English and Language Usage Study Guide for the TEAS
The TEAS 7 English Language Usage section assesses your abilities in the areas of:
- Conventions of Standard English
- Knowledge of language
- Using language and vocabulary to express ideas in writing
The questions are fairly evenly distributed across these three content strands to comprise a total of 33 scored questions and four unscored ones. You will have a total of 37 minutes to answer these 37 questions and you will not know which questions fall into either category.
Some questions on the English section of the TEAS 7 include a reference passage or sentence. Others simply ask you to choose the answer from a group of answer choices or show your answer in a different way (in the online version).
The topics covered in this study guide can help you in both reading and writing.
Types of Questions
In each section of the online version of the TEAS 7, you will encounter a few differently formatted questions. These are not typical multiple-choice questions with four answer choices that ask you to pick one. Here is an explanation of the various new question formats. You will be able to access this through a link in all of our TEAS study guides.
Multiple-select questions: This is similar to a regular multiple-choice question, except you will be asked to choose all the answers that apply from a list of four to six answers.
Supply answer questions: A blank space will be provided in which to type the answer. You will not have any answers from which to choose.
Ordering questions: You will be asked to place items in a certain sequence. To do this, it will be necessary to drag and drop them or to number the answer choices to match the items in the question.
Hot spot questions: There will be an image (diagram, map, etc.) with two to five spots that are “clickable”. You’ll need to respond to the question by choosing the correct spot.
Conventions of Standard English: Spelling and Word Use
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, punctuation, and guidelines for putting sentences together correctly. This section will deal with the correct and appropriate use of words.
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. For spelling in general, the more you read and see these words in context, the more likely you are to subconsciously know how to spell them or to at least recognize when they don’t look right. The rules listed below may then help you identify the correct spelling.
Common Spelling Rules and Exceptions to the Rules
The spelling part of the TEAS 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 special attention to medical phrases and terms. Also, specifically, review spelling strategies regarding certain words or word groups. Here are some common places to start.
I before E
The full “i before e” rule reminds us that the common spelling pattern is “i before e, except after c.” This means that in words with the letters i and e used together, the correct order is usually ie. For example, friend, field, believe, or yield. However, when the i and the e are placed after the letter c, they trade places and the e comes first: receive, deceive, perceive, or ceiling. While this rule generally works, there are lots of exceptions. Just look at weird, height, vein, ancient, or science.
Dropping the Final E
This rule helps when adding suffixes to root words. Words that end in e will usually drop the final e when a suffix starting with a vowel is added to the end. For example, store drops the e to add -age to become storage, fame drops the e when ous is added to become famous, and gamble drops the e to become gambling.
Again, there are exceptions. When the word ends in two vowels, for example, the last e is not usually dropped, though sometimes it is (the second e stays in see when it becomes seeing, but argue drops the second vowel, the e, when it turns into arguing).
If the suffix starts with a consonant rather than a vowel then the final e usually stays, as in surely, movement, or abrasiveness. The exception usually comes when the word ends in -ue, in which case the e gets dropped (truly, argument, pursuing).
Doubling the Final Consonant
Sometimes, when a suffix is added, the last consonant of the word is doubled. This is the case in stopping, shipped, and swimming. There are two rules about doubling the ending consonant:
- In words with one syllable that end in one vowel and one consonant, double the final consonant.
flat → flatter, tip → tipped, swim → swimming
- In words with two or more syllables ending in one vowel and one consonant, double the final consonant only if the final syllable is stressed.
compel → compelling, regret → regretted, listen → listened (final consonant not doubled because the second syllable is not stressed)
For application of either rule, do not count “w”, “x”, or “y” as consonants. These letters apply their own set of rules.
Changing the Final Y to I
One of those final letters that applies its own rules is the letter y. When adding a suffix to a word that ends in y, the y is usually replaced with an i as when changing beauty to beautiful, hurry to hurried, or amplify to amplified. However, if there’s a vowel before the y, the y stays and no i is used (enjoy → enjoyment, employ → employer, play → played).
Other Spelling Points to Consider
- 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:
Words that end in e will often make the previous vowel in the word a long vowel, or “make the letter say its name.” For example, bake, compete, smile, hope, or cute.
- The various ways to spell one sound, such as the f sound in phone and fine:
Some letters and letter combinations can be used to make the same sounds, and knowing which ones to use in a particular word is going to mean the difference between spelling it correctly or incorrectly. The more you can see these words in context, the more likely you are to spell them correctly. Common examples include f/ph (feel/photograph), c/k/ck (clock/ kitchen/rock), and s/ce (slice/space).
