PSAT Writing : Improving Paragraphs

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Moving Sentences

     (1) The sport of lacrosse, while perhaps not as widely popular today in the United States as baseball or football, is far older. (2) These games served many important cultural functions. (3) They were used to settle disputes between tribes, as festival events, and to train young men to become warriors and hunters.

     (4) Hundreds of men and women from rival tribes or villages would gather to play at once. (5) The playing field was sometimes several miles long. (6) The original game was very different from the organized sport played today. (7) A single game would be played from dawn until sunset, and be followed by dancing and feasting.

     (8) Modern, standardized versions of lacrosse started to be played in the 1850s and soon became very popular throughout Canada and the United States. (9) For over a century, it has been one of the most widely played sports in high schools in both nations.

In context, where is the best place to put Sentence 6?

Possible Answers:

After Sentence 8

Before Sentence 4

After Sentence 1

Where it is now

Before Sentence 3

Correct answer:

Before Sentence 4

Explanation:

This sentence would be best used to begin the second paragraph, as it introduces the topic of differences between the modern game and the first versions of it, and this topic is is elaborated on in Sentences 4, 5, and 7.

Example Question #1 : Separating, Combining, Or Moving Sentences

Which is best way to split sentence (4) into two sentences?

[1] State-level legislative attempts to regulate immigration, both legal and illegal, over the previous twenty years reflect the diverse perspectives of multiple groups. [2] Activist groups contributed their own perspectives toward immigration legislation. [3] These activist groups included many diverse voices. [4] Ultimately, however, the majority of proposed legislation regarding immigration in Arkansas failed to become law and most proposed immigration legislation died in committee before reaching a floor vote.

Possible Answers:

Ultimately, however, the majority of proposed legislation regarding immigration in Arkansas failed to become law. And most proposed immigration legislation died in committee before reaching a floor vote. 

Ultimately, however, the majority of proposed legislation regarding immigration in Arkansas failed to become law. Or most proposed immigration legislation died in committee before reaching a floor vote.

Ultimately, however, the majority of proposed legislation regarding immigration in Arkansas failed to become law. In fact, most proposed immigration legislation died in committee before reaching a floor vote.

Ultimately, however, the majority of proposed legislation regarding immigration in Arkansas failed to become law; however, most proposed immigration legislation died in committee before reaching a floor vote.

Most proposed immigration legislation died in committee before reaching a floor vote. Also the majority of proposed immigration legislation died in committee before reaching a floor vote.

Correct answer:

Ultimately, however, the majority of proposed legislation regarding immigration in Arkansas failed to become law. In fact, most proposed immigration legislation died in committee before reaching a floor vote.

Explanation:

The best way to split sentence 4 is "Ultimately, however, the majority of proposed legislation regarding immigration in Arkansas failed to become law. In fact, most proposed immigration legislation died in committee before reaching a floor vote." This option creates two complete sentences and maintains the main idea of the original sentence. 

The incorrect options in which the second sentence begins with "And most" is a fragment, as is the option in which the second sentence begins with "Or most." The answer choice that uses "however" is not consistent with the idea of the original sentence 4, as it implies that the second sentence is contradicting rather than affirming the first sentence. The final incorrect option, which uses "also," has a grammatical error because there is not a comma following the "Also" at the beginning of the sentence.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Sentence Relationships

In Swift's works, he has given very different specimens both of sentiment and expression. His "Tale of a Tub" has little resemblance to his other pieces. It exhibits a vehemence and rapidity of mind, a copiousness of images, and vivacity of diction, such as he afterwards never possessed, or never exerted. It is of a mode so distinct and peculiar, that it must be considered by itself; what is true of that, is not true of any thing else which he has written.

How can the significance of the underlined sentence to the overall passage best be described?

Possible Answers:

The writer is stating that Tale of a Tub greatly resembles Swift's other works, but not backing this up with any evidence.

The writer is citing specific details to demonstrate how little Tale of a Tub resembles Swift's other works.

The writer is using evidence to demonstrate how very much Tale of a Tub resembles Swift's other works.

The writer is claiming that Tale of a Tub bears very little resemble to Swift's other works.

Correct answer:

The writer is claiming that Tale of a Tub bears very little resemble to Swift's other works.

