Essay Passage Improvement Test 3

Questions 1–5 are based on the following passage, a first draft of an essay about the history of bicycles.

Read the passage and the questions that follow. For each question, choose the answer that will most improve the passage. Some questions ask you to choose the best revision of a particular sentence or pair of sentences. Other questions ask you to consider how to best improve the overall organization of the passage. In each case, the correct answer is the one that most closely conforms to the conventions of formal writing.

(1) Today, bicycles are so common it's hard to believe they haven't always been around. (2) But two hundred years ago, bicycles weren't even existing, and the first bicycle, invented in Germany in 1818, was nothing like our bicycles today—it was made of wood and didn't even have pedals. (3)Since then, however, numerous innovations and improvements in design have made the bicycle one of the most popular means of recreation and transportation around the world.

(4) In 1849, James Starley, an English inventor, made the front wheel many times larger than the back wheel, put a gear on the pedals to make the bicycle more efficient, and lightened the wheels by using wire spokes. (5)Although this bicycle was much lighter and less tiring to ride, it was still clumsy, and ridden mostly for entertainment. (6) In 1839, Kirkpatrick Macmillan a Scottish blacksmith dramatically improved upon the original bicycle design, employing tires with iron rims to keep them from getting worn down. (7)But the back wheel was substantially larger than the front wheel.

(8)Another Englishman, H.J. Lawson, invented the "safety bicycle,"which had equal sized wheels that were less prone to toppling over. (9) Lawson also attached a chain to the pedals to drive the rear wheel. (10) As the bicycle improved over time, its popularity grew and it became useful for transportation.


1. Which of the following is the best way to revise the underlined portion of sentence 2?

(2) But two hundred years ago, bicycles weren't even existing, and the first bicycle, invented in Germany in 1818, was nothing like our bicycles today—it was made of wood and didn't even have pedals.

a. ago, there were no existing bicycles,

b. ago, bicycles weren't even around,

c. ago bicycles weren't even existing

d. ago, bicycles didn't exist,

e. ago bicycles didn't exist


2. What is the most logical information, in context, to add before sentence 8?

a. In France at that time, other inventions were being made.

b. The English were quite ready now to really improvement the bicycle.

c. Bicycles began to be used for transportation at this time.

d. It didn't matter which tire was larger, the front or the back.

e. It wasn't until 1874 that the first truly modern bicycle appeared on the scene.


3. What is the best order of sentences for paragraph 2?

a. 4, 5, 6, 7

b. 6, 7, 5, 4

c. 6, 7, 4, 5

d. 4, 5, 7, 6

e. 4, 6, 7, 5


4. Considering the context of the passage, which of the following sentences is best to insert between sentences 9 and 10?

a. These innovations made it easier to ride.

b. Lawson and his family made the bicycle a better machine.

c. It was Lawson who finally made the bicycle a two-wheeled machine.

d. The English finally perfected the machine they invented over a hundred years earlier.

e. No additional sentence is needed.


5. What is the best title for the passage?

a. From Germany to England: Europe's Exciting Inventions

b. Two Hundred Years of Cycling History

c. The Development of the Modern Bicycle

d. The Bicycle: Big Wheels to Small Wheels

e. Recreational Uses of the Bicycle



1. d. The problem with the original sentence is verb form. The phrase two hundred years ago tells us the past tense verb is required, meaning existing is incorrect. Choice b is more informal than the rest of the passage, and the deletion of commas in choices c and e makes the sentence awkward to read. Choice a is unclear; the phrase existing bicycles sounds as if there were bicycles prior to that time, but none survived.

2. e. Choice e mentions a year that fits with the chronology of the rest of the passage. None of the other choices are logical in the context of the passage.

3. c. Sentences 4 and 6 introduce inventors, and sentences 5 and 7 give greater details about their inventions. Thus the two pairs (4 and 5, 6 and 7) belong together. Choice c restores chronological order.

4. a. The two sentences do not transition smoothly, and another sentence is needed. However, there is no mention of Lawson’s family in the passage (choice b), and the bicycle was already two-wheeled (choice c). Paragraph 1 clearly states that the bicycle was invented in Germany (choice d). Lawson’s wheel change and addition of the chain did make the bicycle easier to ride; choice a works to better link the two sentences.

5. c. Choice a doesn’t work because only one European invention is mentioned in the passage. In choice b, the word cycling refers to the sport of riding bicycles. The passage never mentions this sport. Choice d is too specific; although changes in wheel size and configuration are discussed, this title is too narrow to represent the whole passage. Choice e has the same problems as b and d—there is no mention of recreational uses, and although its general use for recreation is brought up, this topic is too specific to work as a title.