PSAT Writing : Improving Paragraphs

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

Example Question #101 : Analyzing, Combining, And Moving Content

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

Most cacti are covered in sharp spikes, as my dog found out by attempting to sniffed one. No error

Possible Answers:

to sniffed

spikes, as my dog

No error

one

Most cacti are

Correct answer:

to sniffed

Explanation:

The latter half of the sentence takes place in the past, as we can tell from the verb phrase "found out." However, that does not mean that all past-tense verbs are correctly used. In particular, "to sniffed" is incorrect in this sentence, as the verb following "attempting" needs to be an infinitive. Changing "to sniffed" to "to sniffing" would correct the sentence's error.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Sentence Relationships

(1) In spite of the numerous museums and schools dedicated to its appreciation, modern art still has yet to achieve the level of popular appreciation that many other art forms experience. (2) Many remain critical of the so-called "non-figurative" turn of European art that occurred in the latter part of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century that has had such a profound impact on art production since. (3) Contributing artists Van Gogh, Cézanne and Kandinsky each experimented with constitutive aspects of art works. (4) That is to say, they focused on issues such as how light interacts with objects, how depictions of visual space in a work tease normal perceptual capacities, or how color induces emotional responses. (5) Although they didn't always focus on the "realistic" depiction of figures in a pictorial scene, they nevertheless made significant and lasting contributions to how we think about the techniques and aspects that make up art objects and practice.

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

Possible Answers:

The underlined sentence lists the contributions that museums and schools have since been dedicated to preserve and protect.

The artistic approaches listed in the underlined sentence explain the necessity for the non-figurative turn in European art.

The underlined sentence explains why these figures of modern art have not received the appreciation that they so deserve.

The underlined sentence illustrates the experimental contributions that each of the individual artists listed in the sentence before it made to modern art.

The underlined sentence provides three reasons for which it makes little sense to talk of a consolidated and abstract notion such as "modern art."

Correct answer:

The underlined sentence illustrates the experimental contributions that each of the individual artists listed in the sentence before it made to modern art.

Explanation:

That "the underlined sentence illustrates the experimental contributions that each of the individual artists listed in the sentence before it made to modern art" is the best answer here because the other claims are either unjustified or inadequate.

Example Question #1 : Inserting Content

       (1) Kabuki performances first appeared in 1603, when a woman named Izumo no Okuni began performing a new style of drama and dance routines outside of Kyoto. (2) This new form of entertainment quickly got popular throughout Japan. 

       (3) Kabuki was known for its extravagant costumes and elaborate make-up. (4) The stage was what really set it apart from other forms of theater at the time. (5) It included a walkway protruding from the stage out through the audience.  (6) Actors would use this walkway to make surprise entrances. (7) More advanced features were added, such as rotating stages and trapdoors to lift actors onto or down from the stage almost instantly. (8) All of these were used to create dramatic emphasis. 

Which of the following would be the best sentence to insert at the beginning of the passage?

Possible Answers:

There is a new form of theater in Japan today known as kabuki theater.

Have you ever been to a Broadway musical?

What is kabuki theater, anyway?

In 1629, the Japanese government banned women from performing on stage, so from that point on all female roles were played by men.

Kabuki theater, still a very popular form of entertainment in Japan today, was invented over four hundred years ago.

Correct answer:

Kabuki theater, still a very popular form of entertainment in Japan today, was invented over four hundred years ago.

Explanation:

We want a topic sentence to introduce the main idea of the passage.The best sentence also sets a general timeframe that is clarified by the next sentence. The choices that ask questions are too informal and do not fit the tone of the passage.

Example Question #2 : Inserting Content

       (1) Kabuki performances first appeared in 1603, when a woman named Izumo no Okuni began performing a new style of drama and dance routines outside of Kyoto. (2) This new form of entertainment quickly got popular throughout Japan. 

       (3) Kabuki was known for its extravagant costumes and elaborate make-up. (4) The stage was what really set it apart from other forms of theater at the time. (5) It included a walkway protruding from the stage out through the audience.  (6) Actors would use this walkway to make surprise entrances. (7) More advanced features were added, such as rotating stages and trapdoors to lift actors onto or down from the stage almost instantly. (8) All of these were used to create dramatic emphasis. 

