ACTSAT

All You Need to Know About Semicolons for the SAT® and ACT® Exams

semicolon

If you’re like most students, you don’t use a lot of semicolons (;) when you’re writing, which means you’re not sure when to use them.

On both the SAT and ACT exam, semicolons are rarely the correct answer and are mostly used in wrong answers to distract you.

However, when semicolons are the correct answer on either the SAT or ACT exam, they’re usually used like periods. They separate independent clauses (complete ideas with a subject and main verb). In other words, if you could use a period, you could also use a semicolon.

Examples:

  • They went to a concert last night. Today their throats are sore from screaming.
  • They went to a concert last night; today their throats are sore from screaming.

So, if you’re faced with an SAT or ACT question that has a semicolon in one of the answers, ask yourself, “Could I put a period here?” If so, you could also use a semicolon. If not, one of the other answers will be correct.

Also, much less frequently on either the SAT or ACT exam, you might be asked to use a semicolon in a complex list in order to clarify where one item ends and the next begins in a list that already contains commas.

Example:

  • He has lots of homework in Physics, which is his hardest subject; English, which is an AP class; and Calculus, which contains several challenging concepts.

Need more practice with semicolons and other punctuation marks? The best way to get better at recognizing when and where to place different types of punctuation is to practice the same types of questions you will answer on the SAT and ACT exam. Use released tests provided by the College Board or practice online with exam-like questions with UWorld College Prep.