Test Prep Freebie

The last ACT of the school year is just a few days away! Here's a test prep freebie that may give you a small boost.

ACT: Know Your Commas

The ACT loves commas.  It's no surprise: many students overuse commas in their writing, so the ACT wants to verify that the test-taker knows the rules. Note that I'm focusing on actual rules. The use of each comma should be supported by a comma rule. If you can't think of a rule for a comma, then don't use it. Your ACT comma motto should be, "When in doubt, leave it out!"

So, what are these rules, exactly? If you want an extensive but well articulated list, I recommend this handout from the Writing Center at Indiana University East. For the ACT, particularly pay attention to rules 1 through 5.

Real ACT question:

 From ACT Assessment 0556B Sample Test Booklet

From ACT Assessment 0556B Sample Test Booklet

The correct answer is (B). A comma is needed to set off the introductory phrase, "When I was a child," and another comma is needed to separate the series of adjectives ("five-hour" and "once-a-summer"). There is no rule that justifies a comma after "trek," so that one should be left out (when in doubt...).

Punctuation accounts for 10 questions (13%) on the ACT English test. Know your comma rules, and you're on your way to acing most of them. Good luck!