PSAT Writing : Rhetoric: Sentences & Paragraphs

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Adding And Deleting Sentences

One of the most influential niche constructors is the earthworm, an organism found almost everywhere on the planet. 1 A scientist only concerned with evolution would predict that, in order to live on land, earthworms would have to significantly change. Earthworms didn’t change their physiology a great  amount, however, instead, they changed the soil to make it more like the ocean in order to survive. Land with earthworms is less compacted, is more nutrient rich, and better mixed than land without them – leading to monumental changes in the ecosystem.

The author is considering adding the following sentence.

Earthworms were originally aquatic organisms that were ill-equipped to survive on land.

Should the author make this addition?

Possible Answers:

No, because the author does not further address why this fact is important.

Yes, because it explains the prediction made in the next sentence.

Yes, because it adds information about the roles of earthworms as niche creators.

No, because it distracts from the discussion on niche construction. 

Correct answer:
Yes, because it explains the prediction made in the next sentence.
Explanation:

Whenever the SAT gives you answer choices in the form of "yes/no because", you should turn your attention to the reasoning given for each answer choice since it's easier to determine whether the reason is correct than it is to determine whether or not the sentence should be included. "Yes, because it explains the prediction made in the next sentence." correctly states that the sentence explains why the prediction in the next sentence is there. "Yes, because it adds information about the roles of earthworms as niche creators." can be eliminated because the sentence does not explain the role of earthworms as niche creators. "No, because it distracts from the discussion on niche construction. " can be eliminated because it doesn't distract from the discussion of niche construction since it talks about why earthworms need to be niche constructors. "No, because the author does not further address why this fact is important." can be eliminated because the next sentence does explain why this fact is important.

Example Question #2 : Adding And Deleting Sentences

For thousands of years, cooking was considered more of a practice than a science. Much of what chefs and food scientists alike knew about cooking came from conventional wisdom rather than carefully designed research. For individuals who considered cooking to be an art rather than a science, this seemed to be for the best; however, for physicist Nicholas Kurti and chemist Herve This, the lack on empirical knowledge around what we eat was not just an affront to science. It was a challenge. In 1988 the pair coined the term “molecular gastronomy,” which they defined as the investigation of the physical and chemical transformation that ingredients undergo during the course of cooking. They argued that if chefs understood these processes, they could produce dishes improved by the findings. 1

At this point, the author is considering adding the following sentence.

"The pair’s philosophy came from the Enlightenment thinkers of the 18th century, who believed that everything could be categorized and systematized."

Should the author make this addition here?

Possible Answers:

No, because it distracts from the paragraph’s focus on early experiments in molecular gastronomy.

Yes, because it explains the origin of the phrase “molecular gastronomy”.

Yes, because it reinforces a claim that is made earlier in the paragraph.

No, because it is not relevant to the focus of the paragraph.

Correct answer:

No, because it is not relevant to the focus of the paragraph.

Explanation:

For questions with answers that lead with "Yes/Yes/No/No," it is often easier to look at the reasoning rather than at whether or not the sentence should be included since it is easier to eliminate answer choices based on reasoning that is incorrect rather than whether the sentence belongs. "Yes, because it explains the origin of the phrase “molecular gastronomy”." can be eliminated because the sentence does not explain the origin of the phrase "molecular gastronomy". "Yes, because it reinforces a claim that is made earlier in the paragraph." can be eliminated because it does not address a claim made earlier in the paragraph. "No, because it is not relevant to the focus of the paragraph." is true - this sentence is not relevant to the main focus of the paragraph. "No, because it distracts from the paragraph’s focus on early experiments in molecular gastronomy." can be eliminated because this paragraph does not discuss earlier experiments in molecular gastronomy.

