PSAT Writing : Identifying Usage Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Bianca and the sister were at odds because although they were members of the same family, they felt differently about their parents' divorce. No error

Possible Answers:

differently

their

because

No error

the sister

Correct answer:

the sister

Explanation:

The error in this sentence arises where we are told that Bianca and her sister disagree over their parents' divorce, but her sister is presented abstractly; the correct usage of "her sister" allows the individual mentioned to be presented in relation to Bianca. Without the "her," we cannot be certain what the relation is, although it is clearly indicated elsewhere in the sentence.

Example Question #2 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Since Molly won first place and Meg won second, she was honored at the awards ceremony after dinnerNo error

Possible Answers:

won

No error

after dinner

at

she was

Correct answer:

she was

Explanation:

This sentence has an ambiguous pronoun. To whom does "she" refer? You could fix this either by referring to both women with "they," if it is indeed the case that both were honored at the awards ceremony after dinner, or by replacing "she" with the name of the woman being specified.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Mr. Harris told Mr. Jarvins that at the latest staff meeting, the owner of the company expressed a strong interest in promoting him to a senior executive position. No error

Possible Answers:

expressed

executive

No error

him

interest in

Correct answer:

him

Explanation:

This sentence contains an ambiguous pronoun. We don't know whether "him" refers to Mr. Harris or Mr. Jarvins, so "him" is the error in the sentence. If we wanted to fix the error, we would have to replace "him" with the unique name of the person—Mr. Harris or Mr. Jarvins—being considered for the promotion.

Example Question #2 : Identifying Usage Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Jim and Tommy were late to work for the fourth time that week, since they had to pick her up at the airport and her flight was late. No error

Possible Answers:

they

were

since

her

No error

Correct answer:

her

Explanation:

This is an ambiguous pronoun. We are not sure to whom "her" refers. The sentence should use her name.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Word Usage Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Many experts advocate changing how children learn to write, theorizing that they will have more success in the long run. No error

Possible Answers:

theorizing

changing

they

No error

to write

Correct answer:

they

Explanation:

"They" is an ambiguous pronoun reference—it could refer to either "experts" or "children."

Example Question #1 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

After the party, Janet organized her bedroom, collected several bags of clothing for donation, and drove it to the local thrift store. No error

Possible Answers:

bedroom, collected

it

donation, and 

No error 

After the party,

Correct answer:

it

Explanation:

The error in this sentence is the use of the word "it" to refer to "several bags of clothing." In this case, the pronoun—"it"— is singular when it should be plural ("them").

Example Question #1 : Identifying Pronoun Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Jeff gave up a lucrative private law practice to become an apprentice shoemaker, and his wife could not believe he did itNo error.

Possible Answers:

lucrative private law practice

did it 

and

could not

No error.

Correct answer:

did it 

Explanation:

This sentence uses the pronoun “it” to describe an action: giving up a job and becoming an apprentice shoemaker. The pronoun “so” is used to refer to actions. The corrected sentence reads: "Jeff gave up a lucrative private law practice to become an apprentice shoemaker, and his wife could not believe he did so."

Example Question #1 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Incorrect Usage

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Despite it's positive critical reception, many members of the general public disliked the play, believing that the director betrayed his homegrown roots in order to appeal to a wealthier audience. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

believing that the director

it's

appeal to

members of the general public

Correct answer:

it's

Explanation:

"It's" is an abbreviation for "it is." Here, "its" should be used in order to show possession. Therefore, the correct answer choice is "it's."

Example Question #2 : Identifying Pronoun Errors: Incorrect Usage

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Given that the mother walks very slowly and that the son never seems to be in much of a rush, it is safe to say that the family likes to take their time. No error

Possible Answers:

never

their

No error

it is

Given

Correct answer:

their

Explanation:

"Family" is singular. Therefore, the possessive pronoun that refers to it should be singular as well. Thus, "its" should be used instead of "their."

Example Question #731 : Sat Writing

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

While there are advantages to doing freelance work, it is outweighed by the stress of having an inconsistent income. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

are

inconsistent

stress of

it

Correct answer:

it

Explanation:

The underlined word, "it," refers to the "advantages of freelance work," which is plural. Therefore, "it," a singular pronoun, should be changed to the plural pronoun "they."

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