Page 1 English and Language Usage Study Guide for the TEAS

How to Prepare for the ATI TEAS English and Language Usage Test

General Information

This test assesses your knowledge of the English language and your ability to use it to communicate clearly. These are the three types of language skills tested and the approximate percentage in which the skills appear in the 24 questions:

  • Conventions of Standard English 37.5%
  • Knowledge of Language 37.5%
  • Vocabulary Acquisition 25%

Some questions include a reference passage or sentence. Others simply ask you to choose the answer from a group of answer choices.

Conventions of Standard English

The whole point of writing is to communicate with others. The Conventions of Standard English give us a framework for making that communication as clear as possible. The conventions include rules for word use and guidelines for putting sentences together correctly.

Basic Sentence Structure

Sentence structure involves methods for effectively putting a sentence together. Questions may include the use of the passive and active voices, proper tenses, and different points of view in writing. To prepare for this part of the test, review the different types of verb tenses (such as past, past perfect, present, and present perfect), rewriting a sentence in the passive voice into the active voice, and the three different viewpoints in writing (first, second, and third person).

Person

Writing can be categorized by whether it is done in first, second, or third person.

First person: You are telling the story.
Example: “I lived in Virginia all of my life.” (Use I, we, me, and us.)

Second person: You are talking to the reader.
Example: “You should get a dog.” (Use you, your, and yours.)

Third person: You are talking about others.
Example: “The citizens went home.” (Use they, them, it, he, she, her, him, hers, and his.)

Voice

The same sentence may be written in either active or passive voice. Generally, active voice is preferred in writing and it is important to know the difference between the voice types.

Active: “The committee placed flowers all around the town.”
Passive: “Flowers were placed all around the town by the committee.”

Tense

The form of the verb you use indicates when something happened and can also tell something about the order of the action, in relation to other things that happened. Here is a quick study of the various tenses and what they indicate.

Tense What you write When it is happening
Present She looks happening right now
Present perfect She has looked happened recently
Past She looked happened in the past
Past perfect She had looked happened in the past before something else that happened in the past
Future She will look happening in the future
Future perfect She will have looked happening in the future before something else that is happening in the future

More Complicated Usage Issues

To be grammatically correct, you must not only use the parts of speech appropriately, but you also need to consider things like the location of these words and whether or not they “agree” with words around them in a sentence. Here are three of the most common language usage concerns.

Pronoun-antecedent agreement

The pronoun has to be the right one to use with the noun (antecedent) to which it refers. This can get tricky. For example, “The partner for each boy was their friend.” is incorrect. It should be “his friend” because it refers to “each boy,” which is singular.

Subject-verb agreement

The verb and noun in a sentence must match up in number; if the noun references a plural subject, so must the verb. This can be anything from “they are” (as opposed to the incorrect “they is”) to more complicated forms, such as “The group of tenants was going to court.” (It should not be “were going to court” because the verb is agrees with the subject―group, not tenants. Tenants just tells what kind of group it is.)

Split infinitive

An infinitive is a verb with the word to before it. Examples are to go and to sing. Splitting an infinitive means a word has been placed between the word to and the verb in a sentence. Although many writers do this, it is not grammatically correct. The phrase “to quickly go” would be an example of a split infinitive. The grammatically correct phrase would be “to go quickly.”

Spelling

The spelling part is not intended to be too difficult or to include words not commonly found in everyday English usage. To prepare for this part of the test, consider reading and reviewing any words that are difficult for you, paying attention to medical phrases and terms. Also, specifically review spelling strategies regarding certain words or word groups.

English Spelling Rules and Conventions

English has been termed one of the most difficult languages to spell. Not only are there numerous “rules” for spelling English words, but for each of these rules, there are many exceptions. While learning the rules won’t make you a perfect speller, knowing the most common ones will go a long way in improving your spelling skills. And, if you learn a few of the common exceptions, as well, you will see even more improvement.

Here are some situations for which there are rules for correct English spelling:

  • the order of vowels in words, such as i and e
  • use of a final, silent e or other second vowel when the other vowel sound is long, such as that producing the difference between scar and scare
  • adding prefixes and suffixes to words, such as “un” and “ing”
  • making the plural of a singular word, such as babies from baby; toys from toy
  • the various ways to spell one sound, such as the f sound in phone and fine
  • the use of silent letters in words, such as the g in gnat and the gh in weight

Be sure you know what to do by searching for other examples online and instructions on how to “get it right!” You may discover other common English spelling rules during your search. Be sure to make a note of them to review as you get ready for this test.

