Questions - PSAT/NMSQT prep

PSAT/NMSQT Prep with Practice Tests - Princeton Review 2021



In the previous two chapters, we saw most of the concepts that the PSAT will test on the Writing and Language portion of the exam. In this chapter, we’re not going to learn a lot of new stuff in the way of grammar. Instead, we’ll look at some of the questions that the PSAT asks.

As we’ve seen, a lot of the questions on the Writing and Language Test aren’t technically questions at all. They’re just lists of answer choices, and you start the process of answering them by asking a question of your own: “What’s changing in the answer choices?” Because you need to move quickly through this test, you may fall into the habit of not checking for questions. Even when you do read the questions, you may read them hastily or vaguely. Well, we are here to tell you that neither of these approaches will work.

The most important thing about Writing and Language questions is that you notice those questions and then answer those questions.

This may seem like just about the most obvious advice you’ve ever been given, but you’d be surprised how much less precise your brain is when you’re working quickly.

Here’s an example. Do these next 10 questions as quickly as you can.

1.2 + 1 =

2.1 + 2 =

3.3 + 1 =

4.3 + 2 ≠

5.1 + 2 =

6.2 − 1 <

7.2 ± 2 =

8.3 + 1 =

9.3 + 2 =

10.3 + 3 ≠

Now check your answers.




4.Anything but 5


6.Any number greater than 1 (but not 1!)

7.0 or 4



10.Anything but 6

Now, it’s very possible that you got at least one of those questions wrong. What happened? It’s not that the questions are hard. In fact, the questions are about as easy as can be. So why did you get some of them wrong? You were probably moving too quickly to notice that the signs changed a few times.

This is a lot like the Writing and Language section. You might miss some of the easiest points on the whole test by not reading carefully enough.

As you will see throughout this chapter, most of the questions will test concepts with which you are already familiar.


Many of the concepts we saw in the Punctuation and Words chapters show up explicitly with questions. Let’s take a look at an example.

It is 1 super obvious that the film industry has largely eclipsed the once-booming theater business in the United States: once the silver screen came along, audiences were more interested in the new medium.

1.Which choice best preserves the overall tone of the passage?


B)a no-brainer

C)unbelievably clear


Here’s How to Crack It

First and foremost, it’s important to notice the question. We’re looking for an answer that best preserves the overall tone of the passage. In the Words chapter, we saw that one of the key ideas to keep in mind on the Writing and Language is consistency. This question is simply asking you to choose an answer that is consistent with the passage. Sometimes the PSAT will explicitly ask you to pick a word that is consistent with the passage’s style and tone, as in the question above, and in other cases you may simply see answer choices like these but no question. Either way, the key is consistency!

Choices (A) and (B) are overly casual, so they aren’t consistent with the passage’s tone. Never pick an answer with slang words such as cool, super, chill, or awesome—unless the word is used in a non-slang context (for instance, weather could be described as cool, but describing an idea as cool is too casual for the PSAT). Choice (C) is overly dramatic. There isn’t any evidence that the statement is so clear as to be unbelievable. On these questions, you may also see answers that are too strong or too dramatic to be consistent with the passage’s tone—most, if not all, PSAT passages will take a somewhat formal, academic tone with little to no excited or dramatic language. Only (D) is consistent with the passage’s tone, so it’s the correct answer.

As you can see, some Writing and Language questions that ask a question are just another way of testing something you already know how to do. Let’s see another.

The wonder that a beautiful film can inspire would seem to be unsurpassable. 2 Specifically, by 1920, half of all Americans visited a movie theater each week.

2.Which choice provides the most logical transition from the previous sentence to the sentence that follows?

A)Live theater performances cannot provide the digital special effects audiences have come to expect from movies.

B)Once films were introduced in the early 1900s, people of all ages flocked to theaters to view the novel and exciting images.

C)Today, plays and musicals are making a comeback, especially as movie theaters have become more expensive.

D)Early films did not include sound, but audiences were thrilled by the moving images.

