Barron's SAT, 26th edition (2012)


Chapter 1. The Sentence Completion Question

• Quick Overview

• Testing Tactics

• Practice Exercises

• Answer Key

• Answer Explanations


All three critical reading sections start with “fill-in-the-blank” sentence completion questions. Consider them warm-up exercises: to answer them correctly, you’ll have to use both your reading comprehension and vocabulary skills. You will then be prepared for the critical reading portions of the test.

The sentence completion questions ask you to choose the best way to complete a sentence from which one or two words have been omitted. The sentences deal with the sorts of topics you’ve probably encountered in your general reading: ballet, banking, tarantulas, thunderstorms, paintings, plagues. However, this is not a test of your general knowledge, although you may feel more comfortable if you are familiar with the topic the sentence is discussing. If you’re unfamiliar with the topic, don’t worry about it. You should be able to answer any of the questions using what you know about how the English language works.


Here is a set of directions for the sentence completion questions that has appeared on actual SAT exams for several years. From time to time the SAT-makers come up with different sentences as examples. However, the basic directions seldom vary. Master them now. Don’t waste your test time re-reading familiar directions. Spend that time answering additional questions. That’s the way to boost your score!

Each sentence below has one or two blanks, each blank indicating that something has been omitted. Beneath the sentence are five lettered words or sets of words. Choose the word or set of words that best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole.


Medieval kingdoms did not become constitutional republics overnight; on the contrary, the change was ----.

(A) unpopular

(B) unexpected

(C) advantageous

(D) sufficient

(E) gradual


The phrase on the contrary is your key to the correct answer. It is what we call a signal word or phrase: it signals a contrast. On the contrary sets up a contrast between a hypothetical change—the change you might have assumed took place—and the actual change. Did medieval kingdoms turn into republics overnight ? No, they did not. Instead of happening overnight, the actual change took time: it was gradual. The correct answer is Choice E, gradual.

Now that you know what to expect on sentence completion questions, work through the following tactics and learn to spot the signals that will help you fill in the blanks. Then do the practice exercises at the end of the chapter.

Testing Tactics


1. First, read the sentence carefully to get a feel for its meaning.

2. Before you look at the choices, think of a word that makes sense.

3. Look at all the possible answers before you make your final choice.

4. Watch out for negative words and prefixes.

5. Use your knowledge of context clues to get at the meanings of unfamiliar words.

6. Break down unfamiliar words into recognizable parts.

7. Watch for signal words that link one part of the sentence to another.

8. Look for words that signal the unexpected.

9. In double-blank sentences, go through the answers, testing one blank at a time (and eliminating any words that don’t fit).


First, Read the Sentence Carefully to Get a Feel for Its Meaning.

Have you ever put together a jigsaw puzzle and wound up missing one final piece? There you are, staring at the almost complete picture. You know the shape of the missing piece. You can see where it fits. You know what its coloration must be. You know, because you’ve looked hard at the incomplete picture, and you’ve got a sense of what’s needed to make it whole.

That’s the position you’re in when you’re working with sentence completion questions. You have to look hard at that incomplete sentence, to read it carefully to get a sense of its drift. Once you’ve got a feel for the big picture, you’ll be ready to come up with an answer choice that fits.


Before You Look at the Choices, Think of a Word That Makes Sense.

Your problem here is to find a word that best completes the sentence’s thought. Before you look at the answer choices, try to come up with a word that makes logical sense in this context. Then look at all five choices supplied by the SAT-makers. If the word you thought of is one of your five choices, select it as your answer. If the word you thought of is not one of your five choices, look for a synonym of that word.

See how the process works in dealing with the following sentence.

The psychologist set up the experiment to test the rat’s -----; he wished to see
how well the rat adjusted to the changing conditions it had to face.

Note how the part of the sentence following the semi-colon (the second clause, in technical terms) is being used to define or clarify what the psychologist is trying to test. He is trying to see how well the rat adjusts. What words does this suggest to you? Flexibility, possibly, or adaptability. Either of these words could complete the sentence’s thought.

Here are the five answer choices given.

(A) reflexes

(B) communicability

(C) stamina

(D) sociability

(E) adaptability

The answer clearly is adaptability, Choice E.


Look at All the Possible Answers Before You Make Your Final Choice.

You are looking for the word that best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole. Don’t be hasty in picking an answer. Test each answer choice, substituting it for the missing word. That way you can satisfy yourself that you have come up with the answer that best fits.

Follow this tactic as you work through the following question.

Physical laws do not, of course, in themselves force bodies to behave in a certain way, but merely ---- how, as a matter of fact, they do behave.