Example Question #3 : Adding And Deleting Sentences

The Sagrada Familia has stood, incomplete, as part of the Barcelona skyline since the early phases of its construction in 1882. The project, originally intended to be a cathedral in the gothic style, was begun by the bookseller Joseph Maria Bocabella under the direction of the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. Del Villar and Bocabella imagined a basilica modeled on the Gothic revival churches Bocabella had seen on trips to Italy. However, Bocabella’s ideal basilica never came to be. In 1883 del Villar resigned from the project, and 30-year old Antoni Gaudi, a young but already well-known architect from Catalonia, took over as lead architect.

Gaudi decided to depart from del Villar’s original Gothic design in favor of a more modern design. The new design was ambitious, featuring eighteen tall spires and four different facades on different sides of the basilica. But work on the new building was slow. Decades passed, and the work was still incomplete. In 1915, Gaudi - now 63 years old - abandoned all other work in favor of dedicating himself to the completion of the monumental church, but progress on the building was still slow. When pressured to speed up work on the monumental building, Gaudi was said to have replied, “My client is not in a hurry.” By the time Gaudi died in 1926, the basilica was only somewhere between 15 and 20 percent complete. 

After Gaudi’s death, work stalled between 1936 and 1940 when Civil War broke out in Spain and again as World War II began, leaving the project years behind schedule. During the wars, Catalan anarchists destroyed part of the basilica and the models and designs Gaudi left for the builders, who were forced to reconstruct what plans they could, an arduous and time-consuming process. It took years for the project to get back on track; once it was, it was impossible to know whether additional construction would match Gaudi’s vision.

The Sagrada Familia, one of the most iconic structures in Barcelona, remains unfinished, a constant work-in-progress in the Barcelona skyline. Despite these setbacks, it is open to the public for both religious services and tourism, attracting over three million visitors a year. In fact, tourist entrance fees now pay for annual construction costs. 1

 

At this point, the author is considering adding the following sentence.

“Architects estimate that the building is now 70 percent complete and that the structure itself should be finished by 2026, one hundred years after Gaudi’s death."

Should the author make this addition here?

Possible Answers:

No, because it distracts from the paragraph’s emphasis on construction costs.

Yes, because it provides a conclusion that relates to the information given earlier in the passage.

No, because it is irrelevant to the main idea of the passage.

Yes, because it provides a conclusion that reminds readers of the grandeur of the Sagrada Familia.

Correct answer:

Yes, because it provides a conclusion that relates to the information given earlier in the passage.

Explanation:

One of the best ways to deal with questions that give you the options Yes/Yes/No/No in the answer choices is to ignore the "yes" or "no " question and instead focus on the information that comes after the comma. Determining whether the reasoning is solid is often easier than deciding whether or not a particular sentence should be included. "Yes, because it provides a conclusion that relates to the information given earlier in the passage."  correctly states that it provides a conclusion (it is the last sentence) that relates to information given in the passage (that the Sagrada Familia is still unfinished and has been behind schedule since the start). This is the correct answer.

Among the other answers, "yes, because it provides a conclusion that reminds readers of the grandeur of the Sagrada Familia" can be eliminated because there is nothing in this sentence that relates to the grandeur of the Sagrada Familia. "No, because it distracts from the paragraph’s emphasis on construction costs" can be eliminated because the paragraph doesn't talk about construction costs. And "no, because it is irrelevant to the main idea of the passage" can be eliminated because the sentence does relate to the main idea of the passage since it talks about the length of time needed to finish the project.

Example Question #1 : Author's Intent

One of the most influential niche constructors is the earthworm, an organism found almost everywhere on the planet.  A scientist only concerned with evolution would predict that, in order to live on land, earthworms would have to significantly change. Earthworms didn’t change their physiology a great  amount, however; instead, they changed the soil to make it more like the ocean in order to survive. Land with earthworms is less compacted, is more nutrient rich, and is better mixed than land without them – 1 leading to monumental changes in the ecosystem.