Explanation:

The final sentence of the passage emphasizes how very little resemblance Tale of a Tub bears to Swift's other works.

(Passage adapted from "Swift" in Volume III of Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets by Samuel Johnson, 1781)

Example Question #1 : Identifying Sentence Relationships

In Swift's other works is found an equable tenor of easy language, which rather trickles than flows. His delight was in simplicity. That he has in his works no metaphor, as has been said, is not true; but his few metaphors seem to be received rather by necessity than choice. He studied purity; and though perhaps all his strictures are not exact, yet it is not often that solecisms can be found; and whoever depends on his authority may generally conclude himself safe. His sentences are never too much dilated or contracted; and it will not be easy to find any embarrassment in the complication of his clauses, any inconsequence in his connections, or abruptness in his transitions.

How can the significance of the underlined sentence to the overall passage best be described?

Possible Answers:

The underlined sentence explains how Swift's metaphors are an example of simplicity.

The underlined sentence explains how Swift's easy language is an example of simplicity.

The underlined sentence explains how Swift's authority is an example of simplicity.

The underlined sentence explains how Swift's way of structuring sentences is an example of simplicity.

Correct answer:

The underlined sentence explains how Swift's way of structuring sentences is an example of simplicity.

Explanation:

The underlined sentence has to do with the simplicity of Swift's sentence structure, as is demonstrated by the references to "clauses," "connections," and "transitions."

(Passage adapted from "Swift" in Volume III of Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets by Samuel Johnson, 1781)

Example Question #1 : Analyzing, Combining, And Moving Content

Those who would gladly pass their days together may be separated by the different course of their affairs; and friendship, like love, is destroyed by long absence, though it may be increased by short intermissions. What we have missed long enough to want it, we value more when it is regained; but that which has been lost till it is forgotten, will be found at last with little gladness, and with still less if a substitute has supplied the place. A man deprived of the companion to whom he used to open his bosom, and with whom he shared the hours of leisure and merriment, feels the day at first hanging heavy on him; his difficulties oppress, and his doubts distract him; he sees time come and go without his wonted gratification, and all is sadness within, and solitude about him. But this uneasiness never lasts long; necessity produces expedients, new amusements are discovered, and new conversation is admitted.

How can the significance of the underlined sentence to the overall passage best be described?

Possible Answers:

It explains how all of the troubles following the loss of a friend cannot be ameliorated by new amusements and conversations.

It explains how all of the troubles following the loss of a friend soon pass.

It explains how all of the troubles following the loss of a friend do not end quickly.

It explains how all of the troubles following the loss of a friend are exercerbated by new amusements and conversations.

Correct answer:

It explains how all of the troubles following the loss of a friend soon pass.

Explanation:

After listing the many problems that follow the loss of a friend, the passage ends with a sentence that shows that these problems soon pass when a person finds new amusements and conversations.

(Sentence adapted from "The Decay of Friendship" in Issue 23 of The Idler by Samuel Johnson, September 23rd, 1758.)

Example Question #2 : Identifying Sentence Relationships

Adapted from “Our Amateur Poets, No. III. — William Ellery Channing” in The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. XI: Literary Criticism by Edgar Allan Poe (1843, ed. 1902)

In speaking of Mr. William Ellery Channing, who has just published a very neat little volume of poems, we feel the necessity of employing the indefinite rather than the definite article. He is a, and by no means the, William Ellery Channing. He is only the son of the great essayist deceased. He is just such a person, in despite of his clarum et venerabile nomen, as Pindar would have designated by the significant term τις. 

How can the significance of the underlined sentence to the overall passage best be described?

Possible Answers:

It makes clear that this is not the William Channing being talked about.

It makes clear that Pindar would have designated Channing with the Greek term τις.

It makes clear that one should not confuse Channing with his more famous father.

It makes clear that Channing is the son of a famous essayist.

Correct answer:

It makes clear that one should not confuse Channing with his more famous father.

