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Most Common Student Mistakes in Essays

This is a list of the most common essay mistakes. Each type of mistake has an abbreviation that you will see on the essays TestMagic returns to you.

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Example of Mistake



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not parallel

I like to eat Japanese food and eating Thai food.

I was able to raise my test score by studying hard and I read lots of books.

You need to use the same part of speech or type of phrase when you have a series of words that are joined with conjunctions.



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I can’t understand what this means.

Many companies began using computers mouth.

I have tried to figure out what you are trying to say, but I can’t.


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new paragraph

no example

You should break up this long paragraph into two paragraphs.



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subject/verb agreement

She are a good friend of mine that I has known for a long time.

The subject and the verb do not agree in number.



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We heated the soup in the microwave for too long and the shape of the container changed.

According to my experience, I grew up in the country and went to a small school.

Due to the fact of his being late, he missed the beginning of the movie.

The wording is either too long or unclear. In other words, it sounds funny!


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do not use contractions

I’m tired.

I can’t help you.

I’ll’ve read thirty books by the end of the year.

Do not use contractions (can’t, don't, it's, we'll, they've, etc.) in formal writing. Instead, use the full word form (cannot, do not, it is, we will, they have, etc.).



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double marking

Even though I need to study, but I don’t want to go to the library today.

Since I want to go to a good school, therefore I am trying to raise my test scores.

This sentence cannot have a conjunction before the the main subject and the main verb.


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sentence fragment

Micronesia’s economy is growing. Because their economists are working hard to improve the economy.

Many students have a hard time passing all the tests to get into college. For example, my friend in high school.

This sentence has no main subject or main verb—often this is because the sentence is actually a subordinate sentence. This particular example is a very common mistake. You can correct it by joining the two clauses.

This particular mistake, Because their economists are working hard is very common.



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do not use get

When I got home, I got tired, so I got a book and got into bed.

get is considered too informal and too vague to use in formal writing. Change get to a more specific word like become, receive, find, achieve, etc.



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illegible writing

We were very surprised by the little @$HG@$*%

I can’t figure out the handwriting. Be careful.



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incorrect information

I am going to see a movie with my friend. (This sentence means you have only one friend in the whole world; you need to say one of my friends.)

I was very good at soccer when I was high school. (This sentence means that in the past you were not human—you were a high school. You need to use a preposition here, When I was in high school.)

The more people exercise, the younger they will be. (Of course, exercise cannot make you younger. It can make you feel younger, but actually making someone younger is impossible.)

I am fortunate to be able to spend a lot of time with my children. I can teach them everything about Korea. (Of course, it is impossible to teach or even know everything about Korea or any country. We should change it to many things.)

I would like to study in America because all modern technology originated there. (all means 100%; we cannot say that absolutely every new thing started in America; just to be safe, you should use many or most.

The information you have presented is either incorrect or sounds like it might be incorrect (if it is indeed correct, you should explain why it is correct since the reader is not expecting it to be correct)


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not a word in English

Computers are very helpful and advantageable.

Although it looks like it could be a word, it isn’t, at least not in English. Try to use a different form of the word.



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no preposition

I would like to discuss about something important that you mentioned about to me during yesterday.

We went to downtown yesterday to buy a watch.

When I first came to the US, I did not have a lot of friends in here.

In class, my classmate never mentioned about her husband.

A preposition cannot be used with this word for this meaning. Often, this is with the words downtown, home, there, here; these words are adverbs in English, not nouns. Therefore, you cannot use a preposition before them.


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off-topic or irrelevant

There are many reasons to buy a car, preferably a nice car.

This idea is not related to the general topic of your essay.



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It is okay for children to fail sometimes.

It is important to have friends.

Life is beautiful.

The idea expressed is a common one—most people are already aware of it, so it is not necessary to state it.


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I love animals. and I like to help them. because they are helpless. so I want to become a vet.

This is a very common problem! Many students put too many periods in their sentences, especially when they handwrite their essays.



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repetitive or redundant

The low-priced car was inexpensive.

Personally, I believe what the newspaper prints.

I like to travel with friends who know me.

An idea is stated more than once or some word is unnecessary.


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singular/ plural

Many year ago, dinosaur roamed the Earths.

This word needs to change either from singular to plural or from plural to singular.



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singular count noun

I like apple, but not banana.

Most people want to live near readily available source of gasoline.

A Singular Count Noun Cannot Stand Alone: you need either to change it to plural form or add a determiner (a, the, my, his, her, Gary's, no, any, 1, 3, 50, most, etc.)



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spelling error

Firstable, I want to tank yu four yor help. Secondlee, eye want two give you sum monnie.

This word is misspelled.


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problem with subject or verb or object

My sister she likes to study all day and all night.

I want to buy something for my mother that she will like it.

There was a terrible accident happen yesterday.


There is a problem with the basic sentence structure—either the subject, verb or object is missing or is repeated.


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the tone does not match that of the essay

The advent of the Internet greatly changed the world. I mean, so many people use e-mail nowadays.

I was kind of mad at the guy who vociferated angry words at me.

I have heard many wonderful things about such cosmopolitan cities as Paris, London, Tokyo, and Hong Kong and I would love to visit these cities to check them out.

Accuracy and neatness are important when writing letters to college admissions offices or whatever.


The tone doesn’t match the rest of the essay—it is probably either too formal or too informal.


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unclear pronoun referent

If people do not speak the same language, it has a greater chance of miscommunication.

Gary saw his brother yesterday even though he had to work most of the day.

I intend to complete my studies in the United States because they have good programs there.

Having a good friend is important in your childhood. It can help you in many different situations.


The referent (the noun that the pronoun replaces) for this pronoun is unclear.


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the writing is vague

If you want to live in America, you will need to have a lot of experience.

We should use our resources on Earth because the Earth is getting worse.


This sentence or idea is too general and does not give us much information.


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verb tense

Yesterday I will go to the store because tomorrow I needed some food.

The verb tense is incorrect—check present, past, future, perfect tenses, etc.



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word choice

If you really care about the child, you would teach the kid how to read.

I was late getting home because I lost my way.

This is not the right word to use in this case—either there is a better word to use or the word you have used does not match the overall tone of the rest of the writing.



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word form

People have a lot of freedom in American.

I want to creation a great web site so that I can becoming wealth.

This is not the correct form of the word—check the noun, adjective, adverb, verb forms of this word.

This particular mistake, American instead of America is very common.



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wrong word

Most basketball players are very high and make lots of dollars.

Even I don’t speak Spanish, I was able to find a bathroom in the department store.

I gained a lot of pounds during vacation.


This is either the wrong word or not the best word to use in this situation.


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