Sentence Completion Exercises


Level B


Most high school students have some difficulty answering sentence completion questions on this level. Consider the four practice exercises that follow to be a good sample of the mid-range sentence completion questions you will face on the SAT.

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. In the 1920s Hollywood became a magnet for men and women on the cutting edge—____ artists genuinely excited by the possibilities of the up-and-coming film medium.

       (A) impecunious

       (B) innovative

       (C) unprepossessing

       (D) impenitent

       (E) apathetic

   2. A leading philosopher of our time, Ludwig Wittgenstein, laid down a ____ to which good historians ____: “Of that of which nothing is known nothing can be said.”

       (A) burden…protest

       (B) law…amend

       (C) rule…adhere

       (D) maxim…succumb

       (E) weapon…surrender

   3. One by one, she ____ almost all of her supporters until, at the end, only a handful of her closest allies really wanted her to stay in office.

       (A) promoted

       (B) alienated

       (C) represented

       (D) exaggerated

       (E) liberated

   4. The banquet had ____ effect on the overfed guests: they began to nod off in their seats.

       (A) a soporific

       (B) a cumulative

       (C) an immoderate

       (D) an invigorating

       (E) a negligible

   5. Thomas Jefferson called The Federalist papers “the best commentaries on the principles of government ever written,” and two centuries later they still ____ as the most ____ statements of American political philosophy.

       (A) stand…derivative

       (B) rate…abstruse

       (C) rank…impressive

       (D) fascinate…ambiguous

       (E) compete…underrated

   6. Left to endure a penniless old age, the ____ man lived to regret his ____ youth.

       (A) miserly…friendless

       (B) reclusive…affable

       (C) eccentric…fleeting

       (D) egotistical…frugal

       (E) improvident…prodigal

   7. Peter has a bad habit of making ____ remarks that wander so far off topic that we forget the gist of what he is saying.

       (A) awkward

       (B) pertinent

       (C) digressive

       (D) telling

       (E) tentative

   8. Though set in a mythical South American country, Isabel Allende’s novel is _____ the tragic history of Chile.

       (A) irrelevant to

       (B) rooted in

       (C) inconsistent with

       (D) exceeded by

       (E) indifferent to

   9. The marketers’ ____ in donating the new basketball backboards to the school system are not solely ____; they plan to sell advertising space on the backboards, turning them into miniature billboards.

       (A) losses…obvious

       (B) expectations…peculiar

       (C) aims…mercenary

       (D) reasons…sensitive

       (E) motivations…philanthropic

10. Justice Harry Blackmun’s retirement, while unlikely to bring about a drastic change in the Supreme Court, will remove a distinctly ____ voice from the Court’s often featureless mix.

       (A) bland

       (B) personal

       (C) moderate

       (D) neutral

       (E) derivative

11. Having just published his fourth novel in an almost 40-year career, Gaddis describes himself, with some ____, as a writer who has never been in a ____ to get into print.

       (A) expectation…mood

       (B) impatience…technique

       (C) understatement…rush

       (D) indecision…position

       (E) exaggeration…school

12. Actors fade out of view with depressing frequency; the theater is a ____ profession at best.

       (A) romantic

       (B) demanding

       (C) precarious

       (D) disinterested

       (E) degenerate

13. Though Phil had expected to feel overawed when he met Joe Montana, he found the world-famous quarterback friendly and ____.

       (A) querulous

       (B) acerbic

       (C) domineering

       (D) unintimidating

       (E) taciturn

14. Flying in the face of ____, the writer George Sand shocked her contemporaries by taking lovers and by wearing men’s clothes.

       (A) immodesty

       (B) reconciliation

       (C) emancipation

       (D) convention

       (E) modernism

15. In the poem “Annabel Lee,” the speaker reveals that he is not ____ to the death of his beloved; on the contrary, he is ____.

       (A) indifferent…apathetic

       (B) reconciled…acquiescent

       (C) resigned…inconsolable

       (D) accustomed…inured

       (E) relevant…responsive

16. The artists of the Chinese avant-garde have used Western styles ____ and meaningfully to accomplish artistic ends of their own.

