Florida’s Postsecondary Education Readiness Test 2019-02-20T21:36:31+00:00

Florida’s Postsecondary Education Readiness Test

Preparing to Take the P.E.R.T

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Quick Facts

Get the “need to know” information at a quick glance.

Overview

This assessment is a placement test for students in Florida who are planning to begin entry-level college courses. It is used to ensure you are prepared for college courses and that you are placed in the correct level of courses. The P.E.R.T. tests your knowledge and skills in math, reading, and writing.

Format

The P.E.R.T. is separated into three different assessments – one for reading, one for writing, and one for math. Each assessment has 30 multiple-choice questions. There is no time limit for this test. The questions are adaptive, which means that the questions you are given will change based on your answers to previous questions. Because of this, you are not able to go back to questions once you have answered them, so make sure you are confident in your answer choice before you submit a question.

Cost

The test costs $0.94 per subject area, for a total of $2.82 for all subjects. State funding and/or your school district might pay for your test.

Scoring

Your score will be available to you immediately after you finish the test. With this test, you do not pass or fail. Instead, your score is used by colleges to determine appropriate placement for you in certain courses.

Study Time

This test contains a considerable amount of higher-level questions, particularly the math assessment. When studying, you might find that certain concepts are completely unfamiliar or new to you. Make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to cover these topics in depth until you feel confident about them. Plan to study for several weeks to feel fully prepared for the test.

What test takers wish they would’ve known:

  • Due to the format of the test, you cannot go back to questions you have already answered.
  • You cannot bring a calculator to the test. However, certain math questions will include a “pop up” calculator on the computer screen.
  • Try to think of your answer before you look at the answer choices, to avoid being swayed by incorrect answers.
  • If you do not know an answer, try to eliminate answer choices and then choose the best answer out of the remaining choices.

Information and screenshots obtained from the Florida Department of Education website.

Mathematics

The Mathematics assessment has 30 questions.

There are seven competencies:

So, let’s talk about equations first.

Equations

This competency tests your ability to solve linear equations, linear inequalities, quadratic equations, and literal equations.

Let’s talk about some concepts that will definitely be on the test.

Solving Linear Equations

A linear equation is an equation that forms a straight line when graphed on a coordinate plane. A linear equation has one or two variables. This test will mainly focus on linear equations with one variable. This variable is often written as x, but any letter can be used. To solve a linear equation with one variable, you need to get the variable by itself on one side of the equation. This will allow you to find the value of the variable, or in other words, the answer. An example of this is shown below, with explanations for each step.

x + (8 – 2x) – 2 = 0

In order to get x by itself on one side of the equation, we need to “move” everything else to the other side. To do this, you basically need to do the opposite of the operation in the equation, and do this to both sides. For example, to get rid of the – 2 on the left side of the equation, we need to add 2 to both sides:

x + (8 – 2x) – 2 + 2 = 0 + 2

Once this is done, the equation is now:

x + (8 – 2x) = 2

Since there is nothing being multiplied by the expression in the parenthesis, we don’t really need to use the parenthesis right now. (If there were something being multiplied by the expression in the parenthesis, such as 4(8 – 2x), you would need to do that first.) The equation can be written without the parenthesis as:

x + 8 – 2x = 2

Now, we need to “move” the 8 to the other side of the equation by subtracting it from each side, since it is currently being added:

x + 8 – 8 – 2x = 2 – 8

Once it is simplified, this can be written as:

x – 2x = -6

The next step is to combine the x – 2x.  Since the x is a variable, you are really just doing 1 – 2, which is -1 (a variable without a coefficient written next to it means the coefficient is just 1). So x – 2x is -1x, or just -x.

The equation is now:

-x = -6

The last step is to eliminate the negative sign in front of the x by dividing each side of the equation by -1:

-x-1=-6-1

Since a negative number divided by a negative number results in a positive number, the right side of the equation will now be 6. This means that x = 6:

x = 6

You can check your answer on a linear equation by putting your answer into the equation in place of the variable and checking that each side of the equation is equal:

6 + (8 – 2(6)) – 2 = 0

6 + (8 – 12) – 2 = 0

6 + -4 – 2 = 0

2 – 2 = 0

0 = 0

Solving Linear Inequalities

A linear inequality is similar to a linear equation, but instead of an equal sign, it will have one of the following symbols: ≤ ≥ < >

This means that once you find the solution to a linear inequality, the value of the variable can be anything greater than or less than the number on the other side of the equation. The solution to linear inequalities with one variable can be shown on a number line.

To solve a linear inequality, you follow the same steps as solving a linear equation, with one important change to watch for: If you multiply or divide each side of the equation by a negative number, the inequality sign will change directions. For example, a less than sign will change to a greater than sign. This will be discussed in the example below:

-2y + 3 > 5

The first step is to move the 3 to the other side of the inequality by subtracting 3 from each side:

-2y + 3 – 3 > 5 – 3

When simplified, this is:

-2y > 2

The next step is to divide each side by -2. Since we are dividing each side by a negative number, the > sign will change to <:

-2y/-2 < 2/-2

Since a positive number divided by a negative number results in a negative number, the right side of the inequality is now -1. When simplified, this is:

y < -1

To graph this on a number line, you put an empty circle around the -1, then graph a solid line with an arrow covering anything less than -1. If the inequality had been y -1, then a solid circle would have been used on -1, to show that -1 could also be a solution to the inequality:

Solving Quadratic Equations

A quadratic equation is an equation where one of the variables has an exponent of 2. When graphed on a coordinate plane, quadratic equations form a parabola, or curve, similar to the one shown below:

The standard form for a quadratic equation is:

a +bx + c = 0

where a, b, and c are all known values, meaning they will be numbers instead of variables.

An example of a quadratic equation is:

x² + 6x + 5 = 0

To solve a quadratic equation, we need to factor the polynomial on the left side of the equation. Factoring polynomials is explained in more detail in the following section, but the end goal of factoring is to get two different expressions that are being multiplied by one another. When these factors are set to equal zero, we can use them to get two different answers for the quadratic equation. These two answers will be two different values for x, and they will be the points where the graph of the parabola crosses the x-axis. To factor this equation, we need to get it to look something like this:

( __ ± __ )( __± __ ) = 0

We basically need to “undo” the multiplication that was done to get the equation into the standard quadratic form and find the two expressions that were multiplied together. Again, this is covered in more detail in a later section, but once our equation is factored it will be:

(x + 1)(x + 5) = 0

When (x + 1)(x + 5) is multiplied using the FOIL method, it would get us back to x²+ 6x + 5.

Now that we have the two factors, we can use each one separately to find the two x-values. To do this, you will set each factor to equal zero and then solve for x. This will look like:

x + 1 = 0

x + 1 – 1 = 0 – 1

x = -1

x + 5 = 0

x + 5 – 5 = 0 – 5

x = -5

This means that both x = -1 and x = -5 are answers to the quadratic equation. This is also where the parabola crosses the x-axis, as shown below:

Algebraic Expressions

This competency tests your ability to evaluate algebraic expressions.

Here is what you need to know.

Evaluating Algebraic Expressions

An algebraic expression is an expression with constants (or in other words, numbers) and variables. For example, 4xy – 2y is an algebraic expression. To solve an algebraic expression, you need to know the value of the variables. This will often be presented in a question like this:

What is the value of 4x(z) if x = ½, y = -1, and z = 2?

To solve this, you need to put the value of the variables in place of the variables and solve the expression by following the order of operations. So, to solve the example above, we would start with this:

4(½)(-1² * 2)

(Note that when variables are written right next to each other, such as z, this means to multiply)

The first step is to solve or simplify any expressions within parentheses. So we will do:

-1² * 2

Within the parenthesis we still follow the order of operations, so the exponent will come next. This means we will multiply -1 x -1. Since a negative number multiplied by a negative number results in a positive number:

-1² = 1

Now the whole expression is written as:

4(½)(1 × 2)

Since 1 x 2 is still in parentheses, we will simplify that to just 2. Now the expression is:

4(½)(2)

When a number is right next to another number with parenthesis around it, this means you multiply the numbers. Another way to show multiplication is with a dot between the numbers, such as 4 * 1/2 * 2.