Niche constructors are particularly important in colonizing new environments. One of the easiest ways to measure this effect on evolution has been in the effect that the number of earthworms has on soil fertility, a measure of how hospitable an environment is to plant growth. Even the least fertile soil has around 62 worms per square meter, and as the number of worms increases so does soil fertility. As worms move through the different layers of soil, they eat, digest, and excrete massive amounts of organic matter. They leave their excretions behind in the form of nutrient-rich droppings known as casings. As these casings decompose, they release nutrients into the soil. This process not only moves nutrients from one layer of the soil to another but also converts the nutrients to forms that plants can absorb and process more easily. Because it is easier for plants to get the proper nutrients, plants don’t have to invest time and energy into making better root systems to gather nutrients. As a result, plants have, over time, lost some of these mechanisms – a form of evolution. 

 

Which of the following best supports the point developed in this paragraph?

 

Possible Answers:

resulting in a moist environment in which the worms can thrive.

all of which make the environment more suitable for plants.

all from a tiny organism not much larger than a human hand.

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

resulting in a moist environment in which the worms can thrive.

Explanation:

In order to conclude which choice best concludes the paragraph, you need to understand the overall context of the paragraph. The paragraph is all about how and why the worms change their environment in order to survive. The only choice that talks about why earthworms change the environment is "resulting in a moist environment in which the worms can thrive." As it is in the text is too vague since it's already been established that the worms change their environments. Choice "all of which make the environment more suitable for plants." is more in line with the next paragraph, which discusses the effect of earthworm engineering on plants. And choice "all from a tiny organism not much larger than a human hand.", while catchy, does not address anything that is discussed in the paragraph.

Example Question #1 : Author's Intent

The public’s perception of archaeologists has, for years, been colored by depictions of the profession in movie franchises like Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider, and The Mummy. However popular these movies are, they– like movies that depict any other profession – don’t necessarily reflect what archaeologists actually do. While fighting supernatural forces and foiling nefarious plans does make for a better movie, 1 archaeologists are interesting people.

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

box office numbers don’t always reflect this fact

the primary work of archaeology is in research and preservation

movies don’t reflect what archaeologists actually do

Correct answer:

the primary work of archaeology is in research and preservation

Explanation:

Whenever you are asked to complete a sentence without instruction as to what the test is looking for, you want to look for logic and for concision. The paragraph discusses the fact that movies don't necessarily reflect the job of real archaeologists. That implies that the contrast in this sentence should be between what archaeologists actually do and what they do in the movies. Since what they do in the movies is already addressed, the correct answer will reflect real- life archaeology. The only answer that does this is "the primary work of archaeology is in research and preservation", which gives an example of what archaeologists do. NO CHANGE and "box office numbers don’t always reflect this fact" don't address real-life archaeology and choice "movies don’t reflect what archaeologists actually do" is just a repetition of a phrase from earlier in the paragraph.

Example Question #3 : Author's Intent

One of the most influential niche constructors is the earthworm, an organism found almost everywhere on the planet.  A scientist only concerned with evolution would predict that, in order to live on land, earthworms would have to significantly change. Earthworms didn’t change their physiology a great  amount, however; instead, they changed the soil to make it more like the ocean in order to survive. Land with earthworms is less compacted, is more nutrient rich, and is better mixed than land without them –  resulting in a moist environment in which the worms can thrive.

1 Niche constructors are particularly important in colonizing new environments. One of the easiest ways to measure this effect on evolution has been in the effect that the number of earthworms has on soil fertility, a measure of how hospitable an environment is to plant growth. Even the least fertile soil has around 62 worms per square meter, and as the number of worms increases so does soil fertility. As worms move through the different layers of soil, they eat, digest, and excrete massive amounts of organic matter. They leave their excretions behind in the form of nutrient-rich droppings known as casings. As these casings decompose, they release nutrients into the soil. This process not only moves nutrients from one layer of the soil to another but also converts the nutrients to forms that plants can absorb and process more easily. Because it is easier for plants to get the proper nutrients, plants don’t have to invest time and energy into making better root systems to gather nutrients. As result, plants have, over time, lost some of these  mechanisms – a form of evolution. 

Which of the following provides the most effective transition from the previous paragraph?