       (A) obsequiously

       (B) shamefully

       (C) cannily

       (D) indifferently

       (E) problematically

17. Despite the poem’s archaic and tortuous language, the thrust of the poet’s argument is surprisingly ____.

       (A) vapid

       (B) dated

       (C) blunted

       (D) intelligible

       (E) idiosyncratic

18. Splitting the country into conflicting factions, pitting brother against brother, the Civil War was ____ experience for the American people.

       (A) an ephemeral

       (B) a divisive

       (C) a peripheral

       (D) an illuminating

       (E) a salutary

19. Because of the trauma they have experienced, survivors of a major catastrophe are likely to exhibit ____ of behavior and may require the aid of competent therapists.

       (A) concessions

       (B) diminutions

       (C) aberrations

       (D) restrictions

       (E) altercations

20. The reader has the happy impression of watching an extraordinarily inventive and intellectually ____ novelist working at the ____ of her powers.

       (A) dishonest…apex

       (B) creative…eclipse

       (C) fecund…height

       (D) effete…limits

       (E) amenable…diminution



   1. While some Southern writers see the past as a heavy burden, others see it as a subject for ____ reflection.

       (A) gloomy

       (B) wearisome

       (C) interminable

       (D) nostalgic

       (E) bleak

   2. One of Detroit’s great success stories was Lee Iacocca’s revitalization of the moribund Chrysler Corporation, turning it into a ____ competitor.

       (A) vigorous

       (B) tentative

       (C) marginal

       (D) negligent

       (E) superficial

   3. A journalist rather than a scholar, Mr. Cose seems nevertheless to be ____ most of the serious studies relevant to his topic.

       (A) overawed by

       (B) ignorant of

       (C) associated with

       (D) wearied by

       (E) familiar with

   4. Egocentric, at times vindictive when he believed his authority was being questioned, White could also be kind, gracious, and even ____ when the circumstances seemed to require it.

       (A) self-deprecating

       (B) authoritarian

       (C) provocative

       (D) taciturn

       (E) disdainful

   5. Far from being in the ____ condition promised by the realtor, the condo was shabby and dilapidated.

       (A) vacant

       (B) indifferent

       (C) pristine

       (D) marginal

       (E) euphoric

   6. Polls indicate that many prospective voters in the next presidential election are ____ about the outcome; they do not seem to care who wins.

       (A) enthusiastic

       (B) inadequate

       (C) antagonistic

       (D) apathetic

       (E) suspicious

   7. If you need car parts that the dealers no longer stock, try ____ for odd bits and pieces at the auto wreckers’ yards.

       (A) waiting

       (B) bantering

       (C) scavenging

       (D) riveting

       (E) insuring

   8. Grateful as we are for these splendid books, they remain isolated examples of excellence in a literature of ____.

       (A) competition

       (B) distinction

       (C) grandeur

       (D) mediocrity

       (E) affirmation

   9. Despite the ____ discussions of recent months, observers say that the administration and the developer have made progress in their negotiations and are close to ____ on a purchase price.

       (A) amicable…haggling

       (B) acrimonious…defaulting

       (C) heated…agreeing

       (D) fruitful…settling

       (E) constructive…compromising

10. People expected Winston Churchill to take his painting lightly, but Churchill, no ____, regarded his artistic efforts most seriously indeed.

       (A) virtuoso

       (B) zealot

       (C) dilettante

       (D) altruist

       (E) renegade

11. Aimed at curbing European attempts to seize territory in the Americas, the Monroe Doctrine was a warning to ____ foreign powers.

       (A) magnanimous

       (B) credulous

       (C) reticent

       (D) predatory

       (E) allied

12. It is a spotty sort of book, with many pages that, if not exactly ____, are less than ____.

       (A) bland…tedious

       (B) pretentious…conventional

       (C) dull…exciting

       (D) eventful…newsworthy

       (E) murky…obscure

13. Although Miss Watson never joined the temperance movement, she was a strict teetotaler and would not ____ drinking alcohol.