(A) determine

(B) preclude

(C) counteract

(D) describe

(E) commend

When you looked at the answer choices, did you find that one seemed to leap right off the page? Specifically, did Choice A, determine, catch your eye?

A hasty reader might easily focus on Choice A, but in this sentence determine doesn’t really work. However, there are reasons for its appeal.

Determine often appears in a scientific context. It’s a word you may have come across in class discussions of experiments: “By flying a kite during a lightning storm, Ben Franklin tried to determine (find out; discover) just how lightning worked.”

Here, determine is an eye-catcher, an answer choice set up to tempt the unwary into guessing wrong. Eye-catchers are words that somehow come to mind after reading the statement. They’re related in a way; they feel as if they belong in the statement, as if they’re dealing with the same field.

Because you have seen determine previously in a scientific context, you may want to select it as your answer without thinking the sentence through. However, you must take time to think it through, to figure out what it is about. Here it’s about physical laws (the law of gravity, for example). It says physical laws don’t force bodies to act in a specific way. (The law of gravity didn’t make the apple fall on Isaac Newton’s head; the force of gravity did.)

The sentence goes on to clarify what physical laws actually do. What do they do? Do physical laws make discoveries about how bodies behave? No. People make discoveries about how bodies behave. Then people write down physical laws to describe what they have discovered. The correct answer to this question is Choice D, describe. Be suspicious of answer choices that come too easily.


Watch Out for Negative Words and Prefixes.

No, not, none; non-, un-, in-. These negative words and word parts are killers, especially in combination.

The damage to the car was insignificant.
          (“Don’t worry about it—it’s just a scratch.”)
The damage to the car was not insignificant.
          (“Oh, no, Bart! We totaled Mom’s car!”)

Watch out for not: it’s easy to overlook, but it’s a key word, as the following sentence clearly illustrates.

Madison was not ---- person and thus made few public addresses; but those he made were memorable, filled with noble phrases.

(A) a reticent

(B) a stately

(C) an inspiring

(D) an introspective

(E) a communicative

What would happen if you overlooked not in this question? Probably you’d wind up choosing Choice A: Madison was a reticent (quiet; reserved) man. For this reason he made few public addresses.

Unfortunately, you’d have gotten things backward. The sentence isn’t telling you what Madison was like. It’s telling you what he was not like. And he was not a communicative person; he didn’t express himself freely. However, when he did get around to expressing himself, he had valuable things to say. Choice E is the correct answer.


Use Your Knowledge of Context Clues to Get at the Meanings of Unfamiliar Words.

If a word used in a sentence is unfamiliar, or if an answer choice is unknown to you, look at its context in the sentence to see whether the context provides a clue to the meaning of the word. Often authors will use an unfamiliar word and then immediately define it within the same sentence.

The ---- of Queen Elizabeth I impressed her contemporaries: she seemed to know what dignitaries and foreign leaders were thinking.

(A) symbiosis

(B) malevolence

(C) punctiliousness

(D) consternation

(E) perspicacity

Looking at the five answer choices, you may feel unequipped to try to tackle the sentence at all. However, the clause that immediately follows the colon (“she seemed to know what…leaders were thinking”) is there to explain and clarify that missing word. The two groups of words are juxtaposed— set beside one another—to make their relationship clear. The missing word has something to do with the queen’s ability to see through those foreign leaders and practically read their thoughts.

Now that you know the missing word’s general meaning, go through the answer choices to see which one makes sense. Symbiosis means living together cooperatively or intimately (as in “a symbiotic relationship”). It has nothing to do with being insightful or astute; you can eliminate Choice A. Malevolence means ill-will. The queen’s ability shows her perceptiveness, not her ill-will; you can eliminate Choice B. Punctiliousness means carefulness about observing all the proper formalities; you can eliminate Choice C. Consternation means amazement or alarm. Elizabeth was clear-sighted, not confused or amazed; you can eliminate Choice D. Only Choice E is left, perspicacity. Elizabeth’s ability to know the thoughts of foreign leaders demonstrates her acute mental vision or discernment, in other words, her perspicacity. The correct answer is Choice E.


Break Down Unfamiliar Words Into Recognizable Parts.

If you’re having vocabulary trouble, look for familiar parts—prefixes, suffixes, and roots—in unfamiliar words.

Note that your knowledge of word parts could have helped you answer the previous question. Suppose you had been able to eliminate two of the answer choices and were trying to decide among three unfamiliar words, symbiosispunctiliousness, and perspicacity. By using what you know about word parts, you still could have come up with the correct answer. Take a good look at perspicacity. Do you know any other words that begin with the letters per-? What about pervade, to spread through? The prefix per- means thoroughly or through. Next look at the letters spic. What other words contain those letters? Take despicable, for example, or conspicuous. A despicable person deserves to be looked down on. A conspicuous object is noticeable; it must be looked at. The root spic means to look at or see. Queen Elizabeth I had the ability to see through surfaces and perceive people’s inner thoughts. In a word, she had perspicacity.


