Both the SAT and ACT exams test students’ knowledge of where commas should be placed in a list. Unless a list is only two items long, commas should separate items, including the one before “and.”
A list can contain many types of phrases, or a combination of phrases, but items in the list should always maintain the same structure:
|How often has it appeared on |
|Type of |
|SAT: 7 times|
ACT: 1 time
|Noun phrases||The storm brought with it cold winds, large hail, and great floods.|
|SAT: 2 times||Participle phrases||He has had many jobs including busing tables, bagging groceries, and washing cars.|
|SAT: 1 time||Prepositional phrases||I have looked for my phone everywhere: in my car, on the counter, and under my bed.|
|SAT: 1 time||Nouns plus prepositional phrases||The poem contained lines with alliteration, instances of metaphors, and allusions to the Bible.|
|SAT: 1 time||Infinitive phrases||Teens seek to become self-sufficient, decrease their parents’ authority, and control their own destinies.|
|ACT: 1 time||Independent clauses||My cousin left for college, my uncle went on a business trip, and my aunt stayed home.|
|ACT: 1 time||Adjectives||His small, red ball is lost = His small and red ball is lost.|
The only time a comma will separate two listed items is when it takes the place of the word “and” between two adjectives as in the example in the chart above.
If you feel like you need more practice with comma placement or other types of punctuation, use the released tests provided by the College Board and ACT or practice online with exam-like questions at websites like UWorld.