PSAT Writing : Correcting Word Usage Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Correcting Usage 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.

Martha, Harriet, and Blythe went to the movies on Friday night; she was able to get the last ticket to the latest blockbuster.

Possible Answers:

she was able to get the last ticket to the latest blockbuster.

she was just getting the last ticket to the latest blockbuster.

the last ticket to the latest blockbuster was hers.

the last tickets to the latest blockbuster were theirs.

they were able to get the last tickets to the latest blockbuster.

Correct answer:

they were able to get the last tickets to the latest blockbuster.

Explanation:

In the original sentence, the pronoun “she” is ambiguous. Who does it refer to? One way to fix this would be to specify the person, another (used in the correct answer here) is to change the pronoun to “they” and refer to all three people. The choices that reverse the order of this phrase are awkwardly passive, and “just getting” is an unnecessary use of progressive tense.

Example Question #1611 : Sat Writing

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.

Doctors are notorious for having poor handwriting skills, and many pharmacists regularly complain about their prescriptions.

Possible Answers:

and many pharmacists regularly complain about their prescriptions

but many pharmacists regularly complain about their prescriptions

and many pharmacists regularly complain about their prescription

and many pharmacists regularly complain about doctors' prescriptions

and many regular pharmacists complain about their prescriptions

Correct answer:

and many pharmacists regularly complain about doctors' prescriptions

Explanation:

The sentence has a vague pronoun reference. The use of "their" before "prescriptions" is ambiguous because we do not know if "their" refers to the doctors' or the pharmacists' prescriptions. The sentence needs to clarify to whom the pronoun refers, so the best answer choice is the one that does this, "and many pharmacists regularly complain about doctors' prescriptions."

Example Question #1612 : Sat Writing

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.

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that I agree more with him.

Possible Answers:

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that the one with whom I agreed was him.  

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that I agree more with him.

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that the one that I agreed with.  

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that I agree more with he.  

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that I agree more with Kennedy.  

Correct answer:

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that I agree more with Kennedy.  

Explanation:

It is unclear if the “him” refers to Kennedy or Nixon. The correct answer makes it clear with whom I agree. 

Example Question #1 : Correcting Word Usage 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.

John likes to take a walk through the woods in the park because John likes the smell of the trees.

Possible Answers:

park because John likes the smell of the trees.

park; however, he likes the smell of the trees.

park; John likes the smell of the trees.

park because he likes the smell of the trees.

park, liking the smell of the trees.

Correct answer:

park because he likes the smell of the trees.

Explanation:

The only problem with the original sentence is that “John” is repeated unnecessarily. Replacing it with a pronoun the second time is a good solution. The other answer choices switch up the coordinators, but this is not a good idea. The relationship between the two parts of the sentence is cause/effect, so “because” is appropriate, not “however” or no coordinator.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Incorrect Usage

She was always hard on her, battling with low self-esteem since she was a child.

Possible Answers:

hard on her

hard in herself

hard with her

hard on herself

hard to her

Correct answer:

hard on herself

Explanation:

The use of the pronoun "her" in the underlined phrase is confusing, as it is not clear whether this is a new person in the sentence or refers back to the subject. To be more clear, a reflexive pronoun must be used. The correct answer is "hard on herself."

Example Question #2 : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Incorrect Usage

The materials must be brought back to myself as soon as you are done with them.

Possible Answers:

back toward myself

back to myself

back to me

back from me

back from myself

Correct answer:

back to me

Explanation:

The only issue in the sentence as it is written is the use of "myself," a reflexive pronoun, when there is no other first person pronoun to which it can refer back. The only answer choice which both appropriately uses "me," and keeps the same meaning is "back to me."

Example Question #3 : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Incorrect Usage

The information was only given to myself after the rest of the students had seen it all.

Possible Answers:

gave to myself

giving to myself 

giving to me

given to me

given to myself

Correct answer:

given to me

Explanation:

The only issue with the sentence is its use of the reflexive pronoun "myself," despite not previously using a first person pronoun. All reflexive pronouns need an antecedent, or previous pronoun in the same person, to be used correctly, or it should be changed to the simple pronoun. As this is the only problem with the sentence, "given to me" is the correct answer choice.

Example Question #4 : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Incorrect Usage

Those supplies all need to be brought directly to myself.

Possible Answers:

directly to myself.

directly to me.

direct to myself.

directly from myself.

directly for myself.

Correct answer:

directly to me.

Explanation:

The only issue with the sentence is the use of the reflexive pronoun "myself" without a previous use of the first person pronoun. All reflexive pronouns need to refer back to an earlier use of the pronoun in the sentence. The solution to this issue is to change "myself" to the simple "me," making "directly to me" the correct answer choice.

Example Question #5 : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Incorrect Usage

The information needs to be reviewed by yourself before it is sent out.

Possible Answers:

reviewed by yourself

reviews by yourself

reviewing by your

reviewed by you

reviewing by yourself

Correct answer:

reviewed by you

Explanation:

The use of the reflexive pronoun "yourself" is incorrect in this sentence, as it has no previous "you" to refer back to. "Yourself" needs to simply be replaced by "you," making "reviewed by you" the correct answer choice.

Example Question #6 : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Incorrect Usage

The supplies were immediately brought to myself as soon as they were purchased.

Possible Answers:

bringing to myself

brought to me

brought to myself

being brought to myself

bringing to me

Correct answer:

brought to me

Explanation:

The use of "myself" in the sentence is incorrect. "Myself" is a reflexive pronoun, meaning it needs an earlier first person pronoun to refer back to. The appropriate word in this situation is just "me," and that is the only issue with the sentence; therefore, "brought to me" is the correct answer.

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