Since all that is left is multiplication, we will work from left to right to solve the expression:

4(½) = 2

So, the expression is now:

2(2)

The last step is to multiply 2 x 2, so our answer is 4.

Order of Operations

The order of operations is the order in which computations must be completed in a math problem. The order of operations is as follows:

  1. Parenthesis
  2. Exponents
  3. Multiplication & Division
  4. Addition & Subtraction

This means that in a given math expression, anything that is contained within parenthesis must be completed first. After solving the expressions in the parenthesis, you would solve any part of the expression with an exponent. After the exponents, you would solve any multiplication or division portion of the problem, in the order they appear in the problem moving left to right. The last step is to solve any addition or subtraction parts of the problem, again moving left to right.  

A common misconception about the order of operations is that multiplication comes before division and addition comes before subtraction. This is not the case. When you are at the multiplication and division step, you will solve whichever one comes first when you read the problem from left to right. The same thing applies to the addition and subtraction step. The order of operations can be remembered by the acronym PEMDAS.

Let’s try an example:

(9 – 6) ÷ 2³

The first step is to complete anything within parentheses. So, we will do 9 – 6 first. The expression can now be written as:

3 ÷ 2³

The next step is to do anything with exponents. In this expression, that is 23. This means we will multiply 2 x 2 x 2 to get 8. The expression is now:

3 ÷ 8

To simplify this, you can either write it as a fraction:

3/8

Or as a decimal:

0.375

Since there was no multiplication, addition, or subtraction (except for the subtraction contained within parentheses), these steps were skipped.

Polynomials

This competency tests your ability to factor, simplify, add, subtract, multiply, and divide polynomials.

Take a look at these concepts.

Factoring Polynomial Expressions

A polynomial is an expression with 3 or more “terms.” A term is a number or variable being multiplied by a variable, such as 10x³ or 5x. An example of a polynomial is: x² − 8x + 15. 

To find the factors of a polynomial, we first need to understand how to multiply two factors to get a polynomial expression. Two factors being multiplied will look something like this:

(x – 3)(x + 4)

To multiply these two factors, we will use the “FOIL” method. FOIL stands for, “First, Outside, Inside, Last,” and refers to the order in which we will multiply the terms. We start by multiplying the first terms in each equation. In the above example, these are both x. So when x and x are multiplied by one another, we get:

Next, we will multiply the outside or outermost terms. In our example, this means the first x and the 4. When we multiply 4 and x, we get positive 4x, or:

+4x

Is it important to keep track of positive and negative numbers, because this will determine if the terms are added or subtracted later on.

The next step is to multiply the inside or innermost terms in the expression. In our example, this is -3 and +x. The 3 is negative, because it is being subtracted, so we use a -3. When we multiply -3 and +x, we get:

-3x

The last step is to multiply the last terms of each factor, which are -3 and +4 in our example. When we multiply these two numbers we get:

-12

Now we combine these terms to get a polynomial expression:

x² + 4x – 3x – 12

By combining like terms, we can simplify this to:

x² + x – 12

Now that we know how to multiply two factors, we can use this knowledge to factor a polynomial expression. To do this, we will basically do the reverse of what we just did. We are working backwards to find two factors that, when multiplied together, get us the polynomial expression. This may sound like it will just be trial and error, but there are actually several clues in a polynomial that can help you find the factors.

Let’s factor the following example:

x² – 6x + 8

To start, set up two sets of parentheses like this:

(         )(         )

Next, we will use clues in the polynomial to fill in the terms in the parentheses. Since the first term of the example is x2, we know that the first term in each factor must be x. So, we can put these into our factors, or parentheses:

(x        )(x        )

Now, we need to find numbers for the other parts of the factors. Since the last number, 8, is positive (because it is being added), we know that the operations used in each factor have to either both be addition or both be subtraction. We know this, because a positive number multiplied by a positive number equals a positive number, and a negative number multiplied by a negative number also equals a positive number.

So, the factors can either both use addition or both use subtraction. However, since the middle term, -6x, is negative (since 6x is being subtracted), this tells us that the two operations are both going to be subtraction. If they were both addition, we would not end up with a negative number as the middle term.

Now we can go ahead and put those operations into our factors:

(x –     )(x –     )

The last step is to find two numbers that when multiplied together equal 8 and when combined by addition or subtracted equal -6. We can start by finding out what numbers multiply together to get 8. Our options are:

-8 x -1

Or

-4 x -2

-8 x -1 does equal 8, but when -1 and -8 are added together (-1 + -8), we get -9. So, we can’t use -8 and -1.

When -4 and -2 are added together (-4 + -2), we get -6. So, that means these must be our two numbers for our factors. We can put these values into our parentheses:

(x – 4)(x – 2)

To check that these are our factors, you can use the FOIL method to make sure that, when multiplied, these factors equal:

x² – 6x + 8

Simplifying Polynomial Expressions

Polynomials can be simplified by combining like terms. This means that anything with the same variable and same exponent can be combined. For example, 2x, 4x, and x are all like terms, because they all have a variable of x, and the x does not have an exponent. 3 and 5x² are like terms, because they both have x as a variable and both have an exponent of 2. 3x² and 2x are not like terms, because one has an exponent of 2 and the other does not. 3xy and 2x are not like terms, because one has x and y as variables and the other only has x. Numbers without any variables are also like terms and can be combined, or simplified.

Let’s look at the steps to simplify the following expression:

3x² – 8x + 7 – 2 –  + 8x – 3

Start by simplifying any numbers without variables. In this expression, that is 7 and 3. Since the 7 is being added, we will say that this is a positive 7 (+7). The 3 is being subtracted, so that means we will do 7 – 3 to get +4. Since the 4 is positive, it will be added in the expression rather than subtracted. The polynomial is now:

3– 8x – 2 –  + 8x + 4

Next, combine any terms with just x as a variable. This includes -8x and +8x.  Since -8 + 8 = 0, and zero multiplied by any number or variable is still just zero, this means that these terms combine to just get 0. So, we don’t even need to add this into the expression. The -8x and 8x essentially “cancel each other out.” The polynomial is now:

3 – 2  + 4

Next, we will combine 3x² and x² since both have x².  When a variable does not have a coefficient (the number in front of it), you can assume that the coefficient is 1. This means we are really doing 3x²– 1x². Since 3 – 1 = 2, combining these two terms gets +2x², which means we will add the 2x² to the expression. The polynomial can now be written as:

-2x³ + 2x² + 4

Since there are no more like terms, this is the most simplified form we can write this in. When simplified, polynomials are typically written with the largest exponent first and the numbers without any variables last.

Applying Standard Algorithms

This competency tests your ability to know when and how to apply standard algorithms and perform them flexibly, accurately, and efficiently.

A standard algorithm is a specific method or set of steps that are used to solve math problems. These algorithms are well known, widely recognized, and frequently used. There are standard algorithms for division, multiplication, and for adding and subtracting numbers with multiple digits. These algorithms involve regrouping (also known as “carrying” and “borrowing”).

Here are some concepts you have to know.

Determining Percents

A percent is given as a number out of 100. The word percent actually means “per hundred.” To find a percent of something, you will use the following formula:

Percent = [part/total] ×100

This means you will divide the part you are referring to by the total number of things that the part is a portion of, then multiply this number by 100.

For example, let’s say you want to know what percent of shots a basketball player makes. In last year’s basketball season, a player attempted 650 shots and made 305 of those shots. To find a percentage for how many shots they made out of how many they attempted, you would do:

305/650 × 100

305/650 = .469

Next we will multiply .469 x 100. To do this, just move the decimal point two places to the right.

So, the percentage of shots made is 46.9 percent, which can be rounded to 47 percent or 47%.