Commonly Misspelled Words

Sometimes, it’s the really common words that trip us up. For example, did you know that it’s weird, not wierd? Small difference, big mistake. And, yes, there is spell-check, but you won’t have spell-check when writing by hand or even in some online programs, so it’s good to know some basics. Numerous online spelling practice resources are available. Just search for various versions of “misspelled words.” You can find lists of 25, 100, or even 1,000 commonly misspelled words to practice. And, yes, “misspell” is one of them! Here are 25 of them to get you started:

absence achieve acquaintance already argument attendance
beginning calendar cemetery committee decision embarrass
fascinate government interrupt necessary noticeable preferred
privilege recommend ridiculous separate strengthen tomorrow
vacuum          

Punctuation

Punctuation questions on this test will assess your knowledge of simple and complex punctuation rules, including the proper use of commas and semicolons. Simple punctuation questions request that you insert the proper punctuation symbol, while more complex questions ask you to identify punctuation errors by name, including comma splices and run-on sentences. To prepare for this part of the test, practice identifying accurate punctuation as well as inaccurate use of punctuation marks. You must also understand the rules regarding commas, semicolons, periods, colons, and exclamation points.

There are lots of punctuation rules. Here are a few that may not be familiar or ones that pose common problems in writing.

Comma splice—This occurs when you put a comma, instead of a period, between two complete sentences. Example: Sue went home, she was tired. It should be: “Sue went home. She was tired.”

Run-on sentence—This occurs when you have a comma splice or when you just put two complete sentences together, without any punctuation at all. Example: “Sue went home she was tired.”

Period ( . )—This mark goes only at the end of a complete thought, which includes at least one subject and one verb. Don’t judge by length. The phrase “the very heavy, red, wet package” does not need a period. It doesn’t tell what the package does or where it is, because there is no verb.

Comma ( , )—Used in a sentence, a comma usually separates a list of things or shows you where you would pause briefly when reading. It increases the clarity of the sentence. Example: “The store had blue, red, and green candy. In some cases, the candy was cheap.”

Colon ( : )—This mark indicates that a list or other pertinent information will follow. Examples: “The child knew several numbers: 2, 4, and 6.” “She had one mission: to make it home in one piece.”

Semicolon ( ; )—A semicolon separates two complete thoughts that are related. Example: “The child was cold; she had slept outside.”

Apostrophe ( ‘ )—The apostrophe is probably the most misused punctuation mark in general writing. When correctly used, it has two main purposes:

  • to indicate missing letters in a contraction: can’t (indicates that the n and o are missing from the original words, can not)
  • to indicate possession: Blake’s ball (indicates that the ball belongs to Blake) The word its is the only possessive that does not use an apostrophe to indicate possession. If you see the word it’s, it is always the contraction for it is.

Note: An apostrophe is almost never used to indicate a plural. The word “cats” (not* “cat’s) is the plural of cat. The only exception is when forming the plural of a lowercase letter, as in this sentence: “Circle all the a’s on this page.” The plural of capital letters does not use the apostrophe: “Circle all the As on this page.”*

Quotation marks ( “ )—These marks are used to enclose the exact words spoken, as in this sentence: The preacher said, “Please place your nametags in the basket on the way out.” They are incorrectly used, here: The preacher said “to place your nametags in the basket on the way out.” Other punctuation marks, like periods and commas, are usually placed inside the quotation marks.

Parts of Speech

On the ATI TEAS English and Language Usage test, simple questions may involve finding nouns and verbs; more advanced questions may involve more complicated rules about word use and sentence structure. Knowing the nature and role of the parts of speech will help you answer all of them, correctly.

All of the words in the English language can be divided into eight categories, or parts of speech. Since any grammar class may be in your distant past, let’s cut to the chase, here, and get a handle on these terms:

Term What it means Examples
noun a person, place, or thing boy, America, baseball
pronoun a word that stands for a noun he, it, they
verb an action or “being” word run, is
adjective a word describing a noun or pronoun pretty, tall, super
adverb a word describing a verb, adjective, or another adverb fast, very, completely
preposition a word that tells the relationship between two words over, after, beyond
conjunction a word used between clauses so, until, as
interjection a word showing strong emotion Oops! Wow! Oh!