       (A) recall

       (B) rebuke

       (C) condone

       (D) evade

       (E) relinquish

14. In discussing Rothko’s art, Breslin is ____ in keeping to the facts and resisting the ____ of fanciful interpretation.

       (A) scrupulous…temptation

       (B) meticulous…integrity

       (C) ungainly…reward

       (D) uninterested…echo

       (E) inept…bias

15. Burdened by debt, Lydgate abandons his dreams of reforming medicine to take a conventional but ____ practice in London.

       (A) lucrative

       (B) ordinary

       (C) innovative

       (D) intangible

       (E) exotic

16. Numerous studies have found that people who choose to represent themselves in court on the whole exercise pretty good judgment—they seem to have a ____ sense of when they need a lawyer and when they don’t.

       (A) faulty

       (B) capricious

       (C) reliable

       (D) transient

       (E) drastic

17. When I listened to her cogent arguments, all my ____ were ____ and I was forced to agree with her point of view.

       (A) senses…stimulated

       (B) opinions…confirmed

       (C) preconceptions…substantiated

       (D) questions…interpolated

       (E) doubts…dispelled

18. What made Ann such a fine counselor was her ____, her ability to put herself in her client’s place and feel his emotions as if they were her own.

       (A) integrity

       (B) empathy

       (C) tenacity

       (D) impartiality

       (E) aloofness

19. Samuel Johnson gave more than ____ cooperation to his biographer, James Boswell; he made himself available to Boswell night after night, furnished Boswell with correspondence, even read his biographer’s notes.

       (A) innocuous

       (B) collusive

       (C) tacit

       (D) edifying

       (E) diplomatic

20. Where lesser scholars would have been ____ by the vast collection of unpublished letters, rough drafts, and journals left by Henry James, Leon Edel was emboldened by its discovery and began to plan an ambitious series of studies on the life and works of the novelist.

       (A) intrigued

       (B) encouraged

       (C) incensed

       (D) taxed

       (E) daunted



   1. In their determination to discover ways to ____ human life, doctors fail to take into account that longer lives are not always happier ones.

       (A) ease

       (B) prolong

       (C) eradicate

       (D) recuperate

       (E) dissect

   2. In this survey of Revolutionary America, the author finds a remarkable homogeneity of opinion from Massachusetts to Georgia; the differences between the sections are ____, almost always explainable by differences in climate or topography.

       (A) sharp

       (B) nonexistent

       (C) irreconcilable

       (D) superficial

       (E) enormous

   3. Halls and audiences for lieder recitals tend to be smaller than those for opera and thus more ____ the intimacy and sense of close involvement, which is the recital’s particular charm.

       (A) inauspicious for

       (B) destructive of

       (C) conducive to

       (D) compromised by

       (E) indifferent to

   4. Despite their reputations as soothing love songs sung by mothers to lull fretful infants to sleep, many lullabies are of a dark, even ____ nature.

       (A) soporific

       (B) manipulative

       (C) threatening

       (D) auspicious

       (E) innocuous

   5. The mayor and school superintendent let their dispute over budget cuts ____ to ugly and destructive proportions.

       (A) escalate

       (B) automate

       (C) stagnate

       (D) condense

       (E) dwindle

   6. Wherever Lao Li travels, he makes slides of contemporary works of art; his archives ____ every meaningful artistic effort in modern China.

       (A) deride

       (B) ignore

       (C) perpetrate

       (D) document

       (E) abridge

   7. Contrary to her customary ____ behavior, Susan began leaving parties early to seek the solitude of her room.

       (A) reclusive

       (B) circumspect

       (C) decorous

       (D) gregarious

       (E) altruistic

   8. Science is always ____, expecting that modifications of its present theories will sooner or later be found necessary.

       (A) conclusive

       (B) irrefutable

       (C) original

       (D) tentative

       (E) inflexible

   9. One of the great killers until barely 50 years ago, tuberculosis (“consumption” as it was then named) seemed a scourge or ____ rather than the long-term ____ illness it was.

