Vocab Review (Groups 1–12)

Review these words from groups 1–12, then take the quiz at the bottom of the page.

Group 1


intricate; complex

The directions were so convoluted that we drove all around the city and got lost.


difficult to comprehend

The writing on the walls of the crypt was cryptic; none of the scientists understood it.


having no useful purpose; pointless

It is futile to try to explain the difference between right and wrong to your pet.


to slow the progress of

The retreating army constructed barbed-wire fences and destroyed bridges to impede the advance of the enemy.


(adj.) relatively unknown

Scott constantly makes references to obscure cult films, and no one ever gets his jokes.


(v.) to conceal or make indistinct

The man in front of me was so tall that his head obscured my view of the movie.


a state of uncertainty or perplexity

Ann was in a quandary because she had no soap with which to do her laundry.



Mr. Lan said his students were indolent because they had not done their homework.


Group 2


uninteresting; unchallenging

That insipid movie was so boring and predictable.


lacking energy

Since he is accustomed to an active lifestyle, Mark feels listless when he has nothing to do.


laziness; inactivity; dullness

The hot and humid day filled everyone with an activity-halting torpor.


removed or disassociated from (friends, family, or homeland)

Rudolf felt alienated from the other reindeer because they never let him join in their reindeer games.


a union of two or more groups

The two countries formed an alliance to stand against their common enemy.


inequality in age, rank, or degree; difference

There is a great disparity between rich and poor in many nations.


submissive; like a servant

Cameron’s servile behavior finally ended when he decided to stand up to his older brother.


subdued; kept from being circulated

The author’s book was suppressed because the dictator thought it was too critical of the regime.


Group 3


to make beautiful by ornamenting; to decorate

We embellished the account of our vacation by including descriptions of many colorful people and places we visited.


describing flowery or elaborate speech

The candidate’s speech was so florid that although no one could understand what he was talking about, they all agreed that he sounded good saying it.


exhibiting a display of great wealth

Dances at the king’s palace are always very opulent affairs because no expense is spared.


elaborately decorated

The carved wood was so ornate that you could examine it several times and still notice things you had not seen before.


describing a showy or pretentious display

Whenever the millionaire gave a party, the elaborate decorations and enormous amounts of food were always part of his ostentatious display of wealth.


profoundly moving; touching

The most poignant part of the movie was when the father finally made peace with his son.


intense enthusiasm

A sense of ebullience swept over the crowd when the matador defeated the bull.


emotionally unrestrained; gushy

Gwyneth Paltrow was effusive in her thanks after winning the Oscar; she even burst into tears.


Group 4


conspicuously bad or offensive

Forgetting to sterilize surgical tools before an operation would be an egregious error.


extremely or deliberately shocking or noticeable

His throwing the pie at his teacher was a flagrant sign of disrespect.


wildly excited or active

The pace at the busy office was frenetic; Megan never had a moment to catch her breath.


given freely; unearned; unwarranted

The film was full of gratuitous sex and violence that was not essential to the story.


extra; unnecessary

If there is sugar in your tea, adding honey would be superfluous.


to ease a pain or burden

John took aspirin to alleviate the pain from the headache he got after taking the SAT.


a place of retreat or security

The soldiers sought asylum from the bombs in the underground shelter.


favorable, promising

Our trip to the beach had an auspicious start; the rain stopped just as we started the car.


Group 5


well-meaning; generous

She was a kind and benevolent queen who was concerned about her subjects’ well-being.


kind and gentle

Uncle Charlie is a benign and friendly man who is always willing to help.


to calm or soothe

Anna’s apology for scaring her brother did not mollify him; he was mad at her all day.


the act of making something useful again

Thanks to the reclamation project, the once unusable land became a productive farm.


to give official authorization or approval

The students were happy when the principal agreed to sanction the use of calculators in math classes.


doubtful; of unlikely authenticity

Jerry’s claim that he could fly like Superman seemed dubious—we didn’t believe it


made; concocted to deceive

Fabio fabricated the story that he used to play drums for Metallica; he had never actually held drumsticks in his life.


the practice of pretending to be something one is not; insincerity

People who claim to be vegetarian but eat chicken and fish are guilty of hypocrisy.


Group 6


false charges and malicious oral statements about someone

After the radio host stated that Monica was a space alien, she sued him for slander.


not genuine

The sportscaster made a spurious claim when he said that the San Antonio Spurs were undefeated.


shrewd, clever

Kevin is financially astute; he never falls for the tricks that credit card companies play.



The spies planned a clandestine maneuver that depended on its secrecy to work.


a brilliantly executed plan

It was quite a coup when I talked the salesperson into selling me this valuable cuckoo clock for five dollars.


not straightforward; crafty

Mr. Gelman was rather disingenuous; although he seemed to be simply asking about your health, he was really trying to figure out why you’d been absent.


a crafty trick

The offer of a free cruise was merely a ruse to get people to listen to their sales pitch.


a clever trick used to deceive or outwit

Planting microphones in the gangster’s home was a clever, but illegal, stratagem.


Group 7


done by secretive means

Matt drank the cough syrup surreptitiously because he didn’t want anyone to know that he was sick.


on guard

My father becomes wary whenever a salesman calls him on the phone; he knows that many crooks use the phone so that they can’t be charged with mail fraud.