Dividing a Fraction by a Whole Number

To divide a fraction by a whole number, you need to multiply the denominator (bottom number) of the fraction by the whole number and keep the numerator (top number) the same. This is because when you are dividing a fraction by 3, for example, you are actually taking ⅓ of the fraction, so you are really multiplying the fraction by ⅓. Let’s look at an example:

(2/5) / 4 = ___

This means you are really taking ¼ of the fraction ⅖, so we will do:

2/5 * 1/2/20

We would also get the same answer by just multiplying the denominator (5) by whole number (4) and keeping the numerator the same.

So our answer is 2/20, which can be reduced to 1/10 (by dividing the top and bottom of the fraction by 2).

Coordinate Planes

This competency tests your ability to translate between lines and inspect equations.

Take a look at some concepts that you will see on the test.

The Coordinate Plane

A coordinate plane is used as a way to show a visual representation of data points or an equation with variables. A coordinate plane is formed by an x-axis that runs horizontally (side to side) and a y-axis that runs vertically (up and down). The point where these two axes intersect is called the origin and has a coordinate of (0,0).  

A coordinate is shown as two numbers in parenthesis, divided by a comma. The first number is the x-value and the second number is the y-value. The x-value shows how far over to go on the x-axis. The y-value shows how high up to go on the y-axis. The data point on the graph will be where these two lines meet. The coordinate plane below shows three examples of different data points.

There are various ways to graph a line on a coordinate plane, but one way that is often used is to put an equation into slope-intercept form. Slope intercept form is:

y = mx + b

Where m is the slope of the line and b is the y-intercept.

To graph an equation written in this format, you would start at the y-intercept and graph that point on the y-axis. Then, you would use the slope to plot other points on the line. The numerator (the top number in a fraction) on the slope tells you how far up or down to move on the y-axis and the denominator (the bottom number on a fraction) tells you how far forwards or backwards to move on the x-axis. The coordinate plane below shows the line that is formed by the equation y= -¾ x + 3.

Since the y-intercept is +3, you can start the line at (0,3). This means the line will cross the y-axis at this point. Next, you use the slope -¾ to plot other data points. You can choose to use the negative with either the 3 or the 4 (but not both at the same time) and the line will still end up the same. With slope, the top number in the fraction tells you how far up or down to go and the bottom number tells you how far backwards or forwards to go.

So from the point (0,3) we can use -3 and +4, which means to go “down 3, forward 4.” When we move down 3 on the plane and forward 4, this puts us at the point (4,0). Put a point there on the coordinate plane. You can connect these two points to draw a line, but it is sometimes easier to plot 3 points before drawing a line connecting them. To get one more point, start again at the y-intercept (3,0). This time, we will use +3 and -4, which means go “up 3, backwards 4.”  This puts us at (-4,6).

Now we have three points plotted on the coordinate plane: (-4,6), (0,3), and (4,0).  To graph the line, connect the three points and continue the line in both directions, ending with arrows at the end to indicate that the line actually continues on endlessly (towards infinity).

 

Determining the Equation of a Line

When using two points to find the equation of a line, you will use two different formulas: the formula for slope and the point-slope formula:

Slope formula:  m = [y– y1] / [x– x1]

The variable m is used for slope.

Point-slope formula: y – y1 = m(x – x1)

The first step is to find the slope of the line. To do this, use the formula for slope:

m = (y– y1) / (x– x1)

So, if the two points you are given are (-2,9) and (1,3), you would put these two points into the slope formula. You can choose either coordinate to be (x2,y2)but you do need to remain consistent. For example, if -2 is x2then 9 has to be y2. Using those two points with the slope formula, we would do:

m = (9 – 3) / (– 2 – 1)

This can be simplified to:

m = – 3

And then further simplified to:

m = -2

Now that we have a slope of -2, we will use this and one of the two points with the point-slope formula. You can choose which of the two points you use. If we use (1,3), the point-slope formula will look like this:

y – 3 = -2(x – 1)

This can be rewritten as:

y – 3 = -2x + 2

To get this into slope-intercept form, we just need to move the -3 from the left side of the equation by adding 3 to both sides:

y – 3 + 3 = -2x + 2 + 3

Once simplified, the equation of the line written in slope-intercept form is:

y = -2x + 5

To check your work, you can put either of the two points into the equation and make sure both sides of the equation are equal:

3 = -2(1) + 5

3 = -2 + 5

3=3

Simultaneous Linear Equations

This competency tests your ability to simultaneously solve for pairs of linear equations with two variables.

Let’s look at a concept that is definitely going to be on the assessment.

Solving Simultaneous Linear Equations

Solving simultaneous linear equations means you are finding an x-value and y-value that will work for both equations. When two lines are graphed at the same time on a coordinate plane, the point where they intersect is the x- and y-values that answer both questions. One way to find the answer for simultaneous linear equations is to graph both lines and find the point where they intersect.

Another way to solve simultaneous linear equations is to use the substitution method, which we will look at more closely below.

Questions about simultaneous linear equations are often phrased like this:

Solve simultaneously for x and y:

2x + y = 2 and x – y = -2

To use the substitution method, you first need to choose one of the two equations and solve for either x or y. Let’s do this with the second equation, x – y = -1.

To solve for x in this problem, we only need to move the -y to the other side of the equation by doing the inverse operation to both sides. This means we will add y to both sides:

x – y + y = -2 + y

When simplified, this can be written as:

x = -2 + y

Now that we know that x = -1 + y in this equation, we can substitute -1 + y anywhere that there is an x in the first equation. So instead of: 2x + y = 8, we can write:

2(-2 + y) + y = 4

Now we just need to solve for the value of y. The first step of that is to multiply 2

by everything in the parenthesis:

2(-2) + 2(y) + y = 4

Simplified, this is:

-4 + 2y + y = 2

Now we can combine like terms by adding 2y + y. Remember that a variable with no coefficient means a coefficient of 1, so this is really 2y + 1y. Now our equation is:

-4 + 3y = 2

Next we need to do the inverse operation of -2, which means we will add 2 to both sides of the equation:

-4 + 3y + 4 = 2 + 4

Simplified, this is:

3y = 6

Now we need to divide each side by 3:

3y ÷ 3 = 6 ÷ 3

Simplified, this is:

y = 2

When you are solving problems like these, you will want to find a way to keep track of that y-value, such as circling or putting a box around your answer. Now that we have a y-value, we can put that number in place of the y in either equation and solve for x. Since x – y = -1 is a shorter, simpler equation, let’s use that one:

Instead of x – y = -2, we can write:

x – 2 = -2

Now we just solve for x by doing the inverse operation of -2 to each side. So we will add 2 to each side of the equation:

x – 2 + 2 = -2 + 2

Simplified, this is:

x = 0

Now we have an x-value and a y-value. You can check these answers by putting both values into both equations and making sure the equations are equal. Our answer can either be written as:

x = 0, y = 2

Or as a coordinate:

(0, 2)

And that’s some basic info about the Mathematics assessment.

Now, let’s look at a few practice questions to see how these concepts might actually appear on the real test.

Mathematics Practice Questions

Question 1

Simplify: (4x²y³z⁻³)² / (8x³y⁵z⁻⁴)

  1. z / 2xy²
  2. 2z² / xy
  3. 8xy / z²
  4. 2xy / z²

Correct answer: 4. Begin by raising the parenthetical expression in the numerator to the power 2 as indicated: 16x⁴y⁶z⁻⁶ / 8x³y⁵z⁻⁴. Then, simplify using the quotient of powers property: 2x⁽⁴ ⁻ ³⁾y⁽⁶ ⁻ ⁵⁾ z⁻⁶⁻⁽⁻⁴⁾= 2x¹y¹z⁻² = (2xy) / z².

Question 2

Solve the equation: 2x² + x – 28 = 0.

  1. x = -4, 3.5
  2. x = -3.5, 4
  3. x = 3.5, 4
  4. x = -4, -3.5

Correct answer: 1. 2x² + x – 28 = (2x – 7)(x + 4) = 0. So, x = 7/2 = 3.5 or x = -4.

Question 3

Which of the following is the equation of a line that passes through (2, -5) and (-3, 10)?

