The TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Writing subtest highlights a few punctuation marks as high emphasis focus points for test takers. These punctuation marks include: commas, ellipses, dashes, semicolons, and colons.
It can be helpful to review and practice using these punctuation marks in your everyday writing. You might realize that you’ve already been using these marks correctly – and now that you know, you can use them more purposefully.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, there are three main reasons for using a colon:
- To separate two main clauses in cases where the second clause explains, or follows, from the first.
It wasn’t easy: I had to start at the beginning.
- To introduce a list.
To apply for this position, you must have: a post-secondary degree, at least one year of experience, and good recommendations.
- To introduce a quotation or direct speech.
The billboard read: ‘Try Ovaltine! America’s Favorite Chocolate Drink”
According to Jane Straus, the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, the comma is the most frequently used punctuation mark after the period. Commas differ from periods because they do not indicate a final period. Commas indicate brief pauses.
There are many different ways you can use a comma. You can use a comma to:
- Separate words or word groups in a simple series, or list, of three or more items.
- Separate two adjectives when the adjectives are interchangeable.
- Separate two independent clauses that are joined by a conjunction. Place the comma at the end of the first clause, before the conjunction.
- Set off expressions that interrupt the sentence flow.
- Set off the name, nickname, term of endearment, or title of a person directly addressed.
- Start a sentence with a dependent clause.
- Set off nonessential words, clauses or phrases.
- Separate a statement from a question.
There are many other ways in which you can use a comma. The most important rule is to always use it correctly. Here’s our favorite trick for knowing when you need a comma: read your sentence aloud. In speech writing, commas are used to indicate when the speaker should pause for breath. If your sentence is too long, and you run out of breath before you finish saying it, you know you need a comma.
The Oxford Dictionary notes that dashes are most commonly used in informal writing, such as personal emails or blogs – and you might have seen them in some of the TASC test blog posts! It’s best to use the dash sparingly when you write formally.
You can use a dash to:
- Mark off information or ideas that are not essential to an understanding of the rest of the sentence.
- Show other kinds of breaks in a sentence where a comma, semicolon, or colon would be traditionally used.
In terms of substituting for other kinds of punctuation marks, the dash can help emphasis a concluding statement similar to a colon. Some writers prefer spaces around the dash, and others do not. Keep this in mind if you decide to use a dash on your writing subtest.
Straus notes that the most common use of an ellipsis is to demonstrate that words have been omitted from a quoted passage. When writing in response to a reading or quotation, you might consider using ellipses to focus on a more concise statement. Ellipses are a great way to save space or remove material that isn’t as relevant as the rest of the sentence.
For example, you might want to refer to only part of Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, “All human situations have their inconveniences. We feel those of the present but neither see nor feel those of the future; and hence we often make troublesome changes without amendment, and frequently for the worse.” You could quote Franklin, using an ellipsis, in this way:
“All human situations have their inconveniences . . . and hence we often make troublesome changes without amendment.”
Additionally, you can use ellipses to express hesitation, changes of mood, or suspense in writing dialogue. This is most effective in creative writing, and probably won’t be used in this way on your writing subtest. Straus adds that “writers also use ellipses to indicate a pause or wavering in an otherwise straightforward sentence.” For example:
I’m not sure . . . Maybe you should ask Dave.
Semicolons mark a break in the sentence that is stronger than a comma, but not as final as a full stop. To use it correctly, you would place the semicolon between two main clauses that balance each other and are too closely link to be made into separate sentences. In this way, you can think of the semicolon as replacing a conjunction:
Sarah loves to bake muffins; she makes very good banana nut ones.
There is an additional way you can use semicolons. If you have written a complex list that contains phrases or commas, you can use semicolons where you would typically use commas. For example:
I invited a few people over, like Sam from my work; Rachel and Joe, from down the street; and Tim from your dad’s accounting firm.
It’s difficult to understand meaning – especially on paper or a computer screen. If you’re preparing for your TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Reading subtest, be sure you have the three primary types of meaning down; they’re a high emphasis component of the subtest. These three types are:
- Figurative Meaning
- Technical Meaning
- Connotative Meaning
According to Curriculum Associates, figurative meaning is when an author uses words in a way that’s different from their literal, or usual, meaning.
The McGraw-Hill School Education Group adds that there are many different types of figurative language. Some examples include similes and metaphors:
- A simile is when a writer uses the words like or as to compare two unlike things.
“In the eastern sky there was a yellow patch like a rug laid for the feet of the coming sun.” Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage
- A metaphor is when a writer compares two unlike things but does not use like or as.
“All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.”
Technical meaning is used to talk about a specific subject area of discipline. These words, or groups of words, relate to a specific process or activity.
For example, if you were working in a retail store and a new shipment came in, you might be asked to go through the shipment and create an itemized list of all the products in the shipment. You might also be asked to compare final counts. To do this, you must understand the technical meaning of itemized list and final counts; itemize means to list separately, and final counts refer to the number of products the supplier counted as shipped in comparison to the number of products received in the shipment.
