Sample Problems

Focused observation and applied self-study are often the cornerstones to improvement in any trade. Writing is no different. A strong grounding in fundamentals separates the professionals from the amateurs.

Each student is ultimately responsible for identifying his or her weakest areas in writing and then planning an active course of self-study. These sample problems can be an excellent place to start.

Category: Confused and misused words
Misused words, words that sound the same or are similar
Percent of DQE: 20

1.       She wanted to (a) by (b) buy (c) bye a car.
2.       Climbing that mountain was quite a (a) feat (b) feet (c) fete.
3.       Tom was a real (a) pain (b) pane in the neck.

Category: Verbs
Especially irregular tenses
Percent of DQE: 10

4.       I should not have (a) drank (b) drunk so much last night.
5.       The judge sentenced him to be (a) hanged (b) hung by the neck until dead.
6.       The pitcher (a) threw (b) throwed wild curve balls.

Category: Modifiers
Adjectives, adverbs, comparatives
Percent of DQE: 10

7.       The latest Olympic team performed (a) well (b) good at the latest trials.
8.       Of Bob’s two wives, Katie was the (a) prettier (b) prettiest.
9.           She felt (a) sad (b) sadly after losing the race.

Category: Agreement
Mostly subject-verb, some pronoun-antecedent
Percent of DQE: 15

10.       Either Sam or his children (a) was (b) were in the house.
11.    The band was waiting to collect (a) its (b) it’s (c) their (d) they’re pay.
12.    Athletes think the media (a) has (b) have blown this out of proportion.

Category: Plurals and possessives
Words in plural form, showing possession
Percent of DQE: 15

13.    He said he would give a (a) week (b) week’s (c) weeks (d) weeks’ pay for the answers.
14.    The Smiths are trying to keep up with the (a) Jones (b) Jones’ (c) Joneses.
15.    Did you watch (a) CBS (b) CBS’s (c) CBSs (d) CBS’ new sitcom?

Category: Punctuation
Mostly commas, semicolons
Percent of DQE: 20

The next (three) questions concern punctuation, mostly commas but also semicolons. For each, mark (a) if it is punctuated correctly, (b) if not.

16.    Russian actor Igor Puskin went into television.
17.    An upset librarian raced up to her, but didn’t say anything.
18.    They once lived in Fresno, Calif., Denver, Colo., Tupelo, Miss., and Flagstaff,   Ariz.

Category: Spelling
Commonly misspelled words
Percent of DQE: 10

In the following groups of words, select the word that is spelled incorrectly or indicate “all correct.”

19.    (a) quandary, (b) phamphlet, (c) psychology, (d) academy, (e) all correct
20.    (a) classroom, (b) defendant, (c) caffeine, (d) tomorrow, (e) all correct
21.    (a) seperate, (b) teammate, (c) sizzle, (d) superficial, (e) all correct

Answers
1b, 2a, 3a, 4b, 5a, 6a, 7a, 8a, 9a, 10b, 11a, 12b, 13b, 14c, 15d, 16a, 17b, 18b, 19b, 20e, 21a