  1. y = -3x + 1
  2. y – 3x = 1
  3. 3x + 2y = 1
  4. y + 1 = -3x

Correct answer: 1. m = (-5 – 10)/(2 – (-3)) = (-15)/5 = -3 So, y = -3x + b. Substitute one of the given points into the slope-intercept form of the equation: 10 = -3(-3) + b and b = 1. The equation in slope intercept form is y = -3x + 1.

Question 4

Solve the equation: x² – 11x + 24 = 0.

  1. x = -3, 8
  2. x = 3, 8
  3. x = -8, 3
  4. x = -8, -3

Correct answer: 2. This equation can be factored into (x-8)(x-3) = 0. Therefore, the solutions will be x = 3, 8.

Question 5

If  ⅙x – 4 = 1, then x =

  1. 2
  2. 10
  3. 30
  4. -18

Correct answer: 3. The first step to solve this equation is to add 4 to each side, as +4 is the additive inverse of the -4 that is preventing the variable expression from being alone on its own side of the problem. The resulting equation is ⅙x = 5. At this point, 6 should be multiplied on each side of the equation in order to eliminate the factor ⅙ from in front of the x, as 6/1 is the multiplicative inverse of the fraction ⅙ that is preventing the variable from being alone. When 6 has been multiplied to each side, the result is x = 30.

Question 6

If 4x – (5y/2) = -10 and x = 5, then what is the value of y?

  1. 6
  2. 24
  3. -12
  4. 12

Correct answer: 4. To answer this question, begin by substituting in the value 5 for the variable x in the original equation. The result will be: 4(5) – (5y/2) = -10. Simplification of 4 × 5 can be performed so that the equation becomes 20 – (5y/2) = -10. Next, 20 can be subtracted on each side of the equal sign in order to get the variable y closer to being alone. The result is –(5y/2) = -30. Next, either 2 can be multiplied to each side of the problem before -5 is divided on each side, or else the fraction -2/5 can be multiplied on each side of the problem in order to cancel out the -5/2 that is multiplied by the y. The result of that (or those) steps is y = -30(-2/5) which simplifies to y = 60/5 or simply, y = 12.

Question 7

The inequality statement, 9x – 8 > 24 – 7x, can be fully simplified to which expression?

  1. x > 2
  2. x < 2
  3. x < 16
  4. x > 16

Correct answer: 1. Simplification of the expression 9x – 8 > 24 – 7x can begin in multiple ways, but the simplest is to add 7x to each side. Adding a quantity never causes a change in direction of the inequality sign, so the resulting statement is 16x – 8 > 24. Next, 8 can be added to each side of the problem, resulting in 16x > 32. Finally, x will be isolated when 16 is divided from each side. Division by a positive number does not result in a change in the direction of the inequality sign, and so the final answer is x > 2.

Question 8

The varsity basketball team has 3 freshmen, 5 sophomores, 3 juniors, and 4 seniors. Approximately what percentage of the basketball team is comprised of sophomores?

  1. 30%
  2. 33%
  3. 25%
  4. 20%

Correct answer: 2. A percentage is a comparison. In this case, the percentage of the basketball team that is comprised of sophomores is found by dividing the number of sophomores on the team by the total number of students on the team. There are 5 sophomores on the team. There are a total of 3 + 5 + 3 + 4 = 15 students on the basketball team. Therefore, the ratio of sophomores to the whole team can be represented by 5:15 or 1:3. When the ratio is converted to a fraction and divided, the decimal form of ⅓ = 0.333… The decimal is converted to a percentage by moving the decimal point two places to the right and putting a percent symbol at the back. Therefore, the best answer is the rounded version of 33.333…%, or 33%.

Question 9

Which of the following is equivalent to 6+(5-2 * 3?

  1. 45
  2. 36
  3. 24
  4. 33

Correct answer: 4. This is the correct answer. You must work this problem by following the order of operations (parenthesis, exponents, multiplication/division, addition/subtraction). First, solve within the parenthesis: 5 – 2 = 3. The problem now reads 6 + 3² * 3. Then, solve for the exponents: 3² = 9. The problem now reads 6 + 93. Next, solve the multiplication problem: 93 = 27. The problem now reads 6 + 27. Finally, solve the addition problem: 6 + 27 = 33.

Question 10

Which of the following is equivalent to the expression (4ab)(-5ab)?

  1. -20
  2. -ab
  3. -20ab

Correct answer: 1. This is the correct answer. (4ab)(-5ab)is the same as (4)(a)(b)(-5)(a)(b). We can rearrange the factors, because multiplication is commutative (order doesn’t matter): (4)(-5)(a)(a)(b)(b). Now, simplify: -20.

Reading

The Reading assessment has 30 questions.

There are ten competencies:

So, let’s talk about a few of these competencies.

Discerning and Summarizing Information

This competency tests your ability to decide what the most important ideas, events, and information in a text are and then summarize those ideas, events, and information.

Let’s look at a concept that is definitely going to be on the assessment.

Identifying Summaries

A summary is a brief overview or description of a lengthier reading passage. A summary should include the main points of a passage, such as the beginning, middle, and end of a story. It should not include minor details or your opinion of the passage. The length of a summary will vary based on how long the original passage is, but for shorter passages like the ones that will likely be used on this test, a summary will be about two or three sentences long.

To choose a summary statement from answer choices, eliminate any answer choices that include details from the passage rather than main points. Eliminate answers that include something not mentioned in the passage. Look for an answer that sounds like what you might tell someone if they asked, “What was that passage about?”

 

Supporting or Challenging Assertions

This competency tests your ability to provide evidence to either support or refute statements about a piece of text and make logical inferences from that evidence.

Take a look at these concepts.

Supporting Evidence

Evidence is information in a passage that supports claims or statements being made by the author. To find supporting evidence in a passage, look for specific statements in different paragraphs that help contribute to the main or central idea. These statements might be factual information (such as statistics) that help support the central idea. They might also be examples that help further explain the author’s claims.

For example, if an author’s main point or claim is that, “Students like paper textbooks more than online versions or e-books,” two supporting evidence statements might be:

“When (x amount) of students where polled, (x percent) stated that they prefer paper textbooks over e-books.”

“For example, many students who were polled explained that they prefer paper textbooks, because they are easier to take notes in and use on the go.”

Making Inferences

Making inferences means making an educated guess or reasonable conclusion about something, even when it is not explicitly stated. To make an inference, you will use your own background knowledge combined with information that you have read in a passage to come up with a reasonable conclusion.

For example, if you read a sentence that said, “He leapt out of bed to the smell of smoke and the sound of beeping,” you would make an inference that there was a fire, even though that was never stated. Questions that ask you to make an inference are sometimes worded in this format:

“Based on the information in the passage, the reader can conclude that _____.”

Meaning of Words and Phrases

This competency tests your ability to define words and phrases by using hints from the passage.

Here is something that you definitely need to know.

Using Context Clues

Context clues are pieces of information that help you understand what the author is saying. Context clues are frequently used to help you understand the meaning of a word or phrase. When you are reading a passage and come across a word that you don’t know the meaning of, look to the surrounding words or sentences for clues about what the word might mean. The author might include examples after the word, synonyms, or explanations. For example, in the following sentence, the word conundrum might be a new word to some people:

“He was faced with quite the conundrum. He didn’t know what to do about the problem.”

By using context clues in the second sentence, “He didn’t know what to do about the problem,” the reader can conclude that conundrum most likely means a problem or issue that is hard to find a solution to.

Figurative Language

Figurative language is when words are used in a way that is different from their normal definition or use. Figurative language is used to make writing more interesting and descriptive. It includes similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, hyperboles, and idioms.

  • A simile is when one thing is compared to another by using the words “like” or “as.” An example of a simile is: “Her eyes were as bright as the stars.”
  • A metaphor compares two things by stating that one thing is another. An example is: “Her eyes are stars.”
  • An onomatopoeia is a word that is written to imitate a sound. Examples of onomatopoeia include: buzz, bark, plop.
  • A hyperbole is an extreme exaggeration. An example is: “She was so hungry she could eat a horse.”
  • An idiom is a phrase that has a meaning unrelated to the literal meaning of the words. Idioms can be difficult for English language learners or for students who have not been exposed to idioms in everyday conversation. Examples of idioms include: “I’m all ears” and “It’s raining cats and dogs!”