Writers might also use words that have positive or negative connotations – and this is what we mean by connotative meaning. Connotative words are often used expressively. They help demonstrate how a writer feels about the topic. As Curriculum Associates notes, you can often figure out the author’s connotation by thinking about the word’s context, “or the text that comes before and after it.”
Remember to think about the ideas or feelings typically associated with the word. For example, stereotypical often has a negative connotation while delightful has a positive connotation.
Now that you know how the Earth fits into the universe, you can start to turn your attention to the Earth itself. As you consider the Earth’s systems, remember to study the way human beings interact with the Earth, and how that interaction impacts our world.
The connection between the Earth and human activity is a high emphasis topic on the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™.
You might already know that the TASC Science subtest is based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). According to the NGSS, there are three primary components to this high-emphasis topic:
- Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.
- Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the Earth.
- Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.
What exactly does that mean in terms of TASC Test Science? And when it comes to studying the Earth and human activity, where should you start?
We suggest starting with the breakdown of each point, and then explore the sources we’ve used for even more information.
1. Natural Hazards
NGSS emphasizes the difference between natural hazards such as volcanic eruptions and severe weather, which are preceded by other natural events that indicate what will happen, and natural hazards that occur without notice, such as earthquakes.
On the TASC Test Science subtest, you will see a range of data to respond to. It may include information about the locations, magnitudes, or frequencies of the natural hazards. Additionally, natural hazards discussed on the subtest could include:
- Forest fires
- Mass wasting
- Severe weather
- Volcanic eruptions
There are many governmental sites that provide information on these hazards, the predictors that may or may not be associated with them, and the geographical locations in which they are most common. We recommend starting with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Ready.gov, and the U.S. Geological Survey.
2. Monitoring and Minimizing Human Impact
Test takers will be asked to think about and explore solutions to the problem: How can we monitor and minimize human impact on the environment?
The TASC Science subtest might explore the following types of human impact:
- Water usage: can include the human habit of taking water from streams or aquifers or constructing dams or levees.
- Land usage: might include urban development, agriculture, or removal of wetlands
- Pollution: can include air, weather, or land damage caused by pollution
There are many organizations, such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), discuss these environmental issues and potential solutions to the question above. Remember, however, that these sites often have specific goals and strategies for achieving those goals that might demonstrate some bias be irrelevant to your studies.
3. Earth’s Natural Resources
This area of TASC Test Science focuses on the rate of consumption, by human beings, of both food sources and natural resources. The natural resources the test might focus on can include freshwater sources, mineral depositions, and energy sources.
NGSS emphasizes the impact on Earth’s natural resources, such as:
- Changes to the appearance, make-up, or structure of Earth’s systems
- Rates at which these changes occur
- Human reaction to these changes or shortages
As our population continues to grow, we need more food sources and more natural resources to support us. The increase in demand impacts the Earth. This has been a source of debate and concern for quite some time. In fact, President Clinton created the President’s Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD) in June 1993 to research and report on this issue.
NGSS is careful to note: “The consequences of increases in human populations and consumption of natural resources are described by science, but science does not make the decisions for the actions society takes.”
Many of the components you’ve been studying for the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Mathematics subtest are related. For example, the terms you learned when you reviewed equations will help you understand linear inequalities as well.
Math builds on itself. The more you know, the more you’ll understand. Though you should keep practicing the skills that you’ve studied, such as equations, you can start to apply your knowledge to solving and graphing linear inequalities.
First thing’s first: what is a linear inequality?
An inequality simply means that the equation is not equal. You know that one side of the equation is larger than the other. Inequalities are often indicated with greater than (>) or less than (<) signs. For example:
6 > 2
3 < 50
You may also see a line underneath the greater than sign (≥) or the less than sign (≤), which means that the sides of the equation are either greater than or equal to, or less than or equal to, respectively.
You might be asked to solve, or simplify, an inequality. You would treat it like an equation. For example:
x + 4 > 24
x + 4 (- 4) > 24 (- 4)
x > 20
You might be asked to illustrate or identify a linear inequality on a line. To do this for the previous example, you would create your line:
Map the inequality onto the line by circling the dash that indicates the starting point (in this case, 20), and drawing a line towards the right (if it’s greater than) or the left (if it’s less than). When your inequality is greater than or less than, the circle is hollow. When it’s greater than or equal to, or less than or equal to, the circle is solid (filled in):
How to Graph Solutions
To graph the solutions to linear inequalities, the first step is to simplify the equation. For example:
2x + 4 > y + 8
2x + 4 (- 4) > y + 8 (- 4)
2x > y + 4
When graphing, you want the y variable on the left and everything else on the right. So, you have to rearrange the equation:
2x > y + 4
y + 4 < 2x
y + 4 (- 4) < 2x (- 4)
y < 2x – 4
Once your equation is set up correctly, follow these steps:
- Draw your line, starting at the y axis where your constant is (using the operator, the addition sign or subtraction sign, to decide whether the line should start in the positive or negative, respectively) and running through the coefficient.
