The multiple-choice section of the PPST Writing Test is 30 minutes long and contains 45 questions. It is composed of two parts — Part A: English usage, and Part B: sentence correction.

Part A

Part A, the English usage section, typically contains 25 questions with a suggested completion time of 10 minutes. This section tests your ability to recognize errors in standard written English. Knowledge of some basic grammar is essential in this section. Review the rules of correctness that have been emphasized in your high school and college English classes.

The test is composed of the following content areas

  • Structure: noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb problems; coordination, subordination, structural problems. These questions account for approximately 70% of Part A.

  • Diction, Idiom, and Mechanics: These questions account for approximately 30% of Part A.


Some of the following sentences are correct. Others contain problems in grammar, usage, idiom, diction, punctuation, and capitalization.

If there is an error, it will be underlined and lettered. Find the one underlined part that must be changed to make the sentence correct and choose the corresponding letter on your answer sheet. Mark E if the sentence contains no error.

Analysis of Directions

  1. You are looking for errors in standard written English, the kind of English used in most textbooks. Do not evaluate a sentence in terms of the spoken English we all use.

  2. When deciding whether an underlined portion is correct or not, assume that all other parts of the sentence are correct.

Part B

Part B, the sentence correction section, typically contains 20 questions with a suggested completion time of 20 minutes.

This section tests your knowledge of correct and effective English expression. Knowledge of basic rules of grammar and usage is essential in this section.


Some part of each sentence below is underlined; sometimes the whole sentence is underlined. Five choices for rephrasing the underlined part follow each sentence. The first choice A repeats the original, and the other four are different. If choice A seems better than the alternatives, choose answer A; if not, choose one of the others.

For each sentence, consider the requirements of standard written English. Your choice should be a correct, concise, and effective expression, not awkward or ambiguous. Focus on grammar, word choice, sentence construction, and punctuation. If a choice changes the meaning of the original sentence, do not select it.

Analysis of Directions

  1. Several alternatives to an underlined portion may be correct. You are to pick the best (most clear and exact) one.

  2. Remember that in sentence correction questions, there may be more than one kind of error in the sentence.

  3. Any alternative that changes the meaning of the sentence should not be chosen, no matter how clear or grammatical it is.

Suggested Approaches

Keep the following in mind as you take the multiple-choice writing section of the test:

  • Focus on the verbs: Focus on the verb and ask yourself what the subject is. Make sure that if the verb is plural, the subject is plural also.

  • Check the verb tenses: Another sort of verb error occurs when the verb tenses (past, present, future) are inconsistent. If the sentence has two or more verbs, make sure the verb tense for each is appropriate.

  • Look for pronoun errors: Watch for correct pronoun references. Also, note whether the pronoun should be in subjective or objective case.

  • Check the adjectives and adverbs: A common error is using an adjective when an adverb is required, or vice versa. Keep an eye out for this.

  • Notice parallelism: Items in groups should be in the same structure.

  • Watch for dangling elements: A dangling element error affects a whole phrase. When a sentence begins with a short modifying phrase followed by a comma, that phrase normally should modify the first word(s) after the comma.

  • Notice capitalization and punctuation: Make sure you know how and when to use a semicolon instead of a comma.

Pop Quiz!

What is the solution for x in the following system of equations?

2x + 3 y = 42

2y – 3 x = –19

Back to Top