Here’s How to Crack It

First, notice what the question is asking for: a logical transition between the sentences. This is a great example of the importance of reading the question. You might like some of the answer choices, but that’s not enough—the correct answer must do what the question is asking and connect the ideas. When we discussed transitions in the previous chapter, we considered the relationship between sentences. These questions are no different. Can we go ahead and answer this question as soon as we see the box with the number? No! We need to know what the next sentence is about before we can figure out which option would be most consistent with that new idea. Read the sentence after the boxed number if you haven’t already.

The first sentence explains the beauty and wonder of films. The following sentence uses the word specifically and provides a detail about the size of the movie-going audience in 1920. This suggests that the sentence in between needs to provide a less specific statement about how frequently people were viewing movies in the past, and it should connect back to how beautiful and wondrous the films were. Eliminate (A) and (C) because they don’t relate to history at all. Keep (B) because it provides a less specific statement on the popularity of films in the past and connects back to the wonder or excitement mentioned in the previous sentence. Choice (D) mentions history and thrilling images, but it does not provide a less specific statement about film attendance that the second sentence would then elaborate on, so (D) does not provide a consistent and precise transition between the sentences. The correct answer is (B).

For transition questions, the answer should move smoothly from the topic of one sentence or paragraph into the topic of the next sentence or paragraph. Make sure you read enough to know what those topics are. Similarly, you may see questions asking you what sentence would best introduce or conclude a paragraph. In the same way, you’ll need to read the entire paragraph and consider its main idea before tackling one of these questions.

Questions like #2 are why…

The most important thing about Writing and Language questions is that you notice that a question is being asked and answer that particular question.

Let’s look at another that deals with some of the topics we’ve seen earlier.

What many have forgotten, however, is that the theater remains a vibrant medium. The vibrancy of the medium comes partly from the particular intimacy of the connection between actors and audience. 3

3.Which of the following gives the best way to combine these two sentences?

A)What many have forgotten, however, is that the theater remains a vibrant medium; the vibrancy of the medium comes partly from the particular intimacy of the connection between actors and audience.

B)What many have forgotten, however, is that the theater remains a vibrant medium, particularly given the intimacy of the connection between actors and audience.

C)A lot of people forget, however, about the vibrancy of theater as a medium when they don’t think about how intimate the connection is between the actors in the theater and the audience in the seats.

D)Many have forgotten, however, that the theater remains a vibrant medium, and the intimacy of the connection between actors and audience creates this vibrancy.

Here’s How to Crack It

The question asks us to combine the two sentences. Now that we have covered punctuation rules, consistency, precision, and concision, you have all the tools you need to answer this type of question. Questions on combining sentences require you to choose an option that uses correct punctuation and isn’t overly wordy. A great strategy for these questions is to start with the shortest option. In this case, that’s (B). Choice (B) doesn’t seem to have any punctuation or grammar errors, so keep it, but check the other options just in case.

Choices (A) and (D) both repeat the words vibrant and vibrancy, which makes them unnecessarily wordy. Choice (C) uses the word forget and the phrase when they don’t think about, which is repetitive. Choice (B) is concise and clear, so it is the correct answer.

For these questions, the shortest answer is often the correct one—but not always. Start with the shortest option, but still consider the other choices. Remember that sometimes more words are necessary in order to make the meaning precise.


Not all questions will just be applications of punctuation and parts of speech. Some questions will ask you to do more specific things. Remember the three terms we kept repeating in the Words chapter: Consistency, Precision, and Concision. We’ll start with the Precision-related questions. Even in those where Precision is not asked about directly, or when it is mixed with Consistency or Concision, remember this:

Answer the question in the most precise way possible. Read literally!

Let’s try one.

In fact, the history of the theater in the United States provides as riveting a story as the greatest stage drama. 4

4.The writer is considering deleting the phrase of the theater in the United States from the preceding sentence. Should this phrase be kept or deleted?

