Login
Copyright

PSAT Writing & Language Test: Standard English Convention Questions

Instructor: Jay Simons

Jay has taught college writing and literature and has a PhD in English.

This lesson covers Standard English Convention questions as they appear on the PSAT Writing & Language Test. You will learn what Standard English Convention questions look like, review some sample questions, and get a few tips for responding to them.

Standard English Convention Questions

The different types of Writing and Language Test questions (e.g., Standard English Conventions) are not labeled or grouped together on the test. It is not necessary for you to recognize the type, but it may be helpful to do so.

Standard English Convention questions ask you to make choices concerning correct sentence structure, usage, and punctuation in passages that are provided. In other words, you will be focusing on what is commonly referred to as grammar. For example, a question may ask you to correct the punctuation within a sentence. Or you may be asked to decide whether a verb (a word that expresses action or a state of being) or a pronoun (a word that substitutes for a noun--he, she, it, they, etc.) should be singular or plural.

Sample Questions

Let's imagine that the following sentence appears on the test:

The inventor was nervous, he didn't want to look foolish in front of potential investors.

1) How should this sentence be corrected?

A) NO CHANGE

B) The inventor, was nervous, he didn't want to look foolish in front of potential investors.

C) The inventor was nervous; he didn't want to look foolish in front of potential investors.

D) Because the inventor was nervous, he didn't want to look foolish in front of potential investors.

In this case, the correct answer would be C). The sentence is an example of a comma splice, or two separate sentences being joined together with a comma (other options include using a period to make two complete sentences or keeping the comma but adding a joining word, like 'because' after it). B) inserts an unnecessary comma between the subject and verb, as well as failing to fix the comma splice. D) is grammatically correct, but changes the meaning of the sentence (the inventor's fear of looking foolish is what is causing his nervousness, rather than the other way around).

Now for another sentence:

Kathleen and him were unable to help my brother and I.

2) How should this sentence be corrected?

A) NO CHANGE

B) He and Kathleen were unable to help my brother and me.

C) He and Kathleen were unable to help my brother and I.

D) Kathleen and he were unable to help my brother and I.

The correct response is B). The problem with the sentence is that the subject ('Kathleen and him') employs an object pronoun, him, instead of the subject pronoun, he; likewise, the object of the sentence, 'my brother and I,' employs the subject pronoun 'I' instead of the object pronoun 'me.' Subject pronouns--I, you, he, she, it, we, they--appear in the subject of sentences, performing the action, whereas object pronouns--me, you, him, her, it, us, them--appear elsewhere, as receivers of actions. The phrase 'my brother and I' probably sounds correct to most people, but is only right when it's the subject of the sentence, rather than an object receiving the action, as it is here. The phrase 'Kathleen and him,' as the subject of the sentence, requires the replacement of 'him' with the subject pronoun 'he.'

Finally, let's imagine that the following sentence appears on the test:

Whether going to the movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or at home, they enjoyed spending time together.

3) How should this sentence be corrected?

A) NO CHANGE

B) Whether they were going to the movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or at home, they enjoyed spending time together.

C) Whether going to the movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or relaxing at home, they enjoyed spending time together.

D) Whether at home, going to the movies, or eating at a nice restaurant, they enjoyed spending time together.

The correct answer for this one is C). The issue here is parallelism, or repeated elements of a sentence (such as verbs or phrases), appearing in the same form. In this case, each of the items listed starts with an -ing verb, 'going' and 'eating,' except for the third item, 'at home.' In order to make all these items parallel, an -ing verb, like 'relaxing,' must be added before 'at home.' The addition of 'they were' in B) is not incorrect in and of itself, but the faulty parallelism remains. Likewise, D)'s moving up of the phrase 'at home' is fine, except for the failure to add an -ing verb to bring it into parallel with the other two items.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher
What is your educational goal?
 Back

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support