Sample grammar questions sent out

Something should connect Pok-ta-Pok, played in Mexico by Olmec Indians, with Dr James Naismith, who attached two peach baskets to opposite ends of a balcony, and 1936 when basketball was first played in the Olympics.

If you're in luck that something will be properly paragraphed and grammatically correct.

Fourteen-year-old pupils should be able turn these and other disjointed statements into two coherent paragraphs about the history of basketball, according to the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority.

This is the sort of exercise to be thrown at 14-year-olds as part of the new national curriculum tests in grammar, spelling and punctuation. One third of secondary pupils will take part in this year's trials for the new exams, which will be visited on all schools in 1998.

This week SCAA published a book of sample questions, including the one above and a similar exercise about the early career of Linford Christie.

"Sereousley", "qualfied" and "activitys" will need sorting out as pupils move through the 50-minute paper. They will have to pick off adverbs and adverbial phrases before grappling with reported speech and subordinate clauses.

According to SCAA, the test will try to go beyond grammatical knowledge for its own sake, relating it to questions of purpose and meaning. Some element of practical criticism will be required of sentences like these: "Two ear splitting shots rang out. For a second the man in the dark suit, who was just about to jump on the running board, hung suspended in mid-air as if some invisible hand were hauling him up by the hair." How, the test asks, does the structure of these two sentences contribute to their effect?

The sample questions will be sent to all schools in the next two weeks.

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