       (A) plague…chronic

       (B) detriment…ominous

       (C) antiseptic…prevalent

       (D) vestige…contemporary

       (E) epidemic…salutary

10. Gaddis is a formidably talented writer whose work has been, unhappily, more likely to intimidate or ____ his readers than to lure them into his fictional world.

       (A) entice

       (B) strengthen

       (C) invigorate

       (D) transform

       (E) repel

11. Compared with the ostentatious glamour of opera, classical song (increasingly called lieder everywhere) is a more ____ tradition.

       (A) articulate

       (B) unrepresentative

       (C) subdued

       (D) broad-minded

       (E) worldly

12. This well-documented book is ____ researched, fluently written, and unfailingly intelligent in tracing the ____ course of its subject’s tormented career.

       (A) indifferently…triumphant

       (B) inadequately…unfortunate

       (C) painstakingly…tragic

       (D) carefully…auspicious

       (E) thoroughly…promising

13. Lexy’s joy at finding the perfect Christmas gift for John was ____, for she still had to find presents for the cousins and Uncle Bob.

       (A) transitory

       (B) antithetical

       (C) exuberant

       (D) exhaustive

       (E) incontrovertible

14. Life is a ____ of the sacred and the profane, of good and evil; to try to ____ them is futile.

       (A) rejection…embrace

       (B) commingling…separate

       (C) misalliance…endure

       (D) defamation…reform

       (E) confusion…promulgate

15. Under the rule of the foreign invaders, the land seemed asleep, save for a small group of rebels who sought to kindle the ____ nationalism of the people.

       (A) valid

       (B) blatant

       (C) dormant

       (D) pretentious

       (E) contemplated

16. Many of the early Hollywood moguls sought to ____ themselves and enhance their celluloid empires by snaring ____ writers and intellectuals as screenwriters.

       (A) advance…presumptuous

       (B) aggrandize…prestigious

       (C) intimidate…unsuspecting

       (D) glorify…superannuated

       (E) sabotage…distinguished

17. The Turner Network’s production is an absorbing Heart of Darkness, watchful, surreptitious, almost ____ as it waits to ____ our emotions.

       (A) lighthearted…cater to

       (B) melancholy…cheer up

       (C) mercenary…pay for

       (D) predatory…pounce on

       (E) furtive…figure out

18. Helen valued people who behaved as if they respected themselves; nothing irritated her more than an excessively ____ waiter or a fawning salesclerk.

       (A) austere

       (B) domineering

       (C) grave

       (D) obsequious

       (E) contentious

19. Whereas most scholars have tended to regard Monteverdi’s opera L’Orfeo as the beginning of a tradition, Mr. Pickett sensibly considers it the ____ of one.

       (A) origin

       (B) example

       (C) presence

       (D) culmination

       (E) birthright

20. Though ostensibly teaching posture, Feher brings into play techniques of ballet, yoga, and vocal projection to come up with lessons that can best be described as ____.

       (A) problematic

       (B) eclectic

       (C) homogeneous

       (D) unpretentious

       (E) doctrinaire



   1. During the troubles of 1750, the extent of ____ in Scotland was terrible; many Scots could afford nothing to eat but oatmeal porridge.

       (A) anarchy

       (B) detriment

       (C) punishment

       (D) apathy

       (E) destitution

   2. The biographer of Tennyson is confronted with the problem, rarely solved, of how to make a basically ____ life interesting.

       (A) dramatic

       (B) bewildering

       (C) intriguing

       (D) controversial

       (E) uneventful

   3. If, like the mole rat, you could run backward as easily as forward but had weak eyes that could see only dim shadows of light and dark, you too might want touch-sensitive whiskers to help ____ you through the tunnels of your underground home.

       (A) carry

       (B) illuminate

       (C) excavate

       (D) distract

       (E) guide

   4. Getting into street brawls is no minor matter for professional boxers, who are required by law to restrict their ____ impulses to the ring.

       (A) humorous

       (B) aggressive

       (C) obligatory

       (D) amateurish

       (E) legitimate

   5. For all of his turn-of-the-century trappings, the novel’s hero is basically a ____ voice; his values and cultural ____ are of the present more than the 1890s.