Which of these sentences, inserted after Sentence 8, would provide the best conclusion to the passage?

Possible Answers:

Over time, more innovations were added, and kabuki theater continues to thrill Japanese audiences to this day.

These stages were more advanced than the ones used in European theaters in the seventeenth century.

I hope to travel to Japan some day to see a live kabuki performance.

Some kabuki actors became well-known celebrities.

The exaggerated expressions painted on the actors' faces identify them to the audience as the protagonist or the villain.

Correct answer:

Over time, more innovations were added, and kabuki theater continues to thrill Japanese audiences to this day.

Explanation:

The sentence "Over time, more innovations were added, and kabuki theater continues to thrill Japanese audiences to this day" is the best conclusion because it transitions from the discussion of the stage innovations and sums up both the popularity and longevity of kabuki theater. Of the other choices, a first-person statement doesn't fit the overall tone, the comparison to European theaters is not what the passage is about, and the other two are more specific details that do not summarize the point of the passage.

Example Question #1 : Inserting Content

     (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.

The author wishes to add a concluding sentence after Sentence 9 that relates to a statement made in the opening sentence. Which of the following sentences would achieve this most effectively?

Possible Answers:

Though it may not be considered "America's pastime," lacrosse could certainly be called the original American team sport.

Lacrosse is a difficult sport to play because it requires much more physical endurance than baseball.

If you haven't ever played lacrosse, you're missing out on a really fun game.

Changes to the game have been made to improve safety, such as the addition of helmets and padding for the players, and the use of a rubber ball.

Lacrosse has played an important role in North American culture for hundreds of years.

Correct answer:

Though it may not be considered "America's pastime," lacrosse could certainly be called the original American team sport.

Explanation:

The sentence "Though it may not be considered 'America's pastime,' lacrosse could certainly be called the original American team sport" is best because it echoes both the reference to baseball and the assertion of lacrosse's longevity made in Sentence 1.

Example Question #2 : Inserting Content

     (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.

What would be the best sentence to insert between Sentence 1 and Sentence 2?

Possible Answers:

However, the game has faced a lot of criticism over the years due to its violent nature.

The sport has quickly gained popularity in recent years.

Numerous Native American tribes, including the Iroquois, Cherokee, and Onondaga have played versions of it for at least 400 years.

The first modern lacrosse league was organized in Montreal in 1856.

Consequently, professional lacrosse players are not paid the same salaries as baseball players.

Correct answer:

Numerous Native American tribes, including the Iroquois, Cherokee, and Onondaga have played versions of it for at least 400 years.

Explanation:

The sentence "Numerous Native American tribes, including the Iroquois, Cherokee, and Onondaga have played versions of it for at least 400 years" creates the best transition between the two other sentences and adds key information which clarifies the passage, introducing where and when the game originated.

Example Question #3 : Inserting Content

(1) Cowboys have long been a symbol in American society. (2) On the one hand, they represent American strength, adventurousness, and indefatigability. (3) But they also call up images of oppression, racism, and exploitation. (4) However, both of these romanticized views of cowboys betray the dull routine and everyday realities of the lives that many cowboys lived.

(5) Some cowboys worked at the same farms for much of their lives, while others periodically moved cattle from place to place without ever participating in a gun fight or being harangued by unexpected or hidden enemies. (6) Today, their figurative descendants can still be found living in agricultural areas, working hard to ensure that steady supplies of milk, meat and other agricultural products find their ways to stores and your dining room table.

Which of the following would be the best spot to insert the sentence "Many times, they dealt with disease, hunger and loneliness."?

Possible Answers:

Before Sentence 1

Between Sentence 3 and Sentence 4

Between Sentence 5 and Sentence 6

Between Sentence 2 and Sentence 3

Before Sentence 5

Correct answer:

Between Sentence 5 and Sentence 6

Explanation:

"Between Sentences 5 and 6" is the best answer because Sentence 5 marks the beginning of the description of the real life of the cowboy, while Sentence 6 focuses more on the contemporary existence of people that fit the cowboy image. The clause being inserted refers to the past lives of the cowboys but is not necessarily part of the idealized image in the first paragraph, excluding this location as a possibility.