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

Earthworms’ most important role is to make soil more hospitable to plants, microbes, and other animals that might not otherwise do well in an arid environment.

Earthworms aren’t alone in their capacity as niche constructors: beavers do the same.

To be considered true niche constructors, however, earthworms must change the environment in such a way as to alter the evolution of another species.

Correct answer:

To be considered true niche constructors, however, earthworms must change the environment in such a way as to alter the evolution of another species.

Explanation:

In order to provide an effective transition between the two paragraphs, you need to know what the previous paragraph was about and what the current paragraph is about. The previous paragraph discusses one of the factors that allow earthworms to be considered niche creators - that they significantly change their environment. The current paragraph discusses another - that they must affect the evolution of another organism. As it is in the passage (NO CHANGE) and "Earthworms aren’t alone in their capacity as niche constructors: beavers do the same." and can both be quickly eliminated because they don't address either of these challenges. Between choice "To be considered true niche constructors, however, earthworms must change the environment in such a way as to alter the evolution of another species." and Earthworms’ most important role is to make soil more hospitable to plants, microbes, and other animals that might not otherwise do well in an arid environment", the former at first seems insufficient because it doesn't clearly address the previous paragraph. However, note that it does call back to the previous paragraph by saying that earthworms need to do one more thing before they are real niche creators. "Earthworms’ most important role is to make soil more hospitable to plants, microbes, and other animals that might not otherwise do well in an arid environment." only continues to discuss how they change the environment with no mention of the main idea of the paragraph to come.

Example Question #2 : Author's Intent

The pair brought scientific thinking and equipment to the kitchen, challenging perceptions about what belonged in the lab and what belonged in a chef ’s kitchen. For example, an early experiment in pie baking involved injecting pies with a syringe full of liquid after baking in order to preserve the crust. Other experiments involved creating meringue (cooked whipped egg whites with sugar) in a vacuum chamber and a “reverse” baked Alaska (ice cream topped with meringue) with the hot merengue on the inside and the ice cream on the outside. Although the experiments themselves might not have been useful to the home cook, 1 they were interesting for scientists.

 

Which choice most logically completes the sentence?

Possible Answers:

there were other experiments soon to follow.

NO CHANGE

they did answer many questions that This and Herve had about cooking.

they did give insights into the science of cooking that improved recipes and techniques for cooks everywhere.

Correct answer:

they did give insights into the science of cooking that improved recipes and techniques for cooks everywhere.

Explanation:

Whenever the SAT asks you to logically complete a sentence or thought, you are often going to need to complete a comparison or a contrast set up earlier in the sentence. In this case, the word "although" indicates that you need to have a phrase that contrasts with the idea that the experiments weren't useful to home chefs. If we leave the sentence as is, it may be true, but it isn't that comparison."They did give insights into the science of cooking that improved recipes and techniques for cooks everywhere." does set up that comparison, since the outcomes of the experiments were useful to home chefs even if the experiments themselves were not. This is correct. "They did answer many questions that This and Herve had about cooking." and "there were other experiments soon to follow." can be eliminated because they don't complete the comparison.

Example Question #5 : Author's Intent

Since 1988, the mission of molecular gastronomy has shifted. Kurti and This originally sought to investigate “kitchen old wives’ tales,” invent new recipes, improve old ones, and make the case to the public that science was a useful part of everyday life. Even if their experiments weren’t intended to be replicated in home kitchens, they were intended to encourage home cooks to experiment. Today, molecular gastronomists seek to explore the social, artistic, and technical aspects of food preparation. Some have argued that this shift in focus, along with the fact that techniques in molecular gastronomy have so far surpassed what any home cook could do, means that molecular gastronomy has lost 1 the ability to impact homemade food.

Possible Answers:

its ability to impact and influence how the world cooks at home.

its ability to impact how the world’s domestic cooks cook at home.

its ability to impact how the world cooks at home.

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

its ability to impact how the world cooks at home.

