This section tests your knowledge on how the English language works (or should work).
Language Structure questions make up about 25% of the English Language Skills subtest.
There are four big concepts you definitely have to know to get these questions correct:
- Effective Structures
- Patterns of Organization
The first big concept you should know is what a modifier is. Modifiers are words or phrases that change or clarify another word in the sentence. The purpose of a modifier is to add detail or explain something. These words are usually adjectives (describe nouns) or adverbs (describe verbs).
Here is an example. Look at this simple sentence:
They were running.
Now, let’s add a modifier:
They were running quickly.
The adverb quickly is a modifier of the verb running.
Get it? Good!
But, modifiers are commonly misplaced. Look at this sentence:
She purchased a car for my brother they call Lightning.
In this sentence, Lightning is the car’s name. But the placement of the modifier is all wrong, so it causes some confusion. Is Lightning the brother’s name? No! Let’s move the modifier closer to the noun it modifies:
She purchased a car they call Lightning for my brother.
See? All better.
Here’s a friendly tip: These are very simple sentences I just used. Expect the sentences on the test to be much more detailed.
The next big concept to know is parallelism. Very simply, parallel structure means that you use the same grammatical form within a sentence.
Let’s look at an example of a sentence without parallel structure:
Caroline enjoys dancing, the playground, and to take long walks.
Now, look at the same sentence but with parallel structure:
Caroline enjoys dancing, going to the playground, and taking long walks.
See how all the verbs end in –ing? That’s parallelism!
Again, these are simple sentences. Expect to see more detailed, complex sentences on the exam.
The third big concept to know is effective structures. This includes knowing how to identify and fix:
- comma splices
- run-on sentences
- syntax errors
I’ll talk about a couple of these in more detail in a little bit.
And the last big concept to know is patterns of organization. More specifically, you need to know what the modes of rhetoric are. Here, let me tell you. The most common modes are:
Now, those are the four broad concepts to be familiar with.
Right now, I’m going to give you two specific concepts to be familiar with because they will most likely appear on the test.
Comma mistakes happen. They happen a lot. A comma splice is a common comma error (wow, that was a mouthful). This error occurs when two independent clauses are joined together with a comma. It is a type of run-on sentence. Let’s look at an example:
Tomatoes are not vegetables, they are a fruit.
These two independent clauses can be sentences on their own, so simply adding a comma between them just doesn’t work.
We can fix this comma splice error three ways:
By adding a conjunction:
Tomatoes are not vegetables, but they are a fruit.
By changing the comma to a semicolon:
Tomatoes are not vegetables; they are a fruit.
By making separate sentences:
Tomatoes are not vegetables. They are a fruit.
You can expect to have to correct a comma splice error on the test.
A sentence fragment is a group of words that look like a sentence but aren’t. A sentence needs at least one independent clause, containing a subject and a verb. Here is an example of a fragment:
Bought the groceries.
This fragment begins with a capital letter and ends with a period, but it is not a complete sentence. Where is the subject? Who bought the groceries? Let’s fix it:
Jonathan bought the groceries.
There you go. Now it’s a complete sentence with a subject and a verb (independent clause).
You’ll more than likely need to identify and fix sentence fragments on the exam.