- The use of silent letters in words, such as the g in gnat and the gh in weight:
Not every letter announces its presence. Silent letters can make remembering how to spell a word even more challenging. The words dumb, weight, and gourmet illustrate how silent letters can sneak in and they shouldn’t be ignored when spelling.
Spelling confusion can arise when shifting from a singular noun to a plural noun. While it’s sometimes as easy as adding an -s to the end of the word (regular plurals), there are always exceptions. There are even plurals that we consider to be sort of “regular” because they follow a rule that nearly always applies. Then there are “irregular” plurals. They don’t follow any rules at all; you just have to memorize how they are formed. Here are some tips to keep in mind when making words plural, depending on their endings.
Many nouns can be made plural simply by adding an -s to the end of the word. These “regular” nouns don’t require any modifications to make them plural and include words like dogs, rabbits, flowers, homes, and pictures. You’ll notice that “regular” nouns like these can end in consonants or vowels and still only require the addition of the -s to become plural. But not all nouns are “regular” and some require special modifications to create the plural form.
Plurals with Rules
There are groups of words that almost always follow a special rule when forming the plural. Here are the most common:
Words ending with a consonant followed by y—This one is easy: Change the y to an i and add es. This is used in baby>babies and melody> melodies.
Words ending with the letters -ch, -s, -sh, -x, or -z—To make words with these endings plural, an -es must be added instead of just an -s. For example, benches, buses, brushes, boxes, and blintzes.
Words ending with the letters -f or -fe—These words usually require the ending to change to -ve before adding the -s to make it plural. For example, leaf changes to leaves, wife changes to wives, knife changes to knives, life changes to lives, and elf changes to elves. However, there are exceptions like chiefs, chefs, beliefs, proofs, and roofs.
Irregular plurals don’t seem to follow any of the rules at all! They’re words you just have to memorize because the rules don’t apply to them. For some of these, there is just an entirely different word for the plural form. These are words like mouse/mice, woman/women, child/children, person/people, and cactus/cacti.
Some words don’t change at all whether they’re singular or plural, so you have to look at how they’re used in the context of the sentence to know how many you’re likely looking at. These words include deer/deer, scissors/scissors, aircraft/aircraft, fish/fish, and offspring/offspring.
Words that end in -o can also be irregular because sometimes they require an -es and sometimes just an -s and there are really no rules for which to use when, and sometimes either will work. For example, the plural of video is videos, but the plural of potato is potatoes. And more than one mango can be spelled as mangos or mangoes and still be correct.
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 for tests, 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 those commonly misspelled words to get you started:
Sometimes, in order to spell a word correctly, you must identify the meaning you seek to express. Such is the case with the following types of words.
Using Homophones and Homographs Correctly
Homophones are words that are pronounced the same way but have different meanings or spellings, and homographs are words that are spelled the same but may be pronounced differently and have different meanings. They can really give pause to how a word should be spelled. It is important to consider their use to help determine what word is actually being used and how it should be spelled and pronounced.
Homophones are words that sound the same (homo:same + phon:sound = homophone:same sound). They are spelled differently, but are pronounced the same when read aloud. Some examples of homophones are:
- peace/piece—Sara had peace of mind holding a piece of her grandmother’s old quilt.
- hole/whole—Mark expected the cake to be whole, but when he cut into it he discovered a hole in the middle filled with candy.
- write/right—We will write a list of the right words to use in each case.
Commonly misused homophones include:
- your/you’re—You’re only as old as your state of mind.
- there/they’re/their—They’re likely to be late getting there because they have to pick up their aunt from the airport first.
- to/too/two—It’s too bad the two of them missed the bus to school.
Homographs are words that are spelled the same and which may be pronounced slightly differently. They don’t usually cause spelling issues because their spelling is the same regardless of usage. Examples of homographs include:
- bow—The bow of the new ship had a bright red bow.
- duck—We had to duck when the duck flew too close to our heads.
- park—We will park near the park so we don’t have to walk too far.
Fine Differences in Common Words
The TEAS 7 assesses your knowledge of different word forms (such as there, their, and they’re). For tricky groups of common words, such as they’re/their/there and you’re/your, here are a few memory cues:
You’re and they’re are contractions, meaning they stand for two other words: you are and they are. So, if you can’t substitute you are or they are in the sentence, don’t use them.
There has the word here in it. Both are “place” words, so if you are writing about a place (“The book was there.”), use them instead of their or hear.
That leaves their and your. Both are “belonging” words. It is their house or your ball. They show possession of something. It is not okay to use them in place of the words in items 1 or 2.
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