Watch for Signal Words That Link One Part of the Sentence to Another.

Writers use transitions to link their ideas logically. These transitions or signal words are clues that can help you figure out what the sentence actually means.


Look for words or phrases that indicate a contrast between one idea and another. In such cases an antonym or near-antonym for another word in the sentence should be the correct answer.

Signal Words


in contrast

on the other hand


in spite of

rather than


instead of


even though




on the contrary

See how a contrast signal works in the following easy question.

In sharp contrast to the previous night’s revelry, the wedding was ---- affair.

(A) a fervent

(B) a dignified

(C) a chaotic

(D) an ingenious

(E) a jubilant

In sharp contrast signals you explicitly to look for an antonym or near-antonym of another word or idea in the sentence. The wedding, it suggests, is different in character from the party the night before. What was that party like? It was revelry: wild, noisy, even drunken partying. The wedding, therefore, was not wild and noisy. Instead, it was calm and formal; it was dignified (stately, decorous). The correct answer is Choice B, dignified


Look for words or phrases that indicate that the omitted portion of the sentence supports or continues a thought developed elsewhere in the sentence. In such cases, a synonym or near-synonym for another word in the sentence should be the correct answer.

Signal Words




in addition





See how and works as a support signal in the following question.

During the Middle Ages, plague and other ---- decimated the populations of entire towns.

(A) pestilences

(B) immunizations

(C) proclivities

(D) indispositions

(E) demises

The presence of and linking two items in a series indicates that the missing word may be a synonym or near-synonym for the other linked word. In this case, pestilences are, like the plague, deadly epidemic diseases: the medieval Black Plague was one type of pestilence. The correct answer is Choice A.

Note, by the way, that the missing word, like plague, must be a word with extremely negative associations. Therefore, you can eliminate any word with positive or neutral ones. You can even eliminate words with mildly negative connotations. Immunizations (processes giving the ability to resist a disease) have positive effects: you may dislike your flu shot, but you prefer it to coming down with the flu. You can eliminate Choice B. Proclivities (natural tendencies), in themselves, are neutral (you can have a proclivity for championing the rights of underdogs, or a proclivity for neatness, or a proclivity for violence); they are not by definition inevitably negative. Therefore, you can eliminate Choice C. Similarly, while indispositions (slight illnesses; minor unwillingness) are negative, they are only mildly so. You can eliminate Choice D. Choice E, demises (deaths) also fails to work in this context. Thus, you are left with the correct answer, Choice A.


Signal Words

accordingly in

order to









See how a cause and effect signal works in the next question.

Tarantulas apparently have little sense of ----, for a hungry one will ignore a loudly chirping cricket placed in its cage unless the cricket happens to get in its way.

(A) touch

(B) time

(C) hearing

(D) self-preservation

(E) temperature

For sets up a relationship of cause and effect. Why does the tarantula ignore the loudly chirping cricket? Because, it seems, the tarantula does not hear the cricket’s chirps. Apparently, it has little sense of hearing. The correct answer is Choice C.


Look for Words That Signal the Unexpected.

Some words indicate that something unexpected, possibly even unwanted, exists or has occurred. These words signal a built-in contrast.

Words That Signal the Unexpected





curious (odd)






See how such a word works in the following question.

The historian noted irony in the fact that developments considered ---- by people of that era are now viewed as having been ----.

(A) inspirational..impetuous

(B) bizarre..irrational

(C) intuitive..uncertain

(D) actual..grandiose

(E) improbable..inevitable

Before you consider the answer choices, think through the sentence. Remember, something unexpected has taken place. People of some earlier period had one idea of certain developments during that time. With hindsight, however, people today view them in an unexpected, different light. The two views actually contradict each other.

Only one answer choice presents such a mutually contradictory pair of words, Choice E. People in days gone by looked on certain developments as improbable, unlikely. Today we view these very developments as inevitable, inescapable. To a historian, such a mismatch in opinions is ironic.


In Double-Blank Sentences, Test One Blank at a Time, Not Two.

In a sentence completion question with two blanks, read through the entire sentence. Quickly decide which blank you want to work on. Then insert the appropriate word from each answer pair in that blank. Ask yourself whether this particular word makes sense in this blank. If a word makes no sense in the sentence, you can eliminate that answer pair.

The author portrays research psychologists not as disruptive ---- in the field of psychotherapy, but as effective ---- working ultimately toward the same ends as the psychotherapists.

