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 : Combining 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.

Which is the best way to combine Sentences 4 and Sentence 5?

Possible Answers:

On playing fields sometimes several miles long, gathering to play would be hundreds of men and women from rival tribes.

Gathering at once were hundreds of men and women from rival tribes, who played on fields sometimes several miles long.

Hundreds of men and women from rival tribes would gather at once to play on fields sometimes several miles long.

Hundreds of men and women from rival tribes would gather to play at once and they would play on fields sometimes several miles long.

Hundreds of men and women from rival tribes or villages would gather to play at once, but the playing field was sometimes several miles long.

Correct answer:

Hundreds of men and women from rival tribes would gather at once to play on fields sometimes several miles long.

Explanation:

Simplicity is the best option here. Keep the sentence direct, eliminate redundancies, and complicate the sentence structure as little as possible. The correct answer is "Hundreds of men and women from rival tribes would gather at once to play on fields sometimes several miles long."

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

(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 is the best option for combining Sentences 2 and 3?

Possible Answers:

On the one hand they represent American strength, adventurousness, and indefatigability on the other, they call up images of oppression, racism, and exploitation.

On the one hand, they represent American strength, adventurousness, and indefatigability, on the other, they call up images of oppression, racism, and exploitation.

On the one hand, they represent American strength, adventurousness, and indefatigability; moreover, on the other, they call up images of oppression, racism, and exploitation.

On the one hand, they represent American strength, adventurousness, and indefatigability; on the other hand, they call up images of oppression, racism, and exploitation.

On the one hand, they represent American strength, adventurousness, and indefatigability, because they call up images of oppression, racism, and exploitation.

Correct answer:

On the one hand, they represent American strength, adventurousness, and indefatigability; on the other hand, they call up images of oppression, racism, and exploitation.

Explanation:

Using a semicolon to connect the two clauses is the best option here. In the sentence's original form, the second sentence is actually a fragment because it is a dependent clause because it begins with the conjunction "but." If the period at the end of the first sentence were changed to a comma, it would be correct to use a conjunction like "but"; however, the answer choice that does this uses the conjunction "because," which suggests that the sentences are related as cause and effect when this isn't the case. Of the two answer choices that introduce a semi-colon, one adds the extraneous word "moreover"; the simpler option is the correct one.

Example Question #1 : Combining Sentences

Which is the best way to combine Sentences 2 and 3? 

[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:

Activist groups contributed their own perspectives toward immigration legislation like many diverse voices. 

Activist groups that included many diverse voices contributed their own perspectives toward immigration legislation.

Many diverse voices were perspectives contributed toward immigration legislation from activist groups.

Many diverse voice perspectives were contributed toward immigration legislation by activist groups.

Their own perspectives toward immigration legislation were contributed, including many diverse voices.

Correct answer:

Activist groups that included many diverse voices contributed their own perspectives toward immigration legislation.

Explanation:

The best way to combine the two sentences is "Activist groups that included many diverse voices contributed their own perspectives toward immigration legislation." This combination reflects the main point of both sentences.  

The other sentence options were all more ambiguous and/or awkwardly phrased:

The sentence combination "Their own perspectives toward immigration legislation were contributed, including many diverse voices" implies that the names of activist groups are pieces of immigration legislation.

Another incorrect answer, "Activist groups contributed their own perspectives toward immigration legislation like many diverse voices," also implies that activist groups are pieces of immigration legislation.

Another incorrect option, "Many diverse voices were perspectives contributed toward immigration legislation from activist groups," does not make sense because it implies that each of the activist groups were "perspectives."

"Many diverse voice perspectives were contributed toward immigration legislation by activist groups" is not the best answer because "Diverse voice perspectives" does not make sense and the entire sentence is uses the passive voice.

Example Question #1 : Improving And Correcting Sentences

The plot of modern political television usually revolves around several key themes. First, there is a political conflict at the national level between major parties. Second, there are emotional and practical concerns related to office politics; furthermore, there are a number of subplots that usually have to do with local politics and tit-for-tat agreements. Finally, things resolve themselves later on in the show because much television just works itself out.

 

Pick an appropriate revision for the underlined phrase below, taken from the first sentence in the passage: 

The plot of modern political television usually revolves around several key themes.

Possible Answers:

around ideas that surprise audiences

many key themes

around several comedic and dramatic tropes that matter greatly

No change

around nothing substantive

Correct answer:

No change

Explanation:

The phrasing offered here is good, useful, and direct. This opening thesis statement does not need to be complicated; "around nothing substantive" changes the meaning of the sentence; "many key themes" introduces a grammatical error, changing the verb "revolves" from instransitive to transitive; "around several comedic and dramatic tropes that matter greatly" is prolix (wordy); "around ideas that surprise audiences" again changes the intended meaning, as key themes need not be surprising.

Example Question #1 : Revising Word Choice, Style, And Tone

       (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 would be the best replacement of the word "got" in Sentence 2?

Possible Answers:

became

received

was getting

made

(no change)

Correct answer:

became

Explanation:

"Became" is less informal and a better fit for the tone of the passage. "Made" and "received" don't make sense in context.

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