       (A) derivative…antecedents

       (B) modern…antiquity

       (C) contemporary…sensibility

       (D) familiar…descendants

       (E) hollow…premises

   6. She wondered whether triangles, which had only three sides, ____ as polygons, which she thought of as many-sided.

       (A) theorized

       (B) estimated

       (C) qualified

       (D) subsisted

       (E) multiplied

   7. Kepler’s observations of the supernova would have been more ____ and valuable had they been made with a telescope; unfortunately, Kepler’s supernova lighted the night skies five full years before Galileo made the first ____ telescopic scan of the heavens.

       (A) remote…skeptical

       (B) solemn…unseemly

       (C) infamous…extraneous

       (D) detailed…documented

       (E) fortuitous…recorded

   8. As a product of the Soviet literary establishment, the author was brave enough to ____ the hand that fed him, but not heroic enough to bite it.

       (A) give up

       (B) nibble at

       (C) cringe from

       (D) worship

       (E) devour

   9. It is a relief to see people who can be interested in the arts without being “arty”—collectors who collect for their own ____ rather than for ____.

       (A) enjoyment…satisfaction

       (B) interest…pleasure

       (C) reputation…amusement

       (D) pleasure…show

       (E) education…fulfillment

10. The periodic nature of her complaints began to concern us: alarmed by these ____ attacks, we decided to consult a doctor in spite of her opposition.

       (A) trivial

       (B) recurrent

       (C) superficial

       (D) spontaneous

       (E) tentative

11. Though critic John Simon seldom had a good word to say about most contemporary plays, his review of All in the Timing was a total ____.

       (A) mistake

       (B) dismissal

       (C) fraud

       (D) rave

       (E) farce

12. Traditional Chinese painters trained by copying their teachers; ____ was reserved for old age, when you might make changes so ____ that they were almost invisible.

       (A) imitation…ubiquitous

       (B) emulation…dramatic

       (C) novelty…marked

       (D) originality…slight

       (E) honor…petty

13. Satisfied that her name had been ____, she dropped her libel suit after the newspaper finally published a ____ of its original defamatory statement.

       (A) praised…summary

       (B) maligned…glossary

       (C) vindicated… repetition

       (D) enhanced…reaffirmation

       (E) cleared…retraction

14. Like Machiavelli before him, Henry Kissinger has a keen appreciation for the hard-headed, even ____, use of power, to the point of admiring some traits in leaders who were otherwise ____.

       (A) cynical…benevolent

       (B) gentle…insignificant

       (C) ruthless…detestable

       (D) resentful…charismatic

       (E) forceful…exemplary

15. Some thought Dali was a brilliant painter; others ____ him as a conceited poseur.

       (A) respected

       (B) venerated

       (C) dismissed

       (D) vindicated

       (E) exasperated

16. The late James Beard was ____ with his time and knowledge—a ____ trait in the narrow world of food writing, a milieu notorious for its pettiness and infighting.

       (A) unselfish…common

       (B) unconcerned…standard

       (C) stingy…remarkable

       (D) occupied…negative

       (E) generous…rare

17New Yorker short stories often include ____ allusions to ____ people and events: the implication is, if you are in the in-crowd, you’ll get the reference; if you come from Cleveland, you won’t.

       (A) esoteric…obscure

       (B) redundant…celebrated

       (C) tedious…notorious

       (D) provincial…major

       (E) passing…common

18. Her growing bitterness was ____ by her professional rivalry with her sister, whose fortunes rose while her own ____.

       (A) represented…ascended

       (B) mitigated…dwindled

       (C) exemplified…soared

       (D) nurtured…multiplied

       (E) exacerbated…declined

19. Mr. Levi is ____ learned; he has read everything bearing on his subject and on poetry in general (in several languages), and he has forgotten little if anything.

       (A) moderately

       (B) spottily

       (C) inadvertently

       (D) formidably

       (E) inadequately

20. Because vast organizations are an inevitable element in modern life, it is ____ to aim at their abolition.

       (A) necessary

       (B) important

       (C) customary

       (D) realistic

       (E) futile