A)Kept, because removing it would remove a crucial piece of information from this part of the sentence.

B)Kept, because it stirs the reader’s national sentiments and might generate extra interest in the story.

C)Deleted, because it wrongly implies that stage plays are not interesting on their own terms.

D)Deleted, because it gives information that has no bearing on this particular essay.

Here’s How to Crack It

This question asks whether we should keep or delete the phrase of the theater in the United States. Without that phrase, the sentence reads: In fact, the history provides as riveting a story as the greatest stage drama. Because nothing in this sentence or any of the previous ones specifies what this history might be, keep the phrase. You want to be as precise as possible!

And, as (A) says, you want to keep the phrase because it is crucial to clarifying precisely what the question is. Choice (B) is a little too grandiose and vague a reason to keep the phrase. Choice (A) is therefore the best answer.

Let’s try another.

The history of the theater in the United States is part of Revolutionary history. 5 The early provisional government banned all theaters during the War for Independence.

5.At this point, the writer is considering adding the following true statement:

William Shakespeare was a British playwright, but his stature extends to all parts of the English-speaking world.

Should the writer make this addition here?

A)Yes, because it names an important figure in theatrical history.

B)Yes, because it shows that theater can bring nations together rather than drive them apart.

C)No, because it does not contribute in a significant way to the discussion of the history of the theater in the United States.

D)No, because other playwrights have had a large impact in the United States as well.

Here’s How to Crack It

The proposed sentence does contain an interesting bit of information, but that piece of information has no clear place either in these few sentences or in the passage as a whole. Therefore, it should not be added, thus eliminating (A) and (B).

Then, because it does not play a significant role in the passage, the sentence should not be added for the reason stated in (C). While (D) may be true in a way, it does not reflect anything clearly relating to the role the sentence might play in the passage as a whole. Read literally, and answer as literally and precisely as you can.


Just as questions should be answered as precisely as possible, they should also be answered with information that is consistent with what’s in the passage.

When answering consistency questions, keep this general rule in mind:

Writing and Language passages should be judged on what they do say, not on what they could say. When dealing with Style, Tone, and Focus, make sure to work with the words and phrases the passage has already used.

Let’s look at two questions that deal with the idea of consistency.

[1] The status of the theater was especially controversial in the Pre-Revolutionary Era. [2] These writings may have even influenced Shakespeare himself. [3] In particularly religious places, like Boston, the theater 6 has become a popular and respected profession in the twentieth century. [4] In Philadelphia, too, theater could have only a marginal influence over and above religious protests. [5] It was really in the southern colonies, especially around Virginia, that the real English love of the theater came through. [6] In fact, John Smith’s writings of his trip to this early colony are full of imagery from the theater. 7

6.Which of the following choices would best complete the idea presented in this sentence?


B)was thought to encourage unrighteous behavior in the audience and the actors.

C)may have hosted one of the first performances of the temperance play The Drunkard.

D)could be a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon after church.

7.The best placement for sentence 2 would be

A)where it is now.

B)before sentence 1.

C)after sentence 5.

D)after sentence 6.

Here’s How to Crack Them

Let’s look at question 6 first. In this case, the question tells us exactly what to look for: something that would complete the idea in the sentence, an idea about how religious places were less likely to allow the theater. Choices (A) and (C) may be true, but they don’t have anything to do with religion. Choice (D) addresses religion, but not in the way that the rest of the sentence or surrounding ideas do. Only (B) discusses religion in an appropriate way by noting how religious authorities saw the theater as promoting unrighteous behavior.

As for question 7, we need to find some very literal way to make sentence 2 consistent with the rest of the paragraph. Look for words and phrases that will link sentence 2 to other sentences. Remember, it’s not what the passage could say; it’s what the passage does say. Sentence 2, we should note, starts with These writings, thus clearly referring to writings that have been mentioned before it. As such, sentence 2 belongs definitively after sentence 6, which discusses the writings of John Smith. This is (D).