Explanation:

For this question, you are looking for an answer choice that gets rid of redundancy within the sentence and that maintains a logical meaning within the sentence. Choices "its ability to impact and influence how the world cooks at home." and "its ability to impact how the world’s domestic cooks cook at home." can both be eliminated because they contain redundant structures ("impact and influence" and "domestic... at home", respectively). NO CHANGE isn't logical. The field of molecular gastronomy doesn't affect homemade food. It affects how people cook. Choice "its ability to impact how the world cooks at home." correctly shows that molecular gastronomy affects the process of cooking and is not redundant.

Example Question #1 : Rhetoric: Sentences: Paragraphs

[1] The job of CRM archaeologists is to identify the potential cultural significance of a site and then document and preserve any artifacts of historical or cultural significance. [2] The surplus of people who want to work in archaeology has meant that the majority of archaeologists aren’t employed by universities or museums, but by construction companies and the government.  [3] Most archaeology positions in today’s economy are for what are referred to as a “cultural resource management” archaeologists, or CRM archaeologists, who are often involved in building projects as representatives of the state, Native American tribes, and historical societies. [4] While part of this analysis might involve starting a dig at the site in question to find relevant artifacts, much of this research process requires CRM archaeologists to consult historical records and talk to members of the community where the building process has been proposed. 1

For the sake of the logic of the passage, sentence 1 should be placed

Possible Answers:

after sentence 4.

before sentence 4.

where it is now.

after sentence 2.

Correct answer:

before sentence 4.

Explanation:

Whenever you are looking to rearrange a paragraph, you should look at the content of the sentence that you're moving and see if it provides any information that either must be preceded by information in the passage in order to make sense or must come before other information in the passage in order to adequately explain it. In this case, you are told that a CRM archaeologist's job is to look at the potential historical significance of different sites. However, you don't yet know what a CRM archaeologist is, so the sentence has to come after the term is defined in sentence 3. This means that the sentence must come either before or after sentence 4. And since you need some sort of explanation as to what the "analysis" means in sentence 4, sentence 1 must be placed before sentence 4.

Example Question #2 : Ordering Sentences

The Sagrada Familia has stood, incomplete, as part of the Barcelona skyline since the early phases of its construction in 1882. The project, originally intended to be a cathedral in the gothic style, was begun by the bookseller Joseph Maria Bocabella under the direction of the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. Del Villar and Bocabella imagined a basilica modeled on the Gothic revival churches Bocabella had seen on trips to Italy. However, Bocabella’s ideal basilica never came to be. In 1883 del Villar resigned from the project, and 30-year old Antoni Gaudi, a young but already well known architect from Catalonia, took over as lead architect.

[1] By the time Gaudi died in 1926, the basilica was only somewhere between 15 and 20 percent complete. [2] Gaudi decided to depart from del Villar’s original Gothic design in favor of a more modern design. [3] The new design was ambitious, featuring eighteen tall spires and four different facades on different sides of the basilica. [4] But work on the new building was slow. [5] Decades passed, and the work was still incomplete. [6] In 1915, Gaudi - now 63 years old - abandoned all other work in favor of dedicating himself to the completion of the monumental church, but progress on the building was still slow. [7] When pressured to speed up work on the monumental building, Gaudi was said to have replied, “My client is not in a hurry.”  

 

To make this paragraph as logical as possible, sentence 1 should be placed

Possible Answers:

after sentence 7.

after sentence 4.

before sentence 5.  

where it is now.

Correct answer:

after sentence 7.

Explanation:

Whenever a question asks you to place a sentence within the context of the paragraph in order to increase the logic of the paragraph, remember that the SAT almost always puts its passages in chronological order. Since this paragraph is about Gaudi's work on the Sagrada Familia, a sentence about Gaudi's death should be the last sentence that talks about Gaudi's work. The last sentence that talks about Gaudi's work on the basilica is sentence 7, which talks about Gaudi's response to the criticism that the work was too slow. The sentence about his death must come after that, making, "after sentence 7", the only logical answer.

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