Page 5 Language Study Guide for the TABE


Other items on the TABE Language test involve inserting a sentence or making a correction in a paragraph. Be familiar with the proper way to do these things.

Using Details to Develop a Topic Sentence

The first sentence of a passage or paragraph generally states the topic and purpose of the piece. From this sentence, details and explanations emerge and develop the idea. In a well-written paragraph, the following sentences will pertain to the topic sentence and expound upon it, rather than detracting from it with unnecessary details or unrelated ideas. Introducing a new idea is never the correct choice within the same paragraph. After the topic sentence is developed, a new paragraph can be started for another idea.

Here’s an example:

My little brother has loved reptiles his entire life. As a toddler, he was always attracted to any book displaying alligators, lizards, or snakes. Once he got a bit older, we could always find him down by the creek in the evenings, searching for different species of lizards and turtles. The creek behind our house was home to dozens of kinds of slimy creatures that always gave me the creeps. For his twelfth birthday, my brother asked for a pet snake because he decided that was his favorite reptile. He had many friends attend his party that year. My mother loathed snakes, but she couldn’t bear to say no when my brother was so thrilled with the idea. He did receive the snake, which he proudly showed around to all his friends. The snake’s aquarium was so large that two adults had to carry it back to my brother’s room.

After reading this paragraph, can you find the sentences that do not develop the topic sentence? While all of the sentences in this piece are loosely related, there are three that do not develop the topic of the author’s brother loving reptiles:

The creek behind our house was home to dozens of kinds of slimy creatures that always gave me the creeps. He had many friends attend his party that year. The snake’s aquarium was so large that two adults had to carry it back to my brother’s room.

All of these sentences deviate from the topic sentence because they do not relate to the idea that the brother loves reptiles. They are unnecessary information.

Choosing a Sentence to Insert in a Paragraph

You may be required to select a sentence, out of several options, that would fit best within a blank in a paragraph. To choose the correct sentence, you must pay careful attention to the context around the blank. To what should the sentence refer? Should it expound on a topic sentence? If the topic sentence itself is missing, read the rest of the sentences and see what “main idea” is being developed. If a sentence in the middle of the paragraph is missing, first read the topic sentence to find out the main idea. This should help narrow down your choice. The paragraphs directly before and after the blank will give you an idea of what the missing sentence should discuss.

Here’s an example:

Choose the best sentence to fill the blank in this paragraph: Learning how to drive was very difficult for me. While most of my friends were eagerly getting their driver’s licenses as soon as possible, I waited another year because I just couldn’t get comfortable behind the wheel. Other drivers on the road made me nervous, as did driving at any speed above 25 miles per hour. Situations that forced me to yield or make quick judgment calls were my nightmare, and I would often freeze up, causing the drivers behind me to honk their horns loudly. ____ I’m glad I waited until I was ready and didn’t rush the decision, because driving is a big responsibility that should not be taken lightly.

A: I learned to drive on an old Toyota that wasn’t very pretty, but was always reliable. B: Despite my fears I kept practicing, and I eventually learned to drive comfortably and confidently. C: At one point I was so afraid of getting behind the wheel that I thought I would have to take the bus forever.

Can you choose which sentence should fill the blank? First, take a look at the topic sentence. Because of it, we know that the rest of the sentences should be describing, or expounding on, the author’s struggle with learning to drive. Right away, this eliminates choice A. While choice A is discussing the author learning to drive, it has nothing to do with the author’s fear. Now, let’s take a look at the sentences before and after the blank. The one before gives specific examples of the author’s difficulties, and the one after gives a conclusion that tells us the author eventually did face their fears of driving. Because of this, it is safe to assume that the missing sentence will provide the link between the problem and the resolution. Option B is the best choice because it tells us that the author did learn to drive after much practice.

Finding a Correctly Written Sentence

When searching for a correctly written sentence, you must first make sure that the sentence is complete. As stated above, a complete sentence contains: at least one capital letter (The first letter is always capitalized. If there are any proper nouns in the sentence, those should be capitalized, too.) a closing punctuation mark a subject and a verb a complete thought (If the sentence doesn’t express a complete thought, it is incomplete.)

Now, keep in mind that a sentence can contain all of the elements of a complete sentence, but still be written incorrectly. Make sure to also pay close attention to these elements of a sentence:

subject-verb agreement (If one is singular, the other must be singular, or vice versa with plural.) verb-tense agreement (All of the verbs in the same sentence must be the same tense.) parallel structure (As explained previously, make sure all the grammatical units follow the same pattern.) proper punctuation (Review the necessary punctuation for two independent clauses versus one independent and one dependent clause.)

Recognizing Correct Order in a Paragraph

In recognizing the correct order of sentences in a paragraph, transitional words can be extremely helpful. For example, a sentence that starts with “Finally” will be placed at the end of a paragraph, whereas a sentence starting with “First” will go at the beginning. You can assume a sentence starting with “Likewise” will follow a sentence stating a similar idea, but if the sentence says “However”, then it was preceded by a differing thought.

Trying to identify the topic sentence right from the start will make the rest of the paragraph easier to piece together in a logical manner. A correctly ordered paragraph will follow a logical route, with no random ideas being introduced. If something seems out of place, it probably is. Try rearranging the sentences in multiple ways to see which way follows a sensible path.