(A) proponents..opponents

(B) antagonists..pundits

(C) interlocutors..surrogates

(D) meddlers..usurpers

(E) intruders..collaborators

Turn to the second part of the sentence. The research psychologists are portrayed as effective blanks working ultimately toward the same ends as the psychotherapists. The key phrase here is “working ultimately toward the same ends.” Thus, the research psychologists are in effect collaborating with the psychotherapists to achieve a common goal. This immediately suggests that the correct answer is Choice E. Test the first word of that answer pair in the first blank. The adjective “disruptive” suggests that the first missing word is negative in tone. Intruders (people who rudely or inappropriately barge in) is definitely a negative term. Choice E continues to look good.

Reread the sentence with both words in place, making sure both words make sense. “The author portrays research psychologists not as disruptive intruders in the field of psychotherapy, but as effective collaborators working ultimately toward the same ends as the psychotherapists.” Both words make perfect sense. The correct answer is Choice E.

Here is a second, more difficult question that you can solve using this same tactic. This time, try starting with the first word.

The author inadvertently undermined his thesis by allowing his biases to ---- his otherwise ---- scholarship.

(A) bolster..superior

(B) cloud..unfocused

(C) compromise..judicious

(D) confirm..exhaustive

(E) falsify..questionable

The author has undermined or weakened his thesis (the point he’s trying to make). How has he done this? He has let his prejudices affect his work as a scholar in a negative way. Your first missing word must have a negative meaning; you can eliminate any answer choice whose first word has only a positive sense.

Bolster or support is wholly positive; so is confirm. You can eliminate Choices A and D. The three other choices need closer examination. To cloud someone’s scholarship, obscuring or tarnishing it, would be damaging; to falsifyscholarly work would be damaging as well. To compromise someone’s scholarship also is damaging: if you compromise your standards, you fail to live up to the high scholarly standards expected of you. You thus endanger your scholarly reputation. (Note that this is a secondary, relatively unfamiliar meaning of compromise; the SAT-makers love words with multiple meanings like this.)

Now examine the context of the second missing word. Rephrase the sentence, breaking it down. The author has let his prejudices damage his scholarship, which was otherwise good. The second missing word must be positive in meaning.

Check out the second word of Choices B, C, and E. Unfocused, vague scholarly work isn’t good. Neither is questionable, doubtful scholarship. Judicious, thoughtful work, however, is good. The correct answer is Choice C.

Remember, in double-blank sentences, the right answer must correctly fill both blanks. A wrong answer choice often includes one correct and one incorrect answer. Always test the second word.

Practice Exercise

Use the following practice exercise as a warm-up before you go on to the model tests. Check your answers against the answer key. For every answer you get incorrect, follow this procedure:

  1. Review the unfamiliar words. Check them out in the Basic Word List in Chapter 3, or look them up in your dictionary. Again, remember that these are SAT-level words. Make use of this chance to go over what they mean.

  2. Once you know the meaning of the words, see if you can spot signal words or context clues that might have helped you get the answer right. Note any word parts that you can find in the unfamiliar words.

  3. Go over your guessing tactics. If you eliminated any answer choices, see whether you were correct in eliminating them. Remember, if you can eliminate one or two answer choices, you should guess. Even if you get a particular question wrong, in the long run, if you use the process of elimination correctly, you’ll come out ahead of the game.

Sentence Completion Exercise

Each sentence below has one or two blanks, each blank indicating that something has been omitted. Beneath the sentence are five lettered words or sets of words. Choose the word or set of words that best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole.


Although its publicity has been ----, the film itself is intelligent, well-acted, handsomely produced, and altogether ---- .

(A) tasteless..respectable

(B) extensive..moderate

(C) sophisticated..amateur

(D) risqué..crude

(E) perfect..spectacular


  1. The selection committee for the exhibit was amazed to see such fine work done by a mere --.

(A) connoisseur

(B) artist

(C) amateur

(D) entrepreneur

(E) exhibitionist

  2. The teacher suspected cheating as soon as he noticed the pupil’s ---- glances at his classmate’s paper.

(A) futile

(B) sporadic

(C) furtive

(D) cold

(E) inconsequential

  3. Known for his commitment to numerous worthy causes, the philanthropist deserved ---- for his --.

(A) recognition..folly

(B) blame..hypocrisy

(C) reward..modesty

(D) admonishment..wastefulness

(E) credit..altruism

  4. Miss Watson termed Huck’s behavior --- because in her opinion nothing could excuse his deliberate disregard of her commands.

