Page 2 English and Language Usage Study Guide for the TEAS

Knowledge of Language

A written piece can contain important and valuable information, but, if it is not written well, its message can be lost. The ATI TEAS tests your ability to identify cases in which mistakes in grammar, usage, and structure occur.

Using Grammar to Enhance Clarity in Writing

To answer grammar questions correctly, it is important to be able to find places in passages where a writer has failed to make the message clear to the reader. Often, a simple word replacement or restructuring will fix the problem. Here are a couple of examples in which proper grammar makes a huge difference.

Double Negatives

Using two negative words in one sentence changes the meaning and is not grammatically correct. Consider this sentence:

“The teens didn’t have no place to go.”

As written, the message is that the teens did have a place to go, because the writer used two negatives (didn’t and no). These two words create a positive by cancelling each other out. The sentence can be made grammatically correct (and clear) in either of these ways, using only one negative word:

“The teens didn’t have a place to go.”
“The teens had no place to go.”

Careful Use of Pronouns

Pronouns are great little words. They can help to make speech and writing less wordy and stilted, but they can also cause confusion. Look at this sentence:

“Paul told his friend, Mark, that he could not go to the concert because there were no tickets left.”

So, who is it that cannot go to the concert—Paul or Mark? This is not clear, as written. You would need to specify who did not have a ticket. One way to do this is by creating a quotation within the sentence:

Paul told Mark, “You cannot go to the concert…”


Paul told Mark, “I cannot go to the concert…”

This makes the meaning clearer. You can also simply repeat the name of the person who cannot go, by writing “Paul told Mark that Mark could not go to the concert…”

Formal and Informal Language

It is important to consider the circumstances of written communication. We often say things in one manner, but write them in another and we write differently for different audiences. The ATI TEAS will expect you to know the difference between formal and informal language and to use the appropriate version in response to questions. This is the same expectation that will be in place during your nursing studies and future career.

Formal Language

Formal language is the type used in business and academic settings. It may sound sort of stilted if you use it in casual conversation with friends, but it is the correct way to express yourself when in non-casual circumstances. Such occasions include writing a class assignment or addressing a professor or colleague. Your language, then,needs to be of a more formal nature and should not contain jargon or abbreviations.

Informal: My prof hates it when I act all crazy and goof off in class.

Formal: My college professor does not appreciate students who disturb his lectures.

There are also different types and levels of formal language, such as those used when writing academic papers and letters to officials. Be aware of proper language usage for each situation.

Informal Language

This type of language is what you probably use in everyday situations, such as when talking with a friend or chatting around the dinner table at home. While it may be clear and appropriate in those circumstances, it is not the type of language for which you should strive in educational or professional settings—or in the assessment of formal writing, such as that required on the ATI TEAS test.

Informal language may include slang expressions and colloquialisms, such as, “take the high road” and “dude,” which have no place in formal writing. When you are asked to correct a sentence on this test, be alert for these types of expressions.

Elements of the Writing Process

Regardless of the topic or type of writing required, certain guidelines and procedures can ensure that the piece produced is the best it can be. Here are some things to know and remember when writing and when critiquing written work. You may encounter some questions about this process on the ATI TEAS English and Language Usage test.

Writing Process Basics

Whenever you attempt a writing assignment, certain steps will help you produce effective text. In a writing test situation, you may not have time to fully implement each step, but try to go through the entire process, even if some parts may be done in an abbreviated fashion. Working through these three steps will help produce a clear and organized product:


The first step is to identify your writing purpose and the position you will take throughout the piece. This is called your thesis statement. Then, quickly list main points and supportive ideas related to that statement. The main points can become the topic sentences for paragraphs and the supportive ideas will be used to “flesh out” each idea in the text of its paragraph. Some people prefer to use outline form for planning, but any sort of diagram with which you are comfortable will work. The point is to have a framework for reference as you write. This helps you stay on topic and on track. The planning portion will be limited in a testing situation, due to time constrictions and usually should not take more than 5 minutes.

Writing or Drafting

This step will occupy the major portion of your writing time. Using the notes from your planning session, you will write the text required. Use the guidelines listed under Organization, below, to guide you as you write. Be sure to refer to your planning notes often so that you do not veer off course.

Proofreading and Editing

Like planning, this step will be time-limited during a testing situation, but is still vitally important. You will be reviewing all aspects of your product for the purpose of identifying and fixing anything that diminishes clarity for the reader. Look for errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and word use. Quickly scan for easily edited organizational errors. If you are not in a testing situation, there will be time to reorganize the entire piece, if the current organization does not seem effective.


Just as improper grammar and the wrong type of language can influence a written document, so can its organization. The manner in which information is presented, and in what order, can make all the difference in a passage’s effect on a reader.

Whole Piece Organization

If you are the writer, taking time to make a plan for an essay can ensure you present the material in an organized and effective manner. If you are studying the writing of another person, you can look for organizational errors, using what you know about good written structure.

Consider the purpose of the piece and what it is trying to achieve. Each paragraph should contribute to that overall purpose and be organized in such a way that it makes sense to the reader. Are there paragraphs that need to be added or taken out? Perhaps just relocating a paragraph will make the writing stronger.

Paragraph Organization

Each paragraph should address a single topic. This topic should be clearly stated and all sentences in the paragraph should form some sort of support for the topic. When assessing a paragraph, look for these things and, again, look for parts that need to be moved or taken out completely because they don’t relate to the subject or the purpose of the paragraph. An added sentence or two may also make a difference.

Sentence Structure

Within sentences, there can be room for improvement, as well. Look for highly appropriate word usage and the order in which the words are written. Is there a better way to write the same thing that would make the message crystal clear, rather than a little “muddy?” Be careful that meaning is not changed when you make these adjustments. When you are asked to find the best way to improve a sentence, be sure to consider the purpose of the sentence.


While you probably won’t need to use the citation process during the ATI TEAS test, there may be a question or two about citation requirements. It is important to know what must be cited in written work and what things do not require a citation.

Basically, these things must have a citation, telling the original author and the original publication in which it can be found:

  • direct quotations from another person
  • information that is not common knowledge

Things that are widely known (such as “The moon goes through various phases”) do not have to be cited. Conversely, data from a specific study of the moon would need a citation.