Writing Structure Practice Exercises

Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Read the following study guide for a concept review:

Writing Structure Study Guide


Although writers often have one overall organizing principle, they often combine two or more organizational strategies as they write. Keep this in mind as you read through the practice passages below. As you read, look for clues to determine the overall structure and watch for smaller sections that organize ideas in a different way within the main structure. Read each passage actively and carefully. Then answer the questions that follow.

Exercise 1

(1) Too much sun can be deadly. (2) First of all, too much sun can dry your skin, which in turn reduces its elasticity and speeds up the aging process. (3) Second, too much sun can burn unprotected skin and cause permanent discoloration and damage to the dermis (the second layer of skin). (4) Most important, longterm exposure of unprotected skin can result in skin cancer.


Read the following questions. Circle the letter of the answer you think is correct.

  1. Which two organizational patterns does this paragraph use?
    1. chronology; cause and effect
    2. order of importance; cause and effect
    3. order of importance; comparison and contrast
    4. cause and effect; comparison and contrast
  2. Which sentence expresses the main idea of this passage?
    1. Sentence 1
    2. Sentence 2
    3. Sentence 3
    4. Sentence 4
  3. According to the passage, what is the most important reason to avoid too much sun?
    1. It can dry skin.
    2. It can speed up the aging process.
    3. It can burn skin.
    4. It can cause skin cancer.
  4. Which of the following can result from dry skin?
    1. burns
    2. a rash
    3. reduced elasticity
    4. permanent discoloration

Exercise 2

Note: Exercise 2 is considerably longer than any other passage you've seen so far—but it's about the length you'll expect to see on standardized tests. If the length seems a bit scary, don't worry. Just read the story carefully and actively as you would any other passage.

The Tryout

A lark—that's what Alexander's family called him because he sang all the time. Personally, Alexander believed he sounded more like a crow, but it didn't concern him. He simply liked singing. He sang in the shower, he sang while he did his homework, and he sang while he walked to school. He couldn't have cared less what he sounded like, until Kevin started talking about the tryouts for the City Boys' Choir.

"Yeah, I'm attending the tryouts this weekend," he heard Kevin bragging one day in class. "With my voice, I'm pretty much guaranteed a spot. I imagine they'll want me to perform lots of solos, too." Everyone around school knew that Kevin had a fantastic singing voice. Normally, Alexander just ignored him, but while he was walking home from school (singing as usual), he kept imagining himself as a member of the boys' choir. Wouldn't it be fun, he thought, to sing competitively with other kids and have someone actually teach him about singing?

Bright and early Saturday morning, Alexander's mom dropped him off at the auditorium where the tryouts were being held. Alexander took a deep breath, walked into the building, registered at a large table, and then joined the other boys who were all chattering nervously in the hallway. The only one who didn't look nervous was Kevin. And why should he be? Kevin had been taking lessons for years and had won numerous competitions. Alexander, on the other hand, had never taken a music lesson in his life, much less performed for an audience.

Fortunately, before Alexander had a chance to get too nervous, the choir director, Mr. Robeson, walked in and immediately got things started. He had each boy stand up on the auditorium stage, announce himself, and sing a song. When Alexander's turn came, he pretended he was singing in the shower and did his best to ignore the scribbling of the people sitting in the front row, who were diligently taking notes on his performance. He felt satisfied when he was done, at least until Kevin's turn came. As Kevin's confident voice filled the room, Alexander realized that he would never sound that good.

After the boys had finished their individual performances, Mr. Robeson put them into groups of four or five and asked them to sing again, this time as a group. Alexander thoroughly enjoyed singing with the other boys. He did his best to blend his voice with theirs. Kevin's group sang right after Alexander's, and even with four other boys singing, Kevin's voice was clear, distinct, and completely unmistakable; it seemed to reach the farthest corners of the auditorium.

When the groups finished singing, Mr. Robeson began the interview process. He asked Alexander about his performance experience, any music lessons he'd had, any training he'd received. All Alexander could say was, "I just really enjoy singing. I sing all the time, and I want to learn more." He kept imagining the lengthy and detailed answers Kevin would give to each of Mr. Robeson's questions.

Afterward, Alexander slunk miserably out of the building and climbed into his mother's car.

The next afternoon, Alexander anxiously pedaled his bicycle over to the auditorium where a list of new members was supposed to be posted. He didn't think his name would be on the list, but he was curious to see who'd made it. Quickly, he scanned the list, and then he read it again more carefully. There must have been some mistake. His name was on the list, and Kevin's name was not.

Just then the door opened and Mr.Robeson strolled out. "Um, excuse me, Mr.Robeson," stammered Alexander. "What happened? How did I make the choir?"

"You love singing, and what better quality could a choir member have? Your voice isn't the best I've ever heard, but with training I think it will improve quite a bit. That improvement will take a lot of practice, however. You are willing to practice, aren't you?"

"Of course I am. But, what about Kevin? Why didn't he make it? He has such a good voice."

"Talent alone is not enough," said Mr.Robeson. "We need boys who are willing to work hard. Even the best singers in the world must continue to practice. Just think about it, Alexander. This is a choir where all the members are equal. We weren't looking for soloists. We were looking for boys who seemed to have the right voice and attitude to be part of a choir. Enough about tryouts, though. Will we see you at choir practice this week?"

"Absolutely, Mr. Robeson!" Alexander said. He climbed back onto his bicycle and rode home, singing all the way.

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