(A) devious

(B) intolerant

(C) irrevocable

(D) indefensible

(E) boisterous

  5. Either the surfing at Maui is ----, or I went there on an off day.

(A) consistent

(B) thrilling

(C) invigorating

(D) overrated

(E) scenic

  6. Your ---- remarks spoil the effect of your speech; try not to stray from your subject.

(A) innocuous

(B) digressive

(C) derogatory

(D) persistent

(E) enigmatic

  7. The fundraising ball turned out to be a ----: it started late, attracted too few dancers, and lost almost a million dollars.

(A) debacle

(B) blockbuster

(C) deluge

(D) gala

(E) milestone

  8. She was pleased by the accolades she received; like everyone else, she enjoyed being --.

(A) entertained

(B) praised

(C) playful

(D) vindicated

(E) charitable

  9. The stereotypical image of masculinity assumes that weeping is ---- “unmanly” behavior, and not simply a human reaction that may be ---- by either sex.

(A) inexplicably..repented

(B) excessively..discerned

(C) essentially..defined

(D) inherently..adopted

(E) intentionally..exaggerated

10. The tapeworm is an example of ---- organism, one that lives within or on another creature, deriving some or all of its nutriment from its host.

(A) a hospitable

(B) an exemplary

(C) a parasitic

(D) an autonomous

(E) a protozoan

11. There was a hint of carelessness about her appearance, as though the cut of her blouse or the fit of her slacks was a matter of ---- to her.

(A) satisfaction

(B) aesthetics

(C) indifference

(D) significance

(E) controversy

12. Many educators argue that a ---- grouping of students would improve instruction because it would limit the range of student abilities in the classroom.

(A) heterogeneous

(B) systematic

(C) homogeneous

(D) sporadic

(E) fragmentary

13. The younger members of the company resented the domineering and ---- manner of the office manager.

(A) urbane

(B) prudent

(C) convivial

(D) imperious

(E) objective

14. Bluebeard was noted for his ---- jealousy, a jealousy so extreme that it passed all reasonable bounds.

(A) transitory

(B) rhetorical

(C) stringent

(D) callous

(E) inordinate

15. I regret that my remarks seemed ----; I never intended to belittle you.

(A) inadequate

(B) justified

(C) unassailable

(D) disparaging

(E) shortsighted

16. A ---- glance pays ---- attention to details.

(A) furtive..meticulous

(B) cursory..little

(C) cryptic..close

(D) keen..scanty

(E) fleeting..vigilant

17. With its elaborately carved, convoluted lines, furniture of the Baroque period was highly ---- .

(A) functional

(B) primitive

(C) linear

(D) spare

(E) ornate

18. His overweening pride in his accomplishments was ----: he had accomplished little if anything at all.

(A) unjustified

(B) innocuous

(C) systematic

(D) rational

(E) critical

19. A ---- relationship links the rhinoceros and the oxpecker (or rhinoceros bird), for the two are mutually dependent.

(A) monolithic

(B) superficial

(C) symbiotic

(D) debilitating

(E) stereotypical

20. When we saw black smoke billowing from the wing of the plane, we were certain that disaster was --.

(A) unlikely

(B) opportune

(C) imminent

(D) undeserved

(E) averted

21. I can vouch for his honesty; I have always found him ---- and carefully observant of the truth.

(A) arbitrary

(B) plausible

(C) volatile

(D) veracious

(E) innocuous

22. This well-documented history is of importance because it carefully ---- the ---- accomplishments of Native American artists who are all too little known to the public at large.

(A) recognizes..negligible

(B) overlooks..purported

(C) scrutinizes..illusory

(D) distorts..noteworthy

(E) substantiates..considerable

23. Perhaps because he has long felt ---- by an excess of parental restrictions and rules, at adolescence the repressed child may break out dramatically.

(A) nurtured

(B) appeased

(C) confined

(D) fascinated

(E) liberated

24. Sue felt that Jack’s ---- in the face of the compelling evidence which she had presented was an example of his ---- mind.

(A) truculence..unbiased


(C) incredulity..closed

(D) acquiescence..keen

(E) reluctance..impartial

25. As a girl, Emily Dickinson was ---- but also ----: extraordinarily intense about her poetry yet exceptionally inhibited socially.

(A) zealous..gregarious

(B) ardent..repressed

(C) prudent..reserved

(D) rash..intrusive

(E) impulsive..dedicated

26. The good night’s sleep had ---- effect on the weary climber, who woke refreshed and eager to resume the ascent.

(A) an innocuous

(B) a tonic

(C) a minor

(D) an enervating

(E) a detrimental

27. She is an interesting ----, an infinitely shy person who, in apparent contradiction, possesses an enormously intuitive ---- for understanding people.