Meaning, Word Choices, Tone and Organizational Structure

This competency tests your ability to:

  • Determine the meaning of a passage
  • Analyze the author’s choice of words
  • Identify the tone of a passage
  • Identify how a passage is organized

Let’s take a look at these concepts.

Tone

Tone is how an author shows their own attitude towards a topic. Word choice, sentence structure, and use of figurative language or imagery all contribute to the tone of a passage. When we refer to tone, we are talking less about what is being said and more about how it is being said.

To identify the tone of a passage, look for descriptive words or phrases that give insight about how the author feels about a topic. Tone can be described using many different words, such as: serious, humorous, depressing, warm, angry, or joyful. A sentence that reads: “He basked in the warm sun while the soft sound of waves splashed lightly around him,” conveys a relaxed or happy tone. A sentence such as, “A wall of grey loomed across the horizon as the storm approached,” conveys an ominous or frightening tone.

Text Structure

Text structure is the way in which information is presented and organized in a book or reading passage. Information can be organized in various ways including:

  • chronological order
  • cause and effect
  • problem and solution
  • compare and contrast

Text that is organized in chronological order will present information in a sequence. It will have a beginning, middle, and end to the story. Narratives and fiction stories are generally organized in this way. Look for transition words such as “first, next, and last” as a clue that a text is organized this way, but note that these transition words will not always be included.

Text that is organized by cause and effect will discuss something that happened and an event or consequence that happened because of it. An example of this would be a passage that talks about how animals are losing their habitats due to forests being cut down.

Text that is organized by problem and solution will have a problem that needs to be fixed and a solution, or way that the problem gets resolved. This can be easily confused with cause and effect. To use a similar example as the one above, text that is organized by problem and solution might discuss forests being cut down and then present possible solutions to this, such as designating land that cannot be disturbed.

Text that is organized by comparing and contrasting will explain the similarities and differences between two or more topics. For example, a paper that discusses how two different government systems are alike and how they are different would be organized by comparing and contrasting.

Author’s Purpose

This competency tests your ability to identify an author’s purpose for writing a piece of text. It also covers how events in a piece of text relate to one another.

Here is a concept that will definitely appear on the assessment.

Determining Author’s Purpose

Author’s purpose is the reason that an author writes a book or other passage. There are three main purposes, or reasons, that an author might write something: to persuade, to inform, or to entertain. Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

Persuade: When the author’s purpose is to persuade, it means they are trying to convince you to do or believe a specific thing. The author will usually try to appeal to the reader’s emotions and may list reasons why you should do or believe something. Examples of this include advertisements or opinion articles that try to sway the reader.

Inform: When an author’s purpose is to inform, it means they are trying to teach you about a topic or provide information to you. A nonfiction passage with facts rather than opinions is a good clue that the author is trying to inform.

Entertain: This means that the author wrote something to interest you or for you to enjoy. The author will often use descriptive language or imagery, or the text might be humorous. Examples of this include poems or fiction books.

Sometimes it may seem like the author has more than one purpose. For example, a fairytale might have a moral of the story that it tries to teach, even though the main purpose is to entertain. An advertisement might include humorous parts that entertains the audience, but the main purpose is to persuade. Always ask yourself what the author’s main goal was when they wrote the passage.

Facts versus Opinions

This competency tests your ability to distinguish between a fact and an opinion.

Let’s look at the difference between facts and opinions.

Facts versus Opinions

A fact is something that is true no matter who is saying it. A fact can be proven. An opinion is how someone feels or what they believe. Opinions can vary from person to person and cannot be proven.

Sometimes it can be easy to determine fact versus opinion, such as “Strawberries are a fruit” (fact) versus “Strawberries are the best fruit” (opinion). Clue words such as “I think” or “We feel that…” can be clues that the author is sharing an opinion. Other times, opinions can be presented in a way that makes them seem like facts, such as articles where the author is trying to make a point or persuade you to believe something. A good way to determine fact versus opinion is to ask yourself, “Can this be proven?” or “Could this thought be different for someone else?”

The following are examples of facts and opinions:

Fact: Trees grow from seeds.

Opinion: We need to plant more seeds to increase the amount of trees.

Fact: The tiger is an endangered species.

Opinion: We should put more laws in place to protect tigers.

Fact: Baseball is a sport that uses a bat, ball, and glove.

Opinion: Baseball is the best sport for children to learn.

And that’s some basic info about the Reading assessment.

Now, let’s look at a few practice questions to see how these concepts might actually appear on the real test.

Read the selection and answer the questions that follow.

Harold Washington’s acceptance speech. In 1983, Harold Washington was the first African American elected mayor of Chicago.

1      Tonight we are here. Tonight we are here to celebrate a resounding victory. We, we have fought a good fight. We have finished our course. And we have kept the faith. We fought that good fight. We fought it, with unseasoned weapons and with a phalanx of people who mostly have never been involved in a political campaign before. This has truly been a pilgrimage. Our government will be moving forward as well, including more people. And more kinds of people, than any government in the history of Chicago. Today… today… today, Chicago has seen the bright daybreak for this city and for perhaps this entire country. The whole nation is watching as Chicago is so powerful in this! Oh yes, they’re watching.  

2      Out of the crucible… Out of the crucible of this city’s most trying election, carried on the tide of the most massive voter turnout in Chicago’s history. Blacks. Whites. Hispanics. Jews. Gentiles. Protestant and Catholics of all stripes. Have joined hands to form a new democratic coalition. And… and to begin in this place a new democratic movement.

3      The talents and dreams of our citizens and neighborhoods will nourish our government the way it should be cherished and feed into the moving river of mankind. And we have kept the faith in ourselves as decent, caring people who gather together as a part of something greater than themselves. We never stopped believing that we were a part of something good and something that had never happened before.

4      We intend to revitalize and rebuild this city. To open its doors and be certain that its babies are healthy! And its old people are fed and well-housed. We intend, we intend that our city will grow again and bring prosperity to ALL of its citizens.

Reading Practice Questions

Question 1

In paragraph 1 of the selection, the repetition of the word “we” has the effect of —

  1. uniting the people and reminding them of their collective efforts in a singular cause.
  2. singling out the ones who did not join in the movement.
  3. addressing the governing body correctly in the plural tense.
  4. reminding the people of all the work that they still need to do.

Correct answer: 1. In this historic speech, Washington is repeating the word “we” to honor the collective efforts of the people in working together on this cause.

Question 2

In paragraph 3, the speaker employs what figurative language device in the first sentence?

  1. Hyperbole
  2. Understatement
  3. Personification
  4. Paradox

Correct answer: 3. In the sentence, the “talents and dreams” of the people are “nourishing” and “feeding” the “river of mankind.” Here, Washington employs personification—he gives non human objects human qualities. He brings to life the people’s talents and dreams to show how they “feed” all mankind.

Question 3

In this passage, the speaker is primarily concerned with —

  1. encouraging the people to continue working together to create positive changes.
  2. laying out the specifics of his detailed plan for the future so the people can be on board.
  3. celebrating their victory and now resting from their efforts.
  4. drawing on the hardships of the past to reconcile himself with the current situation.

Correct answer: 1. Mainly, Washington is seeking to inspire his people to see the victory as a collective effort, and to see what they can still accomplish if they continue working together. This is the best answer option here.

Question 4

As it is used in this selection, the word resounding means —

  1. bittersweet.
  2. shocking.
  3. questionable.
  4. decisive.

Correct answer: 4. If you don’t know the definition of the word, look at the context. The speaker here won a “resounding” victory, he says, and as he says this, he employs lots of inclusive language (“we”), indicating that the collective majority all worked together. Therefore, it seems like they won by a large margin.

Read the selection and answer questions 5 and 6 that follow. 

