PSAT Writing : Diction

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Diction

The Sagrada Familia has stood, incomplete, as part of the Barcelona skyline since the early phases of its construction in 1882. The project, originally intended to be a cathedral in the gothic style, was begun by the bookseller Joseph Maria Bocabella under the direction of the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. Del Villar and Bocabella imagined a basilica modeled on the Gothic revival churches Bocabella had seen on trips to Italy. However, Bocabella’s ideal basilica never came to be. In 1883 del Villar resigned from the project, and 30-year old Antoni Gaudi, a young but already 1 big architect from Catalonia, took over as lead architect.

Possible Answers:

well-known

NO CHANGE

splashy

big name

Correct answer:

well-known

Explanation:

Whenever the SAT asks you to differentiate between four synonyms or near synonyms on the Writing and Language section, it is either testing formality (whether the word choice matches the tone of the rest of the passage) or meaning (whether you recognize which of several closely related words to use). In this case, it is testing formality. Good writing has a consistent tone and is appropriate to the audience it is being presented to. This essay is about the history of a famous architectural site and has a formal tone. To fit with that, you need to have an equally formal word in this sentence. The only word that fits the tone of the passage is, well-known. The other three answer choices vary from informal ("big name") to vague ("big") and can be eliminated.

Example Question #2 : Diction

The pair brought scientific thinking and equipment to the kitchen, challenging perceptions about what belonged in the lab and 1 whether it belonged in a chef’s kitchen. For example, an early experiment in pie baking involved injecting pies with a syringe full of liquid after baking in order to preserve the crust. Other experiments involved creating meringue (cooked whipped egg whites with sugar) in a vacuum chamber and a “reverse” baked Alaska (ice cream topped with meringue) with the hot merengue on the inside and the ice cream on the outside. Although the experiments themselves might not have been useful to the home cook, they did give insights into the science of cooking that improved recipes and techniques for cooks everywhere.

Possible Answers:

what belonged in a chef’s kitchen.

whether it belonged in a chef’s kitchen?

what belonged in a chef’s kitchen?

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

what belonged in a chef’s kitchen.

Explanation:

There are two major decision points in this question: whether to use "whether" or "what" and whether to use a period or a question mark. Because this sentence contains a list of two items, those two items must be parallel. And since the first item in the list is "what belonged in the lab," the second item in the list should also start with the word "what" rather than "whether". Eliminate "NO CHANGE" and "whether it belonged in a chef’s kitchen?". Because this is a statement, the sentence should end with a period rather than a question mark even though it contains the word "what". Eliminate "what belonged in a chef’s kitchen?" and choose "what belonged in a chef’s kitchen."

Example Question #3 : Diction

Despite this criticism, the belief in experimentation lives on outside the world of molecular gastronomy. Cooking magazines and websites now often have what are called “test kitchens” – departments dedicated not only to testing new recipes but also to improving techniques and testing uses for kitchen implements themselves. These test kitchens have taken the 1 resolve of experimentation from Kurti and This’s early work and have applied it to everything from the best way to make fried chicken to the ideal temperature at which to bake chocolate chip cookies. While these experiments might not involve lab equipment, they have fulfilled one of Kurti and This’s early dreams: they show the importance of scientific thinking outside of the halls of science.

Possible Answers:

influence

spirit

mood

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

spirit

Explanation:

When the SAT asks you to choose between similar words with the same meaning in some contexts but different meanings in others, they are testing your ability to choose the appropriate word for the situation. Look to see which answer choice works thematically with the sentence. All will probably be grammatically correct, so focus on meaning. Only "spirit" logically works - the sentence is discussing whether the idea behind molecular gastronomy moves on, an idea captured by the word "spirit." Choice "resolve" can be eliminated because resolve indicates a decision, which doesn't make sense in this context. Similarly, influence and mood can be eliminated because influence indicates that Kurti and This were influenced, not that they influenced others and because mood isn't a logical modifier in the context of the sentence.

Example Question #351 : New Sat

Without earthworms, modern land-based ecosystems would look very different. There is no way to predict the exact changes that would exist without earthworms, but it is easy to recognize earthworms’ 1 impression. As research continues into the effect of earthworms, scientists are confident that it will show an even more complex picture of the earthworm’s contribution to the land-based ecosystem.

Possible Answers:

transformation

collision

NO CHANGE

impact

Correct answer:

impact

Explanation:

Whenever the SAT asks you to choose between four words that have nearly the same meaning, they are testing logic. While the words do have similar meanings, only one makes sense in the context of the passage. As with a reading section vocabulary in context questions, look at the sentence as a whole. It's talking about the effect that earthworms have on the environment. While the answer choices are similar in meaning, the only answer choice that fits this is "impact".

Example Question #1 : Diction

The traditional view of archaeologists usually involves a college professor who spends much of his or her time digging and researching in ancient foreign libraries or a museum curator who works every day to preserve the artifacts the museum holds. While this view isn’t completely incorrect, it is incomplete, both in terms of the types of jobs available to archaeologists and in terms of the types of work within those jobs. For example, college professors may spend summers at dig sites, but much of their time is also spent writing grants, teaching students, and writing about their research projects. Additionally, although there are still many people who work in archaeology as professors and museum curators, the demand for these job far outstrips the number of positions available, making the positions 1 a pain to acquire.

Which of the following best fits the tone of the rest of the passage?

Possible Answers:

awkward

super tough

difficult

NO CHANGE  

Correct answer:

difficult

Explanation:

The key to succeeding on this question is remembering that the SAT tests not only grammar and logic, but also consistent style. This question gives you a selection of synonyms (or near synonyms) and then asks you to choose the one that best fits the tone of the rest of the passage. Since only one, "difficult," is an acceptable choice for formal writing, it is the correct answer. The other three answers are either colloquially used or inappropriate for the sentence.

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