In the children's cartoon "Roadrunner," Wily Coyote is a very wily character; he devises all sorts of clever traps to catch the Roadrunner.


open to more than one interpretation

His eyes were an ambiguous color: Some thought they were brown, and some thought they were green.


simultaneously having opposing feelings; uncertain

She had ambivalent feelings about her dance class: On one hand, she enjoyed the exercise, but on the other hand, she thought the choice of dances could be more interesting.


feeling or showing little emotion

When the defendant was found guilty on all charges, her face remained expressionless and she appeared to be entirely apathetic.


determined by impulse rather than reason

The principal made the arbitrary decision that students could not wear hats in school without offering any logical reason for the rule.


impulsive and unpredictable

The referee’s capricious behavior angered the players because he was inconsistent with his calls; he would call foul for minor contact, but ignore elbowing and kicking.


Group 8


to avoid making a definite statement

On critical reading questions, I choose answers that equivocate; they use words such as could or may that make them difficult to disprove.


not caring one way or the other

The old fisherman was completely indifferent to the pain and hunger he felt; his only concern was catching the enormous marlin he had hooked.


unplanned, naturally occurring

Dave is such a good musician that he can create a song spontaneously, without having to stop and think about it.


subject to erratic behavior; unpredictable

Egbert rarely behaved as expected; indeed, he was a whimsical soul whose every decision was anybody’s guess.



The cost of the meal was inconsequential to Quentin because he wasn’t paying for it.


concerned only with what is on the surface or obvious; shallow

The wound on his leg was only superficial, even though it looked like a deep cut.


having little substance or strength; shaky; unsure, weak

Her grasp on reality is tenuous at best; she’s not even sure what year it is.


of little importance or significance

Alex says he doesn't like trivia games because the knowledge they test is trivial; he prefers to spend his time learning more important things.


Group 9



Spending hours in the hot sun digging out every tiny weed, Sidney tended her garden with assiduous attention.


forceful; urgently demanding attention

By ignoring the problems in the city, the mayor gave people a very compelling reason to vote him out of office.


marked by painstaking effort; hard-working

With a lot of diligent effort, they were able to finish the model airplane in record time.


stubbornly persevering

Her first attempts resulted in failure, but her dogged efforts ultimately ended in success.


to put up with; to survive a hardship

It was difficult to endure the incredibly boring lecture given in class the other day.


courageous; fearless

The intrepid young soldier scaled the wall and attacked the enemy forces despite being outnumbered 50 to 1.


one who is independent and resists adherence to a group

In the movie Top Gun, Tom Cruise was a maverick; he often broke the rules and did things his own way.


stubborn; inflexible

Leanna was so obdurate that she was unable to change her way of thinking on even the most minor issues.


Group 10


stubbornly adhering to an opinion or a course of action

Even though he begged them constantly, Jerry’s parents were obstinate in their refusal to buy him a Nintendo.


to grow or increase rapidly

Because the number of fax machines, pagers, and cell phones has proliferated in recent years, many new area codes have been created to handle the demand for phone numbers.



With his overwhelming tenacity, Clark was finally able to interview Brad Pitt for the school newspaper.


energy; power to survive

After a few days of rest, the exhausted mountain climber regained his usual vitality.


to absorb; to make similar

The unique blend of Mexican culture was formed by the assimilation of the cultures of the Native Americans and the Spanish.


general agreement

After much debate, the committee came to a consensus, although they differed on minor points.


circumstances of a situation; environment

The senator complained that his statements had been taken out of context and were therefore misleading; he said that if the newspaper had printed the rest of his speech, it would have explained the statements in question.


copied or adapted from a source

Many AP English Language and Composition questions are derived from older questions—the details may have been changed, but the same basic concept is being tested.


Group 11


imposed as a duty; obligatory

Since you are the host it is incumbent upon you to see that everyone is having fun.


easily shaped or formed; easily influenced

Gold is malleable; it is easy to work with and can be hammered into very thin sheets.


to restrain; to hold back

It took four officers to subdue the fugitive because he fought like a madman.


developed or learned; not naturally occurring

A love of opera is an acquired taste; almost nobody likes it the first time he or she hears it.


the ability to form or understand an idea.

Most people have no conception of the enormous amount of genetic information present in a single living cell.


a fixed strong belief.

Although he privately held onto his convictions, threats by the church caused Galileo to publicly denounce his theory that the Earth orbited the sun.


stubbornly adhering to unproved beliefs

Doug was dogmatic in his belief that exercising frequently boosts one’s immune system.


informative; contributing to one’s awareness

The Rosetta Stone was enlightening because it allowed linguists to begin to translate Egyptian hieroglyphs, which had previously been a mystery.


Group 12


a feeling or understanding resulting from an experience

It was my impression that I was supposed to throw a curve ball, but I must have been wrong because the catcher didn’t expect it.


the power of knowing things without thinking; sharp insight

It is said that some people have intuition about future events that allows them to predict the future.


an incorrect understanding or interpretation

His belief that storks bring babies was just one of his many misconceptions.


awareness; insight

The detective’s perception of people’s hidden feelings makes it easy for him to catch liars.


point of view

People from the North and South viewed the Civil War from different perspectives—each side’s circumstances made it difficult for them to understand the other side.


having a great depth or seriousness

There was a profound silence during the ceremony in honor of those who died during World War II.


inborn; built-in

One of the inherent weaknesses of the AP English Language and Composition exam is that a multiple-choice test, by definition, cannot allow students to be creative in their answers.


possessed from birth; inborn

Cats have an innate ability to see well in the dark; they are born with this skill and do not need to develop it.


Instructions for the Quiz

Answer the questions.