1     President Kennedy was not the first to imagine sending a man to the moon. A little more than 100 years earlier, in 1865, science fiction writer Jules Verne also imagined space travel. He put his innovative thoughts in a book called From the Earth to the Moon. In it he described a lunar expedition that is so eerily close to the Apollo 11 mission that a reader would think he was predicting the future. He called his spaceship with a crew of three the Columbiad. In his book the spacecraft launches from Florida, and the United States Navy recovers it from the Pacific Ocean. In 1969, Florida was the launch site of Apollo 11. The command module was named Columbia. When the spacecraft returned to Earth, it splashed down in the Pacific, where the Navy recovered it along with its three-astronaut crew. Verne accurately delineated the future when the technology of his own time made his predictions seem highly unlikely to occur. How could he have known that his far-fetched idea was not so far-fetched after all?

2     Like Verne, other science fiction writers have accurately described inventions that are commonplace today. Many of H. G. Wells’s ideas, for example, have become a reality. Considered by many to be one of the best science fiction writers of all time, Wells wrote about lasers, wireless communication, automatic doors, and other gadgets that did not exist at the time of his writings. But today these gadgets are such an integral part of our society that we probably cannot imagine living without them. Wells also describes a journey to the moon on a spaceship made from anti gravity material. We can only speculate that these writers might have inspired those who later turned their fiction into reality.

3 In 2012, a Mars rover, developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), landed on the planet Mars. No one would have been more excited to hear the news than Ray Bradbury, one of America’s greatest science fiction writers. In 1950 he wrote about travel to Mars in his book The Martian Chronicles. The book describes an expedition that lands humans on Mars. The story then tells how the people inhabit the planet and bring their families to live there. Since NASA has successfully landed a rover on Mars, Bradbury’s fantasy may yet become reality. The Mars rover, appropriately called Curiosity, is gathering information that will help NASA plan a manned mission to Mars sometime in the 2030s. Will future families travel to Mars to live there, as Bradbury imagined? If so, the world as we know it today will certainly be different.

Question 5

What is one detail that illustrates how Jules Verne’s book connects with the real Apollo 11 mission?

  1. When the spacecraft returned to earth, it landed in the Pacific Ocean
  2. President Kennedy was in charge of the space launch
  3. When they landed on Mars, it looked eerily similar to the way Verne had described it
  4. The mission’s name, Apollo 11, was taken from Verne’s book

Correct answer: 1. This question asks you to recall simple details, so the answer will be right in the passage. This is the only answer that correctly states what is written.

Question 6

How is the information in this selection organized?

  1. Cause/Effect
  2. Problem/Solution
  3. Compare/Contrast
  4. Spatial

Correct answer: 3. The paragraph does not discuss how fiction writing necessarily caused these modern inventions to take place; it simply focuses on describing their similarities. Likewise, the passage doesn’t describe any effects of the writings on reality; it’s simply showing us how they’re oddly similar. Therefore, “Cause/Effect” is incorrect. Also, “Problem/Solution” is incorrect since there is no problem stated to be solved. “Spatial” is incorrect because the passage does not focus on the geography or locations. These facts are mentioned, but they’re mentioned as part of the main idea that they’re the same as in the past writings that seem to predict their realities.

Read the selection and answer questions 7 and 8 that follow. 

When we think of bees, we think of pesky, buzzing insects that sting us and ruin outdoor gatherings. We might wonder: how badly can we possibly need bees? The truth is, bees are an incredibly important part of our ecosystem on Earth—no matter how annoying they may be to humans. We just don’t recognize their contributions. Here’s something that might surprise you: One out of every three mouthfuls of food in the American diet is, in some way, a product of honeybee pollination—from fruit to nuts to coffee beans. Bees have been disappearing around the world for some time now, and their mass disappearance continues to present new problems around the planet.

 

Question 7

Which of the following sentences is an opinion stated in the passage?

  1. When we think of bees, we think of pesky, buzzing insects that sting us and ruin outdoor gatherings.
  2. One out of every three mouthfuls of food in the American diet is, in some way, a product of honeybee pollination—from fruit to nuts to coffee beans.
  3. Bees have been disappearing around the world for some time now, and their mass disappearance continues to present new problems around the planet.
  4. There are three kinds of bees in a hive: worker, drone, and queen.

Correct answer: 1. This is an opinion. It is an expression of someone’s thoughts or feelings. The rest of the answer choices are facts; they can be proven true. 

Question 8

If the selection had included a second paragraph, its focus would probably have been:

  1. reasons why bees aren’t necessary.
  2. reasons why bees are annoying creatures.
  3. problems caused by the disappearance of bees.
  4. infections caused by bee stings.

Correct answer: 3. This is correct. The author ends the selection by saying that the “mass disappearance” of bees “continues to present new problems around the planet,” suggesting that the next paragraph will introduce and discuss those problems.

Question 9

Which of the following details most supports the author’s view that “bees are an incredibly important part of our ecosystem on Earth?”

  1. The use of the word “annoying”
  2. The statistics used
  3. The use of the word “contributions”
  4. The mention of the “mass disappearance” of bees

Correct answer: 2. This is correct because the author has used a fact as statistical evidence to prove a point.

Question 10

Which of the following statements is the best summary of this selection?

  1. Bees are incredibly important to the ecosystem.
  2. While bees sometimes cause problems for humans, they are important to the ecosystem. Bees have been disappearing which is causing problems for the planet.
  3. We eat many foods that are a product of honeybee pollination.
  4. Bees cause problems for humans by stinging them and ruining outdoor gatherings.

Correct answer: 2. This is the best summary of the selection. It highlights the main points of the selection without including each detail.

Writing

The Writing assessment has 30 questions.

There are thirteen competencies

So, let’s talk about a few of these competencies.

Establishing a Topic or Thesis

This competency tests your ability to identify sentences that support a topic or thesis sentence.

Let’s discuss what exactly a topic or thesis sentence is.

Topic/Thesis Sentences

Topic and thesis sentences state the main idea of a piece of writing. They tell the reader what the paper or paragraph will be about.

Thesis sentence usually refers to a sentence that states the main idea of the whole paper. The thesis sentence is found at the beginning of a paper, often as the first or last sentence of the first paragraph.

Topic sentence usually refers to a sentence that states the main idea of a single paragraph. They are often the first sentence of a paragraph.

Both thesis sentences and topic sentences are followed by supporting sentences. These are sentences that provide more detail to support the main idea. For example, a thesis sentence might be: “Cities should work to increase the amount of parks and other recreation areas to improve the health of residents.”  Supporting sentences for this might include: “Many people do not have nearby access to an outdoor area where they can exercise or take their children,” and “With obesity rates increasing in America, the increased use of outdoor recreation space would help improve overall health in cities.” 

Conventions of Standard English

This competency tests your ability to correctly identify and use standard English conventions, including grammar, usage, and mechanics.

Let’s talk about a couple of concepts that will more than likely appear on the test.

Past, Present, and Future Tense Verbs

Past, present, and future tense verbs indicate when something happens.

Past tense verbs are used when an event or action has already happened. These verbs typically end in -ed or have a verb before them to indicate that the action already happened. Examples include: “The man walked to the store,” or “The man was walking to the store.”

Present tense verbs indicate that something is currently happening. These verbs typically end in -ing, such as, “We are driving.”

Future tense verbs are used when an action or event is going to happen in the future. These verbs are often accompanied by a word that indicates an action will happen, such as, “We will drive.”

There are many irregular verbs that do not follow the typical ending rules of -ed and -ing. For example, the past tense of swim is swam, not swimmed. The past tense of throw is threw, not throwed.

Parts of Speech

The main different parts of speech include: nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions. Each part of speech is described below.

Noun – A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea. A noun is a crucial part of a sentence, because it tells who or what the sentence is about. A noun can be a common noun (a general word for something) or a proper noun (a specific name for something). Proper nouns begin with a capital letter. Examples of nouns include: boy, house, Jane, dog, pencil, Walmart.

Pronoun –  A pronoun takes the place of a noun to avoid repetitive sentences. Examples of pronouns include: I, he, they, her, it, them.

Adjective – An adjective is a describing word. It is used to describe a noun or pronoun. Adjectives are helpful when an author is adding more detail and description to their writing. Examples of adjectives include: happy, large, beautiful, quiet, bumpy.