(A) aberration..disdain

(B) caricature..talent

(C) specimen..loathing

(D) phenomenon..disinclination


28. The coach’s harsh rebuke deeply wounded the star quarterback, who had never been ---- like that before.

(A) summoned

(B) reprimanded

(C) stimulated

(D) placated

(E) ignored

29. At the present time, we are suffering from ---- of stories about the war; try writing about another subject.

(A) a calumny

(B) a dearth

(C) an insurgence

(D) a plethora

(E) an inhibition

30. Because he was ----, he shunned human society.

(A) a misanthrope

(B) an oligarch

(C) an anomaly

(D) a stereotype

(E) a nonentity

31. Ernest Hemingway’s prose is generally esteemed for its ----; as one critic puts it, Hemingway “cuts out unneeded words.”

(A) sensitivity

(B) economy

(C) gusto

(D) breadth

(E) intricacy

32. Crows are extremely ----: their harsh cries easily drown out the songs of neighboring birds.

(A) fickle

(B) swarthy

(C) raucous

(D) cordial

(E) versatile

33. After Bob had broken the punch bowl, we sensed the extent of his ---- from the way he shamefacedly avoided meeting his hostess’s eye.

(A) composure

(B) perspicacity

(C) discomfiture

(D) forbearance

(E) benevolence

34. Crowther maintained that the current revival was the most fatuous and ---- production of the entire theatrical season.

(A) gripping

(B) inane

(C) prophetic

(D) memorable

(E) salubrious

35. His olfactory sense was so highly developed that he was often called in to judge --.

(A) productivity

(B) colors

(C) litigation

(D) perfume

(E) acoustics

36. Jean Georges was famous for his ---- cuisine, which brought together ingredients from many cooking traditions—Thai, Chinese, French—and combined them in innovative ways.

(A) aesthetic

(B) clandestine

(C) homogeneous

(D) eclectic

(E) conventional

37. Believing that all children possess a certain natural intelligence, the headmaster exhorted the teachers to discover and ---- each student’s ---- talents.

(A) suppress..unrecognized

(B) develop..intrinsic

(C) redirect..specious

(D) belittle..dormant

(E) cultivate..gratuitous

38. Micawber’s habit of spending more than he earned left him in a state of perpetual ----, but he ---- hoping to see a more affluent day.

(A) indigence..persevered in

(B) confusion..compromised by

(C) enervation..retaliated by

(D) motion..responded by

(E) opulence..insisted on

39. The ---- of such utopian notions is reflected by the quick disintegration of the idealistic community at Brooke Farm.

(A) timeliness

(B) creativity

(C) impracticability

(D) effervescence

(E) vindication

40. We were amazed that a man who had been heretofore the most ---- of public speakers could, in a single speech, electrify an audience and bring them cheering to their feet.

(A) enthralling

(B) accomplished

(C) pedestrian

(D) auspicious

(E) masterful

41. Despite the mixture’s ---- nature, we found that by lowering its temperature in the laboratory we could dramatically reduce its tendency to vaporize.

(A) resilient

(B) volatile

(C) homogeneous

(D) insipid

(E) acerbic

42. Her novel published to universal acclaim, her literary gifts acknowledged by the chief figures of the Harlem Renaissance, her reputation as yet ---- by envious slights, Hurston clearly was at the ---- of her career.

(A) undamaged..ebb

(B) untarnished..zenith

(C) untainted..extremity

(D) blackened..mercy

(E) unmarred..brink

43. Fitness experts claim that jogging is ----; once you begin to jog regularly, you may be unable to stop, because you are sure to love it more and more all the time.

(A) exhausting

(B) illusive

(C) addictive

(D) exotic

(E) overrated

44. Although newscasters often use the terms Chicano and Latino ----, students of Hispanic-American culture are profoundly aware of the ---- the two.

(A) interchangeably..dissimilarities between

(B) indifferently..equivalence of

(C) deprecatingly..controversies about

(D) unerringly..significance of

(E) of

45. She maintained that the proposed legislation was ---- because it simply established an affirmative action task force without making any appropriate provision to fund such a force.

(A) inevitable

(B) inadequate

(C) prudent

(D) necessary

(E) beneficial

46. The faculty senate warned that, if its recommendations were to go unheeded, the differences between the administration and the teaching staff would be ---- and eventually rendered irreconcilable.

(A) rectified

(B) exacerbated

(C) imponderable

(D) eradicated

(E) alienated

47. Paradoxically, Helen, who had been a strict mother to her children, proved ---- mistress to her cats.

(A) a harsh

(B) an indolent

(C) an ambivalent

(D) a cautious

(E) a lenient

48. Famed athlete Bobby Orr was given his first pair of skates by a ---- Canadian woman who somehow “knew” he would use them to attain sporting greatness.