As we have seen, these questions are not difficult, but they do require very specific actions on your part. Make sure you read the questions carefully and that you answer those questions as precisely and consistently as you can.

The same goes for charts and graphs on the Writing and Language Test. Don’t let the strangeness of the charts throw you off! Just read the graphs with as much precision as you can and choose the most precise answers possible.

Let’s have a look at one.

For all the interest of its history, however, the theater has seen a remarkable decline in popularity. A recent study showed that in 2002 just 17.1%, 12.3%, and 3.2% of adults had seen a performance of an opera, a musical, or a non-musical play within the previous year. 8

8.The writer wants the information in the passage to correspond as closely as possible with the information in the chart. Given that goal and assuming that the rest of the previous sentence would remain unchanged, in which sequence should the three cultural activities be listed?


B)Opera, non-musical, musical

C)Non-musical, musical, opera

D)Musical, non-musical, opera

Here’s How to Crack It

This question is asking for what agrees with the graph. From what we have seen, these questions are usually pretty straightforward. You don’t have to do anything overly complex with the graphs, and that is certainly the case here.

There are three activities: opera, non-musical plays, and musical plays. Notice how the numbers are listed in the passage and match each of these numbers with the graph. The graph shows “Musical Play” at 17.1%, “Play (non-musical)” at 12.3%, and “Opera Performance” at 3.2%. This should therefore be the order in which the activities are listed, as in (D).

In general, graphs on the PSAT Reading and Writing and Language Tests are very straightforward, and the fundamental question they ask is this: “Can you read a graph?” These are easy points as long as you read the graphs carefully and use POE.


As we have seen in this chapter, the PSAT can ask a lot of different kinds of questions, but the test won’t throw anything really crazy at you. The biggest things to remember, aside from the punctuation rules, are PRECISION and CONSISTENCY. If you pick answers that are precise and consistent with other information in the passage, you should be good to go. Just make sure to answer the question!

Take a Breather

You’ve made it through the entire Writing and Language section! Next up is Math, so feel free to take a break before diving in. Grab a snack, relax with a book, go for a walk—anything that will help you refresh before reviewing more content. Remember that study breaks can make you more productive, so don’t deprive yourself of some needed relaxation time.

Writing and Language Drill 4

Click here to download a PDF of Chapter 10 Writing and Language Drill 4.

Time: 10 minutes. Check your answers in Part IV.

Screen Time Woes

1 In the 1980s and 1990s, cultural critics had begun to express concern that Americans watched too much television. The numbers varied, but it was widely touted that Americans spent anywhere from three to five hours a day in front of the tube. 2 Whether this was true, it certainly did present a startling finding, especially to those who were interested in promoting other media and activities.

1.Which of the following choices would best introduce the essay by identifying a way that a historical period understood a particular medium?


B)If you don’t own a TV today, it’s not considered that weird anymore.

C)It’s very possible that the only thing you listen to on the radio is music.

D)The old cathode-ray-tube TVs are relics of the past by this point.

2.The writer is considering deleting the phrase in front of the tube and ending the sentence with a period after the word day. Should the phrase be kept or deleted?

A)Kept, because the meaning of the sentence is unclear without the phrase.

B)Kept, because it shows what the viewers of television find so compelling.

C)Deleted, because it does not clarify whether the number was closer to three or five.

D)Deleted, because this kind of slangy language should be avoided at all costs.

3 All the while, TV is as good now as it has ever been in its 60-year history. Political theorists warned that too much time in front of the television would dampen people’s political awareness. Nutrition activists feared that such a sedentary activity would spur an obesity epidemic. 4 Movie-theater owners cautioned that the lower-quality television could destroy the high-end film industry. Lovers of literature fretted that people no longer had the time or attention span to read the great works.

3.Which of the following choices would offer the most effective introduction to this paragraph?


B)Concerns about the increase in television-watching came from all corners.

C)The first televised presidential debate came during the 1960 election.

D)The technology of new TVs has improved by leaps and bounds even in the last ten years.

