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How to Prepare for the Language Skills Test

Strong language skills are critical for all students entering the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The SJMC Language Skills test is meant to be an indicator of your knowledge of English grammar and punctuation, and preparation for this test will help you refresh your knowledge of grammar and ready you for MMC 3104, and all courses in your track, all of which are grammar intensive.


This is NOT an easy test. It is our experience that students who do not study vigorously for it do not pass it.



What to Study

We recommend that you review the following areas of grammar:


1) parts of speech

2) subject-verb agreement

3) verb types

4) clauses and phrases

5) sentence types

6) punctuation

7) word usage



Recommend texts

The Bedford Handbook (latest edition) by Diane Hacker, or


The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage (third edition edited by R.W. Burchfield).



The Language Skills Test

Eighty percent off the 100-question multiple-choice language skills test challenges students to identify fundamental elements of grammar.


The following are sample questions from this section:



Identify the underlined part of speech or sentence function, selecting from the choices offered:


1 Sarah jumped.

A)    Transitive verb

B)     Intransitive verb

C)    Linking verb



2 The judge sentenced the man to 10 years of hard labor.

A)  Indirect object

B)  Subject

C)  Direct object


3 Swimming across Biscayne Bay, John saw a dolphin.

A) Gerund phrase

B) Present participle phrase

C) Present participle clause

D) None of the above


Please make the correct word choice:


4) Measles is/are a contagious disease.


A) is

B) are



5)  It takes less time to learn to write nobly than/then to learn to write lightly and straightforwardly. --Friedrich Nietzche


A) than

B) then



6) Neither the jurors nor the judge were/was available for a comment about the verdict.


A) were

B) was



7) Please select the INCORRECTLY PUNCTUATED sentence from the choices offered.


A) “Look at the rainbow,” Robert said.

B)  Interest rates continue to drop, home sales are still soaring in South Florida.

C)  “Holy cow!”

D)  All are incorrect



Identify the sentence type:



8)  Because the tsunami flooded the island, many homes and hotels were destroyed.


A) Simple sentence

B) Compound sentence

C) Complex sentence

D) Run-on sentence 



9) Little Red Riding Hood walks through the woods, looking at the clouds, listening to the birds, and dreaming of Grandma.

A) Compound sentence.

B) Compound-complex sentence.

C) Complex sentence.

D) Simple sentence.



Answers: 1) Intransitive verb, 2) direct object, 3) present participle phrase   4) is  5) than  6) was  7) Interest rates continue to drop, home sales are still soaring in South Florida. 8) Complex sentence 9) Simple sentence




Twenty percent of the language skills test challenges students to identify grammar and/or punctuation errors in sentences.


The following are examples:


Find the errors in grammar or punctuation. Some of the following sentences contain errors in grammar or punctuation.  No sentence contains more than one error.  Some sentences do not have any errors.  Assume that all other elements of the sentence are correct and cannot be changed.


If the sentence contains an error, select the part of the sentence that is wrong and mark the corresponding number on the answer sheet.


If the sentence DOES NOT CONTAIN AN ERROR, choose “No error” and mark it on the answer sheet.



1) The man ran for the train carrying an umbrella.

A) The man

B) for the train

C) carrying an umbrella

D) No error



2) Bob said he felt badly about losing her book.

A) Bob said

B) badly

C) losing her book

D) No error



3) Have you seen “Evita?”

A) Have

B) “Evita?”

C) No error



4) South Beach which is one of the hottest tourist destinations in the world, is only 15 blocks long.

A) South Beach

B) which is one of the hottest tourist destinations in the world,

C) is only 15 blocks long

D) No error



5) There are 6 players on a basketball team, but 11 on a football team.

A) 6

B) basketball team,

C) 11

D) No error



6) Whom did the president appoint to be Secretary of Energy?

A) Whom

B)  did the president appoint

C) Secretary of Energy

D) No error



Answers: 1) c 2) b 3) b 4) a 5) a 6) d



A Final Word

Media outlets and public relations and advertising companies are increasingly scrutinizing their employees’ language and writing skills. SJMC graduates have an outstanding record of finding employment in their fields because of the language and writing proficiency acquired through our program. Good luck on the test.




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