PSAT Writing : Correcting Phrase, Clause, and Sentence Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Correcting Phrase, Clause, And Sentence Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

The ancient Sumerians are credited with the invention of beer and cuneiform, and organized government.

Possible Answers:

invention of beer, cuneiform, and organized government

inventions of beer, cuneiform, and organized government too

invention of the beer, the cuneiform, and the organized government

the invention of beer and cuneiform, and organized government

inventions of beer, cuneiform, and also organized government

Correct answer:

invention of beer, cuneiform, and organized government

Explanation:

The original sentence does not employ correct parallel structure; it is imbalanced. The shortest and most straightforward of the sentences is most desirable. The repetition of the article in “the beer, the cuneiform . . .” sounds awkward.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Phrase, Clause, And Sentence Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

The last time it snowed, that was in February, my dad lost control of his car and hit a tree.

Possible Answers:

snows, that was in February,

was snowing, that was in February,

snowed, it was in February,

snowed, February was the month,

snowed, which was in February,

Correct answer:

snowed, which was in February,

Explanation:

This is a case in which we need to decide whether to use the word "which" or "that" to introduce the clause set apart from the rest of the sentence by commas. "That" is used to introduce information absolutely necessary to the sentence's meaning, whereas "which" is used to introduce information that would not change the sentence's meaning if it were removed from the sentence. Information that is not crucial to the sentence's meaning is usually set apart by commas.

In this case, the sentence "The last time it snowed, my dad lost control of his car and hit a tree" still makes sense, so we know that the information included between the commas isn't absolutely necessary to the sentence's meaning. Plus, the information in question is being set apart from the rest of the sentence by commas. So, we should use "which," and not "that."

Example Question #1 : Correcting Phrase, Clause, And Sentence Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

The weather forecast predicted snow for today, and it is raining.

Possible Answers:

predicted snow for today, and it is

predicted it to be snowing today, and it is

predicted snow, for today and it is

predicted snow around today, and it is 

predicted snow for today, but it is

Correct answer:

predicted snow for today, but it is

Explanation:

Because the second independent clause contradicts the first in this compound sentence it is more correct to separate the two with the conjunction "but," not "and."

Example Question #1 : Correcting Correlative Conjunction Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

In Emily Brontë's novel Wuthering Heights, the heroine, Catherine, must choose between true love or social preeminence.

Possible Answers:

the heroine, Catherine, must choose between true love and social preeminence.

the heroine, Catherine, must choose between true love or social preeminence.

the heroine, Catherine, must have chosen between true love or social preeminence.

the heroine, Catherine, must make a choice between true love or social preeminence.

the heroine, Catherine, must have to be choosing between true love either or social preeminence.

Correct answer:

the heroine, Catherine, must choose between true love and social preeminence.

Explanation:

Only answer choice "the heroine, Catherine, must choose between true love and social preeminence" correctly uses "and" with the preposition "between."

The other answer choices, including the original text "the heroine, Catherine, must choose between true love or social preeminence," contain an incorrect idiomatic expression. When we have "between," we typically need the word "and"—rather than "or"—to separate the entities that follow.

Example Question #2 : Correcting Phrase, Clause, And Sentence Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices repeats the underlined portion as it is written.

When she went to the zoo, Lyndsey got to see not only tigers, but polar bears, iguanas, and toucans.

Possible Answers:

When she went to the zoo, Lyndsey got to see not only tigers, but also polar bears, iguanas, and toucans.

When she went to the zoo, Lyndsey got to see not only tigers, also polar bears, iguanas, and toucans.

When she went to the zoo, Lyndsey got to see not only tigers, but polar bears, iguanas, and toucans.

When she went to the zoo, Lyndsey got to see not only tigers, although polar bears, iguanas, and toucans too.

When she went to the zoo, Lyndsey got to see not only tigers, and polar bears, iguanas, and toucans.

Correct answer:

When she went to the zoo, Lyndsey got to see not only tigers, but also polar bears, iguanas, and toucans.

Explanation:

In standard English, when you use the phrase "not only" in a sentence, it should be followed by the phrase "but also." So, the correct answer is "When she went to the zoo, Lyndsey got to see not only tigers, but also polar bears, iguanas, and toucans."

Example Question #1 : Correcting Conjunction Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

The remake of the film was neither enjoyable and definitely not faithful to the original film.

Possible Answers:

nor faithful to the original film

and it wasn't even faithful to the original film

nor were it faithful to the original film

nor was it faithful to the original film

and definitely not faithful to the original film

Correct answer:

nor faithful to the original film

Explanation:

When "neither" is used in a sentence, "nor" should follow it, creating the structure "neither X nor Y," where X and Y are items formatted in the same manner. To correct the sentence, we need to change "and definitely not" to "nor." Several answer choices do this: "nor faithful to the original film," "nor were it faithful to the original film," and "nor was it faithful to the original film." "Nor were it faithful to the original film" and "nor was it faithful to the original film" might each look like potentially correct answers, but each introduces a verb that disrupts the parallel structure of "neither X nor Y," in which "nor" should be immediately followed by "faithful to the original film." The correct answer is thus "nor faithful to the original film," making the corrected sentence, "The remake of the film was neither enjoyable nor faithful to the original film."

Example Question #1 : Correcting Conjunction Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Today, psychotherapy is one of the only treatments that has been shown to help treat, but even help prevent, most psychological disorders.

Possible Answers:

help treat, but even prevent, most 

help treat and even prevent most 

help treat and prevent, most 

help treating and preventing

help treat and prevent, most 

Correct answer:

help treat and even prevent most 

Explanation:

The best way to rephrase "help treat, but even help prevent, most psychological disorders" is "help treat and even prevent most psychological disorders." Commas can be used to denote an interrupting phrase, which is an idea connected to the main idea but not necessary to the understanding of the main idea of the sentence. For example, an interrupting clause may provide additional information about the main idea or a qualification (using "but" or "however"). In this example, the idea that psychotherapy can help prevent psychological disorders is part of the main idea of the sentence, so it does not have to be separated from the remainder of the sentence by commas.

Example Question #11 : Correcting Correlative Conjunction Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

In the future, not Ellen and not Marcia are allowed to go outside without asking the teacher for permission.

Possible Answers:

neither Ellen nor Marcia is allowed 

not Ellen and not Marcia is allowed

not Ellen and not Marcia are allowed

neither Ellen nor Marcia are allowed

neither Ellen and Marcia are allowed

Correct answer:

neither Ellen nor Marcia is allowed 

Explanation:

The correct form for this sentence is "neither . . . nor." In addition, "neither . . .nor" leads to use of the singular form "is" rather than "are."

Example Question #2 : Correcting Phrase, Clause, And Sentence Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

Teaching is a profession which can present many unforeseen challenges.

Possible Answers:

profession which can present

profession, but can present

profession, that can present

profession that may be presenting

profession that can present

Correct answer:

profession that can present

Explanation:

The comma is excessive and causes problems with the logic of the sentence. “Which” usually requires a comma before it and follows a fact, assertion, or statement. The sentence's use of "which" doesn't come after a comma, so it should be changed to "that."

Example Question #1 : Correcting Subordinating Conjunction Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

The United States is one of just a few countries in the world which continues to use the British system of measurement.

Possible Answers:

which continues to use the British system of measurement.

that continues to use the British system of measurement.

which continues using the British system of measurement.

which continues to use the british system of measurement.

that continues using the british system of measurement.

Correct answer:

that continues to use the British system of measurement.

Explanation:

This sentence requires use of “that” because the United States is a country (e.g., a noun). Also, “British” must be capitalized because it is a nationality. 

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