4.At this point, the author is considering adding the following true statement:

A 2015 study showed that over two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese.

Should the writer make this addition here?

A)Yes, because the essay as a whole has very little hard statistical data like this.

B)Yes, because the obesity rate shows that TV was truly a destructive medium.

C)No, because the mention of these statistics is cruel to those who are overweight.

D)No, because the essay as a whole is focused on a different subject.

5 These criticisms are particularly apt because television has been proven to have negative effects on children’s attention spans. Movies were controversial in the 1920s. The National Association of Librarians wrote a report in the 6 1940s. In this report, radio was excoriated for distracting children from life’s real pursuits. The criticisms went even further back. The printing press, even early in its history as mainly a printer of Bibles, was thought to give religious messages to too many who couldn’t properly 7 get the messages. Even newspapers, now a mainstay of the serious American consumer, were once considered politically subversive.

5.Which choice provides the most effective introduction to the paragraph?


B)While each of these criticisms certainly has its merits, each was in a way following in a long path of conservative skepticism at new media developments.

C)Unlike television, other forms of media were readily accepted when they were introduced, with little criticism from experts.

D)Criticism of television is rare today because this form of media has become so commonplace that few remember life before it.

6.Which choice most effectively combines the sentences at the underlined portion?

A)1940s; in this report,

B)1940s, and in this report,

C)1940s, in which

D)1940s that gave information in which

7.Which choice is most consistent with the style and tone of the passage?



C)take in a lot of


Therefore, in today’s world, where the Internet seems to be the new medium of choice, we should not be so quick to criticize it in these terms. Still, as a recent survey has shown, American consumers spend more time online than they have on any other media platform in the last five years. 8 Spending more time on the Internet as of 2012, 9 American consumers in 2013 spent an average of over 5 hours a day on the Internet.

8.The writer is considering replacing the word spend in the preceding sentence with the phrase pay out. Should the writer make the change or keep the sentence as it is?

A)Make the change, because the words pay out are more relatable to readers.

B)Make the change, because the words pay out provide a more direct indication of the action of the sentence.

C)Keep the sentence as it is, because the words pay out change the meaning in a way inconsistent with the passage as a whole.

D)Keep the sentence as it is, because the word spend hides the fact that the use of media platforms varies widely by socioeconomic status.

9.Which of the following gives information consistent with the graph?


B)the world’s consumers in 2013 spent an average of over 3 hours a day on the Internet.

C)American consumers only a year earlier spent an average of as few as 2 hours a day on the Internet.

D)American consumers decided that the Internet was a better place to watch shows than was the television.

Is this increase in Internet usage a troubling change? Well, history would seem to say that it’s not. 10 After all, the Internet has the advantage of being significantly more active than all those other media. In short, effective use of the Internet requires your participation in a way that TV does not. Even so, upwards of six hours a day is a tremendous amount. There must at least be some kind of change, even if it’s not necessarily for the worse. 11 Some of the criticisms historically associated with television are frequently applied to Internet usage.

10.At this point, the writer wants to insert an idea that will support the idea given in the previous sentence. Which of the following true statements would offer that support?

A)The rate of literacy remains at an all-time high, despite the introduction of the radio in the 1930s.

B)The number of creative-writing majors may soon eclipse the number of English majors, which will lead to an odd imbalance.

C)Then-candidate Richard Nixon looked really bad on TV in 1960, and how else would people have known his big scandal was coming?

D)The printing press, the newspapers, the radio, and even the television have all been integrated effectively into American culture.

11.The writer wants to end the paragraph with a future-oriented statement that reinforces the main idea of the passage. Which choice best accomplishes this goal?


B)Some researchers have suggested that human bodies will eventually exhibit physical changes as a result of all of this time spent viewing screens.

C)Rather than simply reacting negatively to a new form of media, society will need to look closely at the long-term risks and benefits associated with significant time spent online.

D)Some people actually experience Internet addiction and spend almost all of their waking hours online.