The Essential 500 Words provides you with definitions and illustrations of 500 key words frequently tested on the SAT. These words will help you become a more articulate writer and speaker. The Essential 500 Words is more than just a vocabulary book. In order to achieve a high score on the SAT it is not enough to simply learn vocabulary words. You must also know how to apply them to sentence completion questions. Chapters 23 – 27 in Essential define and illustrate 50 of the top 100 Level 5 words tested on the SAT. Here are 15 practice sentence completion questions that will test your ability recognize and use these words. Essential provides a 6 chapter tutorial on sentence completions that includes 3 full practice tests.

1. Confused readers originally found James Joyce’s novel Ulysses ____
because it included seemingly incomprehensible stream-of-conscious
narratives and an array of obscure literary allusions.

(A) foreboding
(B) inscrutable
(C) implacable
(D) truncated
(E) unambiguous

2. In sharp contrast to the original insights revealed in his ____ essay on the
rise and fall of empires, Nelson’s second book repeated ____ that could
be found in any introductory history textbook.

(A) craven .. conundrums
(B) officious .. analogies
(C) seminal .. platitudes
(D) inscrutable .. banalities
(E) conventional .. juxtapositions

3. The climatologist’s report is truly ____: it predicts that a confluence of
factors including rising global temperatures and melting polar ice caps
____ an alarming rise in sea levels that will threaten many coastal cities.

(A) fortuitous .. stymies
(B) discerning .. thwarts
(C) flippant .. heralds
(D) ominous .. portends
(E) lighthearted .. underscores

4. Like a true nemesis, Kevin was ____ enemy whose hatred could not be

(A) a conciliatory
(B) a volatile
(C) an implacable
(D) an officious
(E) an urbane

5. Zubyn was a woman of surprising contrasts: she was reserved and even
____ at work and talkative and even voluble at home.

(A) refractory
(B) taciturn
(C) phlegmatic
(D) puerile
(E) enervated

6. Henry Kissinger’s detailed analysis of the negotiations that ended the
Vietnam War is not ____ reading, but a student who carefully studies the
book will be rewarded with many valuable insights.

(A) scholarly
(B) cursory
(C) profound
(D) painstaking
(E) edifying

7. Although critics attempted to ____ the mayor’s credibility by assailing
him with false accusations, he emerged from the ordeal with his
reputation intact.

(A) juxtapose
(B) ruminate
(C) crystallize
(D) propitiate
(E) impugn

8. Although we understood that Henry was still young, immature, and
impressionable, we were nevertheless surprised and dismayed by his
continued ____ behavior.

(A) puerile
(B) insatiable
(C) indefatigable
(D) effusive
(E) urbane

9. Derek was considered ____ because he loved to show off his command of
obscure knowledge and ____ because he loved to provoke heated

(A) taciturn .. acerbic
(B) pedantic .. contentious
(C) scholarly .. affable
(D) officious .. facetious
(E) didactic .. punctilious

10. A full day of classes, fencing practice, and homework assignments
drained Vikram’s vitality: he felt too ____ to do anything but go to

(A) crystallized
(B) enervated
(C) galvanized
(D) truncated
(E) extemporized

11. The accountant habitually engaged in ____ filing practices by not sending
out her client’s tax reports until the last possible day.

(A) indefatigable
(B) perfidious
(C) dilatory
(D) belligerent
(E) bohemian

12. The dinner party’s host was truly ____: he impressed his guests with his
elegant manners, discriminating taste, and broad education.

(A) sardonic
(B) innovative
(C) diminutive
(D) urbane
(E) surreal

13. Never ____, Jackie always give answers that were deliberately convoluted
and difficult to follow.

(A) supercilious
(B) squalid
(C) pallid
(D) unambiguous
(E) indefatigable

14. The diplomatic envoys for the Hapsburg dynasty were known for being
____, they were treacherous and deceitful even during routine

(A) perfidious
(B) candid
(C) perfunctory
(D) affable
(E) phlegmatic

15. The report was ____ about the future of the faltering economy,
concluding pessimistically that conditions would ____ within weeks.

(A) disingenuous .. revive
(B) reassuring .. rebound
(C) unambiguous .. rally
(D) sanguine .. decline
(E) foreboding .. deteriorate


1. B The key words “incomprehensible” and “obscure” lead you
to INSCRUTABLE (Word 288).
2. C The reversal phrase “in sharp contrast” alerts you to look for a
a pair of contrasting words. The key definitional phrase “original
insights” leads you to SEIMINAL (Word 257) as the answer for
the first blank. The key phrase “found in any introductory history
textbook” leads you to PLATITUDES (Word 167) for the second
3. D The key words “alarming” and “threaten” signal that the report
will be very negative and that it will issue a warning. Only
answer (D) OMINOUS (Word 15) .. PORTENDS (Word 287)
satisfy these conditions.
4. C The key definitional phrase “whose hatred could not be
appeased” leads you to IMPACABLE (Word 277).
5. B The key reversal phrase “surprising contrasts” tells you to look
for a word that is the opposite of voluble. The correct answer
is therefore TACITURN (Word 284).
6. B The combination of the key reversal word “not” and the key
definitional phrase “carefully studies” signals that you should
look for an answer that does NOT describe a careful reader.
The correct answer is therefore CURSORY (Word 281). Note that
answer choices (A), (C), (D), and (E) can be eliminated since
7. E The key definitional phrase “assailing him with false accusations”
leads you to IMPUGN (Word 278).
8. A The key definitional phrase “young, immature, and impressionable”
lead you to PUERILE (Word 290)
9. B The key definitional phrase “loved to show off his command of
obscure knowledge” will lead you to PEDANTIC, SCHOLARLY,
or even DIDACTIC. The key definitional phrase “loved to provoke
heated arguments” lead you to CONTENTIOUS. The correct answer
is therefore PEDANTIC (Word 295) .. CONTENTIOUS (Word 258).
10. B The key definitional phrase “drained Vikram’s vitality” leads you
to ENERVATED (Word 271).
11. C The accountant’s habit of waiting to file tax reports “until the last
possible day” leads you to describe her as DILATORY (Word 268).
12. D The key definitional attributes “elegant manners, discriminating
taste, and broad education” lead you to describe the host as
URBANE (Word 265).
13. D The key reversal word “never” signals you to look for an answer
that is the opposite of “deliberately convoluted and difficult to
follow.” The correct answer is therefore UNAMBIGUOUS (Word
14. A The key definitional words “treacherous and deceitful” lead you to
describe the Hapsburg envoys as PERFIDIOUS (Word 280).
15. E The word “pessimistically” leads you to look for a pair of negative
words to describe both the report and its conclusion. Only choice (E)
FOREBODING (Word 292) .. DETERIORATE meets this test.

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