Verbs – Verbs are “action words” and are the main part of the predicate of a sentence. Verbs tell what the subject is doing or did. Examples of verbs include: jumped, run, draw, played.

Adverbs – Adverbs give more detail about a verb or adjective. Adverbs often tell how the subject did something. For example, in the sentence, “He ran quickly,” quickly is the adverb. Adverbs often end in -ly, but they do not have to. Examples of adverbs include: loudly, very, happily.

Prepositions – Prepositions are words that tell where or when something happens in relation to something else. In the sentence, “The boy is in the chair,” in is the preposition. Other prepositions include: beside, under, after.

Conjunctions – Conjunctions are words that are used to connect parts of a sentence or connect two sentences together. In the sentence, “She went to the store and bought milk,” and is the conjunction. Other conjunctions include: but, or, yet, so.

Developing Style and Tone

This competency tests your ability to identify the style and tone of a piece of text.

Let’s discuss what style and tone actually mean.

Style

Style refers to the specific way that a certain author writes. Writers use word choice, diction, sentence structure, rhythm, and other literary elements to create their own specific writing style. While tone will change from piece to piece, an author’s style generally stays the same among all of their writing pieces. To identify tone, think about the way an author writes – do they use lengthy, descriptive sentences? Short, choppy sentences? Do they write in a poetic manner? Is there a certain rhythm they usually use? Thinking about these questions will help you identify an author’s style.

Tone

Tone refers to the author’s attitude about what they are writing about. Tone can be described using many different words, such as: serious, humorous, depressing, warm, angry, or joyful. Tone is less about what is being said and more about how it is said. To identify tone in a piece of writing, look for words that have a certain “feel” or connotation to them. These words will help you determine the attitude that the author is trying to convey. For example, a piece of writing that includes words such as, “lovely, light, quiet, breezy, and warm,” might be described as having a peaceful tone.

Conceptual and Organizational Skills

This competency tests your ability to identify transitional devices in writing.

Let’s talk about transition words.

Transition Words

Transition words are words that connect one thought or idea to another. Transition words help the reader understand how different parts of a text relate to each other; they help make the text “flow” better. Some examples of transition words or phrases include:

  • first
  • next
  • additionally
  • as a result
  • in conclusion
  • such as
  • in other words
  • after
  • meanwhile

Word Choice Skills

This competency tests your ability to recognize commonly confused or misused words.

Let’s talk about some concepts that you need to know for the test.

Homophones

Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings and different spellings. Because they sound the same, they are often misused and mistaken for one another. Examples of homophones include:

  • knew/new
  • knight/night
  • idle/idol
  • break/brake
  • aloud/allowed
  • who’s/whose
  • which/witch

Commonly Misused Phrases

Commonly misused phrases lead to mistakes in writing that are often overlooked, because the writer does not know the correct phrase. Many of these phrases are idioms, and over time they have been misused so frequently that many people use the incorrect version of the phrase without being corrected. Some commonly misused phrases include:

Incorrect phrase: “For all intensive purposes”

Correct phrase: “For all intents and purposes”

Incorrect phrase: “Could care less”

Correct phrase: “Couldn’t care less”

Incorrect phrase: “Deep seeded”

Correct phrase: “Deep seated”

Incorrect phrase: “Slight of hand”

Correct phrase: “Sleight of hand”

Sentence Structure Skills

This competency tests your ability to recognize parallel structure and use coordination, subordination, and modifiers effectively and correctly in sentences.

Let’s take a look at some specific concepts.

Parallel Structure

Parallel structure refers to writers using the same grammatical structure or patterns of words in sentences. It helps make a sentence easier to understand and to show that two ideas in a sentence have the same level or importance. It is often used with lists or with conjunctions. When using parallel structure, you should use the same verb tense and same grammatical structure. Sentences that do not use parallel structure often sound awkward or less natural. Examples are shown below:

Parallel structure: She is responsible for feeding, walking, and brushing the dog.

Lacking parallel structure: She is responsible for feeding, walking, and she brushes the dog.

Parallel structure: She likes swimming and traveling.

Lacking parallel structure: She likes swimming and to travel.

Parallel structure: I would rather eat a salad than eat fries.

Lacking parallel structure: I would rather eat a salad than to eat fries.

Modifiers

A modifier is a word or phrase that provides more information or detail about another word in the sentence. Modifiers are often adjectives or adverbs, although there are also modifier phrases. There are also limiting modifiers, such as: only, almost, hardly, and just. The following are examples of modifiers used in sentences:

“She drove quickly to the store.”  

Quickly is the modifier, because it tells how she drove.

“Mark only wanted to go to the beach.”

Only is the modifier, because it tells that the beach is the only place he wanted to go.

“She put on her sparkly red shoes and walked carefully to the door.”

This sentence contains three modifiers: sparkly, red, and carefully. Sparkly and red describe the shoes, and carefully describes how she walked to the door.

Coordination

Coordination is a way to join two ideas of equal importance. Coordination uses a coordinating conjunction to join two independent clauses. For example, the following two sentences can stand alone and be two independent clauses:

“I am going to be arriving a few minutes late. I have an appointment beforehand.”

To combine these two sentences, we can use a coordinating conjunction such as “because.”  Now it would read:

“I am going to be arriving a few minutes late, because I have an appointment beforehand.”

Another example is:

“Plane tickets are too expensive. I will not be going to the destination wedding.”

Using a coordinating conjunction with these two sentences, we can combine the sentences to read:

“Plane tickets are too expensive, so I will not be going to the destination wedding.”

Subordination

Subordination is another way to join two ideas in a sentence, but with subordination, one idea is given higher importance than the other. To do this, you will use a subordinating conjunction to create an independent clause (one that can stand alone as a sentence by itself) and a dependent clause (one that needs the independent clause to complete the sentence). An example of using subordination is:

“He decided to cover his friend’s shift. He already had other plans.”

To combine these two ideas, we will use “even though.” The sentence can be written as:

“Even though he already had other plans, he decided to cover his friend’s shift.”

Or:

“He decided to cover his friend’s shift even though he had other plans.”

This makes “He decided to cover his friend’s shift” the independent clause, because it can stand alone as its own sentence. “Even though he had other plans” is the dependent clause, because it depends on the other part of the sentence to make sense.

Another example is:

“The meeting ended early. We all went to dinner.”

To combine these two sentences using subordination, we can either say:

“We all went to dinner after the meeting ended early.”

Or:

“After the meeting ended early, we all went to dinner.”

Grammar, Spelling, Capitalization and Punctuation Skills

This competency tests your ability to identify:

  • correct verb tense
  • misspelled words
  • correct pronoun-antecedent agreement
  • capitalization and punctuation errors
  • incorrect use of adjectives and adverbs

Let’s look at some concepts that you will for sure see on the assessment.

Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun. Pronouns help make writing sound less repetitive. An antecedent is the noun that the pronoun is referring to.  In the following sentence, “Jake” is the antecedent and “his” is the pronoun, because it is referring to Jake:

Jake opened his front door.

Pronoun-antecedent agreement means that the pronoun matches the antecedent in number (singular versus plural) and matches in gender, if applicable. For example, in the following sentence, the pronoun and antecedent are not in agreement, because “Jake” is singular and “their” is a plural pronoun:

Jake opened their front door.

We also would not say, “Jake opened her front door,” because “Jake” is male and “her” is a female pronoun. Instead, we would use the original sentence: “Jake opened his front door.”`

Commonly Misspelled Words

Some commonly misspelled words are listed below, along with ways to remember how to spell them if applicable.

Incorrect: calender

Correct: calendar

You can remember this by thinking that there are months in the calendar that start with “a” but no months in the calendar that start with “e.”

Incorrect: definately

Correct: definitely

Remember this by looking for the word “finite” in the middle of the word.

Incorrect: humourous

Correct: humorous

Remember this by thinking that it starts with the word “humor.”

Incorrect: peice

Correct: piece

Remember i before e.