(A) prosperous

(B) prescient

(C) notorious

(D) skeptical

(E) fallible

49. The supervisor’s evaluation was ----, for she noted the employee’s strong points and limitations without overly emphasizing either.

(A) equitable

(B) laudatory

(C) practicable

(D) slanted

(E) dogmatic

50. She has sufficient tact to ---- the ordinary crises of diplomatic life; however, even her diplomacy is insufficient to enable her to ---- the current emergency.

(A) negotiate..comprehend

(B) survive..exaggerate


(D) ignore..transform

(E) aggravate..resolve

Answer Key


  1. C

  2. C

  3. E

  4. D

  5. D

  6. B

  7. A

  8. B

  9. D

10. C

11. C

12. C

13. D

14. E

15. D

16. B

17. E

18. A

19. C

20. C

21. D

22. E

23. C

24. C

25. B

26. B

27. E

28. B

29. D

30. A

31. B

32. C

33. C

34. B

35. D

36. D

37. B

38. A

39. C

40. C

41. B

42. B

43. C

44. A

45. B

46. B

47. E

48. B

49. A

50. C

Answer Explanations

  1. (C) The key word here is “amazed.” It would not amaze a selection committee for an artist to submit fine work for their consideration. However, it might well amaze the committee to have an amateur, nonprofessional person do so.

  2. (C) What sort of glances would make a teacher suspect a pupil was cheating? Furtive (sneaky; secretive) glances would.

  3. (E) What did the philanthropist deserve for his commitment to worthy causes? He deserved credit for his altruism (unselfish concern for others).

  4. (D) Behavior that nothing could excuse by definition is indefensible (unpardonable; inexcusable).

  5. (D) The sentence implies that surfing at Maui is usually thought to be good. The speaker was disappointed when he went surfing there. Two possibilities exist: either the surfing that day was atypically poor (“I went there on an off day”) or surfing at Maui is basically overrated (too highly valued). Note how the “either…or” structure sets up a contrast between the two clauses.

  6. (B) The second half of the sentence advises the writer to try not to stray from his or her subject. In other words, the writer is advised to avoid making digressive (off-target, wandering) remarks.

  7. (A) A fundraising event that lost almost a million dollars clearly would deserve to be described as a debacle (disaster; total failure).

  8. (B) Accolades are expressions of approval. The young lady receiving these accolades enjoys being praised.

  9. (D) A stereotype is an oversimplified, conventional image. According to the stereotype, “boys don’t cry.” This stereotype assumes that crying is inherently (by its very nature) not manly. It rejects the notion that crying is simply a human reaction that either sex may adopt (take on).

10. (C) By definition, an organism that lives within or on another creature, getting its nourishment from its host, is parasitic.

11. (C) Someone who does not care about her appearance would consider the look of her clothing a matter of indifference (little or no concern).

12. (C) Ahomogeneous (uniform in composition; essentially alike) class grouping by definition would limit the range of student abilities in the classroom.

13. (D) Subordinates would be likely to resent a domineering and imperious (overbearing; dictatorial) superior.

14. (E) Something so extreme that it passes all reasonable bounds is by definition inordinate (excessive).

15. (D) The key word here is “belittle.” Although the speaker did not intend to belittle anyone, his remarks seemed disparaging (disrespectful; belittling).

16.(B) A cursory (superficial; passing) glance by definition pays little attention to details.

17. (E) By definition, elaborately carved furniture is ornate (elaborately ornamental; showy).

18. (A) Someone who has accomplished little or nothing does not deserve to take pride in his accomplishments; his pride is unjustified (unwarranted; baseless).

19. (C) Symbiosis is an interdependent, often mutually beneficial relationship between groups or species. Such a mutually dependent relationship is describedas symbiotic.

20. (C) The appearance of the black smoke signals the passengers that disaster is imminent (about to occur at any moment).

21. (D) Someone observant of the truth is by definition veracious (truthful; honest).

22. (E) Why is this history important? It is important because it carefully substantiates (supports; bears out; confirms) the considerable (substantial; significant) accomplishments of the Native American artists. Note the positive tone of the sentence as a whole. In the second blank, the word describing the accomplishments of the Native American artists must be positive as well.

23. (C) An excess of restrictions and rules most likely would make someone feel confined (restricted).

24. (C) Incredulity (disbelief) when faced with compelling (convincing; strongly persuasive) evidence might well be a sign of a closed mind, a mind not open to new arguments and ideas.

