PSAT Writing Skills Strategies

PSAT Writing Skills Strategies
Improving Sentences
Identifying Sentence Errors
Improving paragraphs
(20 questions)
(14 questions)
(5 questions)
Improving Sentences
Review the chart on page 29 of your bulletin very carefully. An understanding of these characteristics of
effective writing will help you to identify all errors in this section.
Read the entire sentence carefully but quickly.
Remember that the portion with no underline stays the same.
Mark choice (A) if the underlined portion seems correct. Quickly recheck the other answers.
Think of how you would correct the question. See if your answer is an option.
Errors in parallel structure are commonly tested. All parts of a sentence given in a series
should be similar in form. If they are not, you have a parallel structure error. For example,
if you say, “I am taking courses in Algebra II, U.S. History, and how to speak French,” you
have violated parallel structure. To preserve parallel structure, write “I am taking courses in
Algebra II, U.S. History, and French.”
Identifying Sentence Errors
a. Read the entire sentence carefully but quickly.
b. Look at choices (A) through (D) to see whether any underlined part needs to be changed to
make the sentence correct. (Sometimes there is a mistake that is not underlined. Don’t worry
about those.)
c. Look for most common errors first: subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent problems,
misuse of adjectives and adverbs, dangling modifiers.
d. Don’t waste time looking for errors if you don’t think there are any.
e. Move quickly through these questions. The other sections will probably take longer to
f. Phrases involving the word “being” are often awkward or wordy and might possibly be more
elegantly or concisely formulated in some other way.
Improving Paragraphs
a. Read the entire essay quickly to determine its overall meaning. The essay is supposed to be
a draft, so don’t linger over errors. Then read the questions.
b. Look at the questions. It generally saves time to deal first with those that ask you to improve
individual sentences. Then do the ones that ask you to strengthen the passage as a whole.
c. Look for choices that contain “signal words.” For example:
If the selection is contrasting two ideas, words like although, despite,
however, nevertheless, in comparison, on the contrary, on the other hand,
will strengthen the passage.
If one part of the essay is supporting an idea developed elsewhere, it might
profit from the use of words like additionally, furthermore, in addition,
likewise, moreover.
If the selection is saying that one thing CAUSES another, you might use
words like accordingly, as a result of, because, consequently, hence,
therefore, thus.
d. After you make your choice, read the passage putting in your correction. Make sure that it
fits and is correct!