Incorrect: wierd

Correct: weird

Remember this by thinking that this word is “weird,” because it doesn’t follow the i before e rule.

Comma Splices

A comma splice occurs when two independent clauses connect with just a comma. This means that two statements that could each be their own sentence are separated only by a comma, instead of by a period or by a comma and a conjunction. Some examples include:

He opened the door, the dog ran outside (“He opened the door,” and “The dog ran outside,” could each stand alone as their own sentence).

Dinner starts at six, we won’t get there in time (Again, both “Dinner starts at six,” and “We won’t get there in time,” could each be their own sentence).

To correct comma splices, you need to either separate each clause by a period and make two separate sentences, or separate the clauses by a comma and a conjunction.

The first example could be written as:

He opened the door. The dog ran outside.  

Or as:

He opened the door, and the dog ran outside.

The second example could be written as:

Dinner starts at six. We won’t get there in time.

Or as:

Dinner starts at six, so we won’t get there in time.

And that’s some basic info about the Writing assessment.

        Now, let’s look at a few practice questions to see how these concepts might

actually appear on the real test.

Writing Practice Questions

Question 1

Read the selection about sports and answer the question.

Sports are a wonderful means for mankind to exercise one of its most basic principles: competition with our fellow man. Surrounding all types of sports is the concept of sportsmanship – the respect and ethical behavior shown to all participants of a contest. The spirit of the game, in many cases, is more important than the outcome of the match; a true competitor understands this. This is why many of our most beloved athletes are not always the most talented performers—it is the players who play with the purest motive, for the sake of the team, and with respect for all opponents, who gain the respect and admiration of the fans.

There are greater lessons to be learned from sports than being well liked by fans. Sports, and by extension, the athletes who play them, extend beyond cultural differences; surely styles of play can vary between countries and regions, but in general, sports are played the same everywhere. Similarly, fans of a sport are able to appreciate incredible athletic feats or displays of true sportsmanship regardless of the player. Simply put, in a day and age when settling cultural differences is of utmost importance, sports are a reasonably viable way to bring the world closer together.

Lastly, international events such as the Olympic Games or World Cup are perfect opportunities to show the world that international cooperation and peace are possible. Sports can and should be used as instruments of change in an uncertain world. They can also be proponents of peace.

The Olympic Creed says it best: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.”

Which of the following sentences would be the most effective thesis statement for the passage?

  1. In this essay, I will show why sports are important to society
  2. Statistics show that countries who compete in the Olympics are 30% more likely to see value in an opposing culture’s viewpoint
  3. Sports are a valuable activity for many reasons
  4. While many people see sports as merely exercise, sports actually serve many purposes: the creation of competition, the education of sportsmanship, and the connection of cultures

Correct answer: 4. “While many people…” is correct, because it is an arguable claim that informs the reader about the author’s position on the value of sports.

Question 2

Choose the word that best completes the sentence.

Josephine’s mother faced hardships ________ her life, from the time she was born until recently, but she never stopped trying to make a better life for herself and her family.

  1. within
  2. about
  3. throughout
  4. before

Correct answer: 3. This is the best word choice. The phrase, “from the time she was born until recently,” gives you a clue that Josephine’s mother faced hardships throughout her life.

Question 3

Choose the sentences that best support the following topic sentence:

The Arctic has a wide variety of animal life.

  1. The plants found in the Arctic include flowering plants, grasses, moss, and lichen. Since there is little human activity in the Arctic, it contains an intact ecosystem.
  2. One of the animals found in the Arctic is the ermine. An ermine is a weasel-like mammal whose coat turns white in the winter.
  3. The Arctic has long, cold winters and short, cool summers. The land experiences heavy solar radiation in both the winter and summer.
  4. People who want to learn more about the animals of the Arctic can use the Internet to search for information. National Geographic’s website has really good articles about many Arctic animals.

Correct answer: 2. This sentence provides a detail that supports the topic sentence. While the rest of the sentences are about the Arctic, they are not about the wide variety of animal life in the Arctic.

Question 4

Choose the best order of the sentences in the paragraph.

  1. From my bedroom, I smelled the sweet aroma of the glazed ham. Before long, we ate the scrumptious dinner. After the smell tickled my nose hairs, I ran to the kitchen to get a look. Yesterday my mother cooked a delicious, home-cooked meal.
  2. After the smell tickled my nose hairs, I ran to the kitchen to get a look. Yesterday my mother cooked a delicious, home-cooked meal. From my bedroom, I smelled the sweet aroma of the glazed ham. Before long, we ate the scrumptious dinner.
  3. Before long, we ate the scrumptious dinner. Yesterday my mother cooked a delicious meal. After the smell tickled my nose hairs, I ran to the kitchen to get a look. From my bedroom, I smelled the sweet aroma of the glazed ham.
  4. Yesterday my mother cooked a delicious, home-cooked meal. From my bedroom, I smelled the sweet aroma of the glazed ham. After the smell tickled my nose hairs, I ran to the kitchen to get a look. Before long, we ate the scrumptious dinner.

Correct answer: 4. This is the only sentence order that makes sense. The order of the sentences create a logical progression of events.

Question 5

Choose the sentence that is written correctly.

  1. Seasoned with salt, Caleb decided to order the french fries for lunch.
  2. Caleb decided to order the salted french fries for lunch.
  3. Deciding to order for lunch, the salted french fries were what Caleb decided on.
  4. Ordered for lunch, Caleb decided on the salted french fries.

Correct answer: 2. Answer choice A contains a misplaced modifier: Caleb is not seasoned with salt. Answer choice C also contains a misplaced modifier: the salted french fries did not decide what to order for lunch. Answer choice D has a misplaced modifier, too: Caleb was not ordered for lunch. Answer choice B is the only sentence written correctly.

Question 6

In researching soil, a research paper is located that includes the following information:

Soil is formed on the surface of the land. It contains water, minerals, and air. It also contains organic matter and decaying organisms.

There are different types of soil like clay, sandy, silty, peaty, chalky, and loamy. Each type of soil has a different texture and hue.

Which of the following notes should be taken to reference what soil is made of?

  1. Soil is formed on the surface of the land.
  2. Soil is made of water, minerals, air, chalk, and silt.
  3. Each type of soil has a different texture and hue.
  4. Soil is made of water, minerals, air, organic matter, and decaying organisms.

Correct answer: 4. This is the correct list of what soil is made of. The information comes from two different sentences in the research.

Question 7

Choose the word that best completes the sentence.

To set a new school record, Lamar ________ the 100 meter dash tomorrow.

  1. run
  2. ran
  3. have run
  4. will run

Correct answer: 4. To set a new school record, Lamar will run the 100 meter dash tomorrow. This question is about verb tense. Since Lamar will not run the 100 meter dash until tomorrow, you must use the future tense of run (will run).

Question 8

Choose the word that best completes the sentence.

Paul says that Camille and ________ went to the store to buy milk yesterday.

  1. he
  2. she
  3. him
  4. her

Correct answer: 1. You can eliminate the feminine pronouns she and her, because the pronoun that goes in the blank must refer to Paul. When deciding between he and him, remove the first part of the sentence and plug the possible pronouns in the blank: He went to the store to buy milk yesterday or Him went to the store to buy milk yesterday. Which one sounds right? He went to the store to buy milk yesterday.

Question 9

Which of the following sentences is written correctly?

  1. A constituent can vote on important matters, but he or she must register to vote first.
  2. A constituent can vote on important matters, but it must register to vote first.
  3. A constituent can vote on important matters, but they must register to vote first.
  4. A constituent can vote on important matters, but we must register to vote first.

Correct answer: 1. Since the sentence references one constituent (the antecedent), the pronoun also must be singular. You may be tempted to choose answer choices C or D, but they and we are plural pronouns. The pronoun and antecedent must agree in number.

Question 10

Choose the word or words that best complete the sentence.

In pursuit of winning the race, race car drivers must drive ________ than their competitors.

  1. more fast
  2. fastly
  3. more faster
  4. faste

Correct answer: 4. This is a question about adverbs. Faster is the correct comparative adverb to use.

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