25. (B) Note the parallel structure in this sentence. Both halves of the sentence contrast two descriptions of the poet. The second half states she was “extraordinarily intense about her poetry,” yet she was “inhibited socially.” Similarly, the first half states she was ardent (passionate; enthusiastic), but also repressed (emotionally subdued) in dealing with people.

26. (B) By definition, a tonic effect is physically or mentally invigorating; it refreshes you.

27. (E) The key word here is “contradiction.” An infinitely shy person, uncomfortable around people, who nevertheless had a strong gift (talent) for understanding people, would appear to be a paradox (contradiction).

28. (B) The key word here is “rebuke” (scolding; censure). The coach has rebuked the quarterback. In other words, the coach has reprimanded (scolded) him.

29. (D) The speaker suggests writing about another topic because there have been too many stories about the war. In fact, readers have been suffering from a plethora (overabundance; surfeit) of such tales.

30. (A) Someone who shuns human society is by definition a misanthrope (one who hates mankind).

31. (B) A writer who cuts out unneeded words is an economical writer, one who uses the minimum of words needed for effectiveness. Critics praise Hemingway’s lean prose style for its economy (conciseness).

32. (C) Harsh cries that drown out other sounds are by definition raucous (grating; strident; hoarse).

33. (C) Bob is shamefaced (embarrassed) because he has broken his hostess’s punch bowl. In avoiding meeting her eye, he shows his discomfiture (awkwardness; embarrassment).

34. (B) The key word here is “fatuous” (idiotic; silly). A fatuous theatrical production is by definition inane (silly; absurd).

35. (D) “Olfactory” means pertaining to the sense of smell. Someone with a highly developed olfactory sense would be good at judging perfume.

36. (D) Something eclectic is made up of elements drawn from distinctly different sources. Coming from Thai, Chinese, and French cooking traditions, Jean Georges’ cuisine (style of cooking) is decidedly eclectic.

37. (B) The key concept here is the notion that children possess “a certain natural intelligence.” This intelligence exists in every child: it belongs to the child by the child’s very nature. It is the teacher’s task to discover and developsuch inborn, intrinsic talents.

38. (A) What is the state of someone who habitually spends more than he earns? Poverty or indigence. However, although Micawber was perpetually broke, he persevered (persisted) in hoping to be affluent (wealthy) some day.

39. (C) The idealistic community at Brooke Farm quickly disintegrated (fell apart). The rapid breakup of the community suggests the impracticability of such utopian notions, which are incapable of being put into practice with the means available.

40. (C) Why were people amazed that this speaker could electrify an audience? They were amazed because his previous speeches had been nothing to cheer about. In fact, up to then he had been the most pedestrian (uninspired; unexciting) of speakers.

41. (B) Something volatile by definition tends to vaporize or evaporate readily.

42. (B) A writer whose work was universally acclaimed or applauded and whose reputation was not yet tarnished (stained) would be at the zenith (high point)of her career.

43. (C) Addiction is the state of being psychologically or physically enslaved to a habit or practice. If, once you begin to jog regularly, you are unable to break the habit, then you may describe jogging as addictive.

44. (A) People who are aware of the dissimilarities (differences) between the terms Chicano and Latino would not use these terms interchangeably (as if one term could be used in place of the other, with no difference in meaning).

45. (B) Legislation that established a task force without providing any money to fund that force would clearly be inadequate.

46. (B) The warning indicates that the differences between the administration and the teaching staff will become so much worse that they will become irreconcilable (impossible to reconcile or bring into harmony). In other words, the differences will become exacerbated (aggravated; inflamed; worsened).

47. (E) The word paradoxically signals a contrast between the children’s strict mother and the cat’s lenient (indulgent; easy-going) owner.

48. (B) The quotation marks around the word “knew” suggest that the word is being used in an unusual way. The woman knew in advance or foresaw that Orr would become a great athlete. Thus, she is described as prescient(knowing the outcome of events before they take place).

49. (A) In noting both the employee’s strong points and limitations in an evenhanded manner, the supervisor is being fair or equitable.

50. (C) Although she has enough diplomacy or tact to handle (deal with) ordinary crises, she does not have enough to weather (survive; get through) an extraordinary emergency.


  1. First, read the sentence carefully to get a feel for its meaning.

  2. Before you look at the choices, think of a word that makes sense.

  3. Look at all the possible answers before you make your final choice.

  4. Watch out for negative words and prefixes.

  5. Use your knowledge of context clues to get at the meanings of unfamiliar words.

  6. Break down unfamiliar words into recognizable parts.

  7. Watch for signal words that link one part of the sentence to another.

  8. Look for words that signal the unexpected.

  9. In double-blank sentences, go through the answers, testing one blank at a time (and eliminating any words that don’t fit).