Explanation:

While all of the other statements may be true based on the entire excerpt, the underlined sentence clarifies that Channing is not the same person as his more famous father.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Sentence Relationships

Adapted from “Our Amateur Poets, No. III. — William Ellery Channing” in The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. XI: Literary Criticism by Edgar Allan Poe (1843, ed. 1902)

It may be said in [Channing's] favor that nobody ever heard of him. He has always succeeded in keeping himself from being made the subject of gossip. His book contains about sixty-three things, which he calls poems, and which he no doubt seriously supposes so to be. They are full of all kinds of mistakes, of which the most important is that of their having been printed at all. 

How can the significance of the underlined sentence to the overall passage best be described?

Possible Answers:

The writer feels that Channing's "poems" are not poetry at all.

The writer feels that Channing's "poems" are not well known enough.

The writer feels that Channing's "poems" are too awful to be published.

The writer feels that the mistake in printing Channing's "poems" is that they open him up to gossip.

Correct answer:

The writer feels that Channing's "poems" are too awful to be published.

Explanation:

The overall sense of the passage is that these "poems" are not poetry at all and are in fact so awful that publishing them was a mistake.

Example Question #1 : Psat Writing Skills

Adapted from “Our Amateur Poets, No. III. — William Ellery Channing” in The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. XI: Literary Criticism by Edgar Allan Poe (1843, ed. 1902)

[Channing's poems] are not precisely English; perhaps they are Channingese. We may convey some general idea of them by two foreign terms not in common use — the Italian pavoneggiarsi, “to strut like a peacock,” and the German word for “sky-rocketing,” schwarmerei. They are more preposterous, in a word, than any poems except those of the author of “Sam Patch;” for we presume we are right (are we not?) in taking it for granted that the author of “Sam Patch” is the very worst of all the wretched poets that ever existed upon earth.

How can the significance of the underlined sentence to the overall passage best be described?

Possible Answers:

Channing's poetry uses proposterous foreign words which makes them as bad as "Sam Patch."

Channing's poetry is not the worst, but it is very close to the worst.

Channing is the author of "Sam Patch" as well as these poems.

Channing's poetry is the very worst that ever existed.

Correct answer:

Channing's poetry is not the worst, but it is very close to the worst.

Explanation:

The author says that Channing's poems are more proposterous than any others except for "Sam Patch," which he considers the worst.

Example Question #1 : Improving Paragraphs

Adapted from “Our Amateur Poets, No. III. — William Ellery Channing” in The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. XI: Literary Criticism by Edgar Allan Poe (1843, ed. 1902)

In spite, however, of the customary phrase about a man’s “making a fool of himself,” we doubt if any one was ever a fool of his own free will and accord. A poet, therefore, should not always be taken too strictly to task. He should be treated with leniency, and, even when damned, should be damned with respect. 

How can the significance of the underlined sentence to the overall passage best be described?

Possible Answers:

Poets cannot be held to the same standards as other writers.

Poets do not make fools of themselves willingly.

Since poetry is difficult to write well, even a bad poet must be treated respectfully.

Poets are above the censure reserved for other writers.

Correct answer:

Since poetry is difficult to write well, even a bad poet must be treated respectfully.

Explanation:

The author believes that poets should not be taken so strictly to task because poetry demands some respect (presumably because it is so difficult to write well).

Example Question #1 : Identifying Sentence Relationships

Adapted from “Our Amateur Poets, No. III. — William Ellery Channing” in The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. XI: Literary Criticism by Edgar Allan Poe (1843, ed. 1902)

Nobility of descent, too, should be allowed its privileges not more in social life than in letters. The son of a great author cannot be handled too tenderly by the critical Jack Ketch. Mr. Channing must be hung, that’s true. He must be hung in terrorem — and for this there is no help under the sun; but then we shall do him all manner of justice, and observe every species of decorum, and be especially careful of his feelings, and hang him gingerly and gracefully, with a silken cord, as the Spaniards hang their grandees of the blue blood, their nobles of the sangre azula.

How can the significance of the underlined sentence to the overall passage best be described?

Possible Answers:

The poet will be treated as harshly as any other writer.

The poet will not be criticized very harshly.

The poet will be criticized, but gently, as befits his pedigree.

The poet will be executed literally and in the same way as the Spaniards execute their nobles.

Correct answer:

The poet will be criticized, but gently, as befits his pedigree.

Explanation:

The author here is suggesting that, because of his pedigree, Channing will still be metaphorically executed, but in a gentler way than usual.

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