David Recine

Parallel Structure in English: Practice Activity

practice parallel structure in English

In my last two posts, we’ve looked at an introduction to parallel structure in English and advanced parallel structure in English. Today, we’re going to do a practice activity with parallel structure in English.

For this parallel structure activity, I will give you an academic essay that is full of mistakes in parallel structure. As you read the essay, do the following:

  1. Identify the incorrect sentences.
  2. Rewrite the incorrect sentences so that they have better parallel structure.

For the second task above, there are always several different ways you could rewrite a sentence. The rules for parallel structure are flexible. What’s important is that you make the verbs and nouns within a clause match. At the end of the passage, I’ll give you a link to an answer key that tells you which sentences are incorrect. And I’ll give you multiple examples of how to correct one of the bad sentences in the article.

Parallel Structure Activity: Beatrix Potter’s Scientific Work

Paragraph 1:
Born in 1866 in London, Beatrix Potter is best remembered as a children’s author. However she also made significant contributions to the field of science. In her younger years, Potter was an accomplished mycologist, a person specializing in the study of fungi. She eventually abandoned her scientific work with mushrooms and lichens in favor of a career as a writer and illustrating picture books.

Paragraph 2:
Early on, Beatrix Potter developed an enthusiasm for woodland biology that went hand-in-hand with her love of art and illustration. In her teenage years and her early twenties, she would collect mushroom specimens between her visits to London’s many art museums. This dual interest in art and the study of fungi led her to make her scientific drawings and diagramming the mushrooms she found.

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Paragraph 3:
As Beatrix Potter closely studied various types of mushrooms, she began to observe her specimens in increasingly scientific ways. She carefully recorded small differences in the formation, shapes, and coloring of different fungal species. She even began to study mushroom tissue and spores under a microscope. She examined living mushrooms as well, closely observing fungi reproductive processes and had recorded her findings in a personal scientific journal that she kept.

Paragraph 4:
In her early work as a scientist, Potter made no effort to share her research publicly. Although her own family was supportive of her scientific work, women in nineteenth-century British society were discouraged from participating in higher education or to enter England’s scientific community. However, after words of encouragement from male mycologists she corresponded with, she decided to seek out formal academic recognition of her mycological fieldwork.

Paragraph 5:
Potter was especially eager to find a scientific audience for her research on lichens. At the time, there had been some scientific speculation that lichens were not a true fungus, but a symbiotic combination of fungal spores and algae growing together in a colony. Potter had collected lichen specimens from a rocks and the sides of trees and studies them under a microscope. Through her lab work, she had discovered both fungi spores and the algae cell within lichen samples and had even observed evidence of the fungi and algae working together in symbiosis.

Paragraph 6:
As a woman, Beatrix Potter faced significant obstacles in presenting her work to the scientific community. The most important group of mycologists and botanists in London was the Linnean Society, a male-only research group that barred women from attending their meetings. With help from her uncle, an administrator at the University of London, and George Massey, mycologically brilliant and reviewing her work, Potter convinced Linnean Society to consider her findings. In 1897, the Linnean Society met and reviewed Beatrix Potter’s paper on lichens, although Potter herself could not be present at the gathering. The reaction of the scientists at the meeting was dismissive; the paper was not accepted for publication, and no notes on Potter’s findings were added to the Society Archives.

Paragraph 7:
In spite of her inability to gain the attention of London’s male-dominated scientific community, Potter remained confident in her work. She told friends, family and colleagues that her findings on lichens would be accepted as fact in time. However, she abandoned her career in mycology very shortly after her research was dismissed by the Linnean Society. During Potter’s years as a scientist she had also been working as an illustrator, and in 1902, a major publishing company offered her full time work creating the storybooks she became famous for.

Paragraph 8:
Potter’s predictions about her eventual success as a scientist ultimately came true. By her death in 1943, the symbiosis theory about lichens was gaining more acceptance. Today, the symbiotic nature of lichens is accepted as science fact, and Potter remembered as one of the first scientists to find evidence for lichen symbiosis. In modern bookstores, her scientific writings and illustration, published decades after her death in 1943, often appear on the shelves alongside her still-popular children’s book series.

Answer key

The passage above is a modified version of the article that first appeared in this TOEFL Reading Practice post. You can review the article in the original post as the answer key. Any sentence above that is changed from the original post is an incorrect sentence. To help you make this comparison, I’ll give you some extra hints at the bottom of this post (only read them if you need to!).

Different ways to correct one of the bad sentences

In the article above, here’s one of the sentences that lacks parallel structure:

  • She eventually abandoned her scientific work with mushrooms and lichens in favor of a career as a writer and illustrating for picture books.

And here are a few different possible corrections:

  • She eventually abandoned her scientific work with mushrooms and lichens in favor of a career as a writer and illustrator of picture books.
  • She eventually abandoned her scientific work with mushrooms and lichens in favor of a career writing and illustrating picture books.
  • She eventually abandoned her scientific work with mushrooms and lichens in favor of a career in picture book writing and illustration.

Extra hints

Paragraphs 1, 3, 5, and 8 have two incorrect sentences each. (In Paragraph 2, one of the incorrect sentences is shown in my example corrections above.) Paragraphs 2, 4, and 6 have one incorrect sentence each. Paragraph 7 has no errors.


  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he’s helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master’s Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he’s presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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