TOEFL Punctuation Tips

Understanding these TOEFL punctuation tips will help you to improve your sentence structure during the writing sections. This lesson, therefore, will focus on the semi-colon and the comma. Not all uses of these important punctuation marks will be explained.

TOEFL punctuation tips

TOEFL punctuation tips: the semi-colon

One mark when forming the semi-colon is the period (.). Therefore, this punctuation mark is used to join two independent clauses together without a coordinating conjunction. The other mark used to form a semicolon is the comma (,). Hence, you can think of the semi-colon’s purpose as joining two independent clauses that have a close relationship.

  • Most bacteria have multiplying capabilities that can quickly spread infectious diseases; therefore, workers in cafeterias should sanitize the dining tables after every use.
  • Susan spent several hours researching for her last multi-draft project in her English 104 class; she wanted to begin writing the project by the weekend. 

Semi-colons can also be used when expressing items in a series and when one of the items already has commas within it.

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TOEFL punctuation tips: the comma

The following tips will help you understand how to use commas during the independent and integrated sections of the TOEFL iBT.

  • To separate two independent clauses joined by one of the FANBOYS (i.e., for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so). This rule is especially followed if the first independent clause is longer than 7-8 words.

The reading passage explains three important facts about earthquakes, and the speaker in the lecture questions the validity of the author’s assertions.

  • To separate an introductory clause or phrase from the main part of the sentence.

Next time when I attend a concert, I will make sure that I bring some ear plugs.

  • To set off non-restrictive elements from the rest of the sentence. Non-restrictive elements provide additional but not necessary information to the rest of the sentence.

Non-restrictive element: Cade Riley, who is a fifth grade student, got straight A’s on his last report card.

Restrictive element: The student who is in the fifth grade got straight A’s on his last report card.

TOEFL punctuation quiz: The semi-colon or the comma

Choose which answer punctuates each sentence correctly. Pay particular attention to the use of the semi-colon and the comma.

1.

A. Because John hadn’t studied very much before his test, he scored poorly and thus failed the class.

B. Because John hadn’t studied very much before his test; he scored poorly and thus failed the class.

2. Which sentence uses correct punctuation?

A. A storm is coming to Southern California, and the meteorologists  are predicting several inches of rain in the next three days.

B. A storm is coming to Southern California; and the meteorologists  are predicting several inches of rain in the next three days.

3.

A. The ESL students decided to attend a campus lecture, therefore, they will not be attending their grammar class at the Center for Global Innovation.

B. The ESL students decided to attend a campus lecture; therefore, they will not be attending their grammar class at the Center for Global Innovation.

4.

A. Researchers believe that if we use at least 20% of our brain; we could have superhuman-like powers.

B. Researchers believe that, if we use at least 20% of our brain, we could have superhuman-like powers.

5.

A. Three important researchers have impacted educational technology:  E.M. Thompson, my own first professor at Cambridge; G.E. Rodriguez; and KJ Little.

B. Three important researchers have impacted educational technology:  E.M. Thompson, my own first professor at Cambridge, G.E. Rodriguez, and KJ Little.

6.

A. Tesla Inc. has been going through some publicity challenges, especially with its mid-priced, mass-produced electric car however, the company is still making healthy profits.

B. Tesla Inc. has been going through some publicity challenges, especially with its mid-priced, mass-produced electric car; however, the company is still making healthy profits.

7.

A. New York City Council decided to ban the vaping of all flavored e-cigarettes; vaping, according to a medical doctor who appeared on Fox News, damages the lungs and impairs judgment in the brain.

B. New York City Council decided to ban the vaping of all flavored e-cigarettes. Vaping, according to a medical doctor who appeared on Fox News; damages the lungs and impairs judgment in the brain.

8.

A. A fire continues to burn at a Texas chemical plant, authorities warn that more explosions could take place throughout the day, so officials are evacuating residents living close to the facility.

B. A fire continues to burn at a Texas chemical plant; authorities warn that more explosions could take place throughout the day, so officials are evacuating residents living close to the facility.

9.

A. Due to the snowy and icy conditions on I-15 North in the Cajon Pass; California Highway Patrol are escorting motorists.

B. Due to the snowy and icy conditions on I-15 North in the Cajon Pass, California Highway Patrol are escorting motorists.

10.

A. The United States recently signed a bill backing  Hong Kong protesters; therefore, China condemned the US support and warned that it would launch counter-measures in retaliation.

B. The United States recently signed a bill backing  Hong Kong protesters, therefore, China condemned the US support and warned that it would launch counter-measures in retaliation.

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