) pungent

       (E) ambivalent