Example Question #1 : Deleting Content

1) For hundreds of years, July 4, 1776, has been revered as a defining moment in America's history. 2) Aptly named Independence Day, July 4 is remembered as the day that the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. 3) This document officially announced Congress's resolution to separate from Great Britain. 4) Every year on July 4, my family likes to grill hot dogs and watch fireworks. 5) Though there is some dispute about whether or not the document was actually signed on this day, Americans will likely continue observing July 4, 1776, as their nation's birthday. 

Which sentence should be deleted to make this a cohesive paragraph?

Possible Answers:

 For hundreds of years, July 4, 1776, has been revered as a defining moment in America's history.

Every year on July 4, my family likes to grill hot dogs and watch fireworks. 

Aptly named Independence Day, July 4 is remembered as the day that the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence.

This document officially announced Congress's resolution to separate from Great Britain. 

Though there is some dispute about whether or not the document was actually signed on this day, Americans will likely continue observing July 4, 1776, as their nation's birthday.

Correct answer:

Every year on July 4, my family likes to grill hot dogs and watch fireworks. 

Explanation:

The tone of this paragraph is historical and informational. The goal of the paragraph is to inform the reader of the origins of the July 4 holiday, not to make an argument or claim, or to give personal information. The informal sentence, "Every year on July 4, my family likes to grill hot dogs and watch fireworks," (Sentence 4) tells about personal family traditions, which does not fit with the goal or tone of the paragraph.

Example Question #12 : Improving Paragraphs

The following is an excerpt from a draft of the final paragraph of an essay arguing that the character Quasimodo in Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) is a tragic hero

 (1) The Hunchback of Notre Dame follows the pattern of a tragedy quite closely. (2) It contains a tragic hero with a flaw that brought him to his own misery and death. (3) As with other tragedies, Quasimodo’s misfortunes are largely accredited to God, the universe, or whatever caused him to be born so ugly. (4) There is no story form so universally appreciated and timeless as the tragedy. (5) Because of Quasimodo’s rise and fall as a tragic hero, Victor Hugo’s novel can absolutely be considered a tragedy. 

Which sentence, if any, is extraneous and can be deleted to improve the paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Sentence 2

Sentence 1

Sentence 4

Sentence 3

Sentence 5

Correct answer:

Sentence 4

Explanation:

Sentence 4 is the only option that is not on the topic of proving that Quasimodo is a tragic hero. It is an extraneous, broad-sweeping statement that does not add anything to the paragraph.

Example Question #1 : Combining Sentences

       (1) Kabuki performances first appeared in 1603, when a woman named Izumo no Okuni began performing a new style of drama and dance routines outside of Kyoto. (2) This new form of entertainment quickly got popular throughout Japan. 

       (3) Kabuki was known for its extravagant costumes and elaborate make-up. (4) The stage was what really set it apart from other forms of theater at the time. (5) It included a walkway protruding from the stage out through the audience.  (6) Actors would use this walkway to make surprise entrances. (7) More advanced features were added, such as rotating stages and trapdoors to lift actors onto or down from the stage almost instantly. (8) All of these were used to create dramatic emphasis. 

Which is the best way to combine Sentences 3 and 4?

Possible Answers:

Kabuki was known for its extravagant costumes and elaborate make-up, but the stage was what really set it apart from other forms of theater at the time.

Known for its extravagant costumes and elaborate make-up, the stage was what really set it apart from other forms of theater at the time.

Kabuki was known for its extravagant costumes and elaborate make-up, and the stage was what really set it apart from other forms of theater at the time.

Kabuki was known for its extravagant costumes and elaborate make-up, however, the stage was what really set it apart from other forms of theater at the time.

Kabuki was known for its extravagant costumes and elaborate make-up, because the stage was what really set it apart from other forms of theater at the time.

Correct answer:

Kabuki was known for its extravagant costumes and elaborate make-up, but the stage was what really set it apart from other forms of theater at the time.

Explanation:

The conjunction should illustrate the contrast between the two sentences. While "however" is a contrasting conjunction, in context, it would need to begin a new sentence after a semicolon.

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