- Plot the y=. If your inequality is > or <, you’ll use a dashed line. If it’s ≥ or ≤, you’ll use a solid line.
- Shade the graph, above the line for greater than (and greater than or equal to) and below the line for less than (and less than or equal to).
Our previous example, then, would be graphed this way:
One of the high emphasis areas of the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Writing subtest asks that test takers recognize verbs in the indicative, imperative, interrogative, conditional, and subjunctive mood. Test takers must also be able to correctly form verbs in these different moods.
At McGraw-Hill Education CTB, we know that an in-depth knowledge of the English language and grammar can greatly impact a test taker’s success on not only the Writing subtest but also the reading subtest as well. We also know that grammar can be confusing. Luckily, many people use complex grammar every day without being aware of it. You probably use interrogative verbs regularly without realizing it. Review these grammar terms, and find out how much you know.
This mood expresses a fact or opinion. In some cases, it can even express a question. The indicative mood indicates something. According to the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), most of the verbs we use are in the indicative mood.
For example, all of these verbs are indicative:
You were there.
Sam is thirsty.
I will bring your lunch.
The imperative mood expresses a command or request. Though it is typically not stated in the sentence, the understood subject of the imperative is you.
(You) Be there by one o’clock.
(You) Feed the cat.
(You) Bring sandwiches to the picnic.
In all of these examples, the sentence is addressed to the understood you. The speaker is telling you to be there at a certain time or to bring something to the picnic.
According to Carson-Newman University composition professor Dr. K. Wheeler, the interrogative mood indicates a state of questioning. Though this can be confused with the indicative, remember that the question form is only indicative if it expresses a fact. It is interrogative if there is no prior knowledge. For example:
Indicative: Your favorite color is blue?
Interrogative: What is your favorite color?
The interrogative mood is interrogating. Dr. Wheeler adds that “one marker of the interrogative is that frequently the speaker inverts the subject-verb order by placing the helping verb first, before the subject.” For example:
Will you make my favorite meal?
(Instead of: You will make my favorite meal.)
This mood indicates a conditional state that may cause something else to happen. In this case, conditional means that certain circumstances are required for the sentence, or more often the verb, to be true or put into action. Dr. Wheeler notes that this mood is often marked by words such as might, could, and would. For example:
I would drink coffee, if you make it.
You will hit that car if you do not slow down.
He might get hurt if he climbs alone.
Often, the conditional mood is linked with the subjunctive. The primary difference is that the subjunctive is often preceded by a subordinate conjunction, such as if. The example we used above could be changed from conditional to subjunctive in this way:
If you make coffee, I would drink it.
According to OWL, this mood shows that something is contrary to fact. This can be a literal contradiction, or the speaker’s wish that something is not actually true. In terms of the latter, when you express a wish or something that is not actually true, you should use the past tense or past perfect tense.
Additionally, whenever you use the verb to be in the subjunctive, you should always use were rather than was.
If Sarah were here, she would want cake.
I wish I had someone to study with.
You would be warmer if you had brought a jacket.
All of these examples imply that the opposite is true. Sarah is not there, I do not have someone to study with, and you are not warm.
Before you find the right test center location to take your TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™, you need to know some additional information about each state’s implementation of the TASC test.
At McGraw-Hill Education CTB, we want you to have all the information you need to make the right decision about earning your high school equivalency. We encourage you to read the following section for your state. Find out important information about how the TASC test is given and why your state chose to offer the TASC test.
Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development (DWD) announced that “an expert panel of representatives from the Indiana Department of Correction (DOC), the Indiana Department of Education (DOE), and DWD were involved in evaluating all proposals offered” for the replacement of the expired General Education Development® (GED) test. Additionally, the DWD notes that Ivy Tech and the Indiana Association of Adult and Continuing Education provided expert analysis regarding the available high school equivalency options. Together, these representatives and experts selected McGraw-Hill Education CTB’s TASC test.
The DWD made an official announcement about the selection of the TASC test on August 23, 2013. Since January 2014, the TASC test has been in effect. In conjunction with the TASC test, Indiana also offers students who earn their high school equivalency the opportunity to gain work-related experience through their WorkINdiana program.
The state of Nevada offers three different options to their students for high school equivalency assessments. If you’ve compared your options on the TASC test blog, you’re probably already familiar with your options: the TASC test, the HiSET® test, and the GED test. Nevada notes that employers and colleges in the state are not as familiar with the new testing options as they are with the GED test. However, the State offers students a way to talk about the TASC test. If you choose the TASC test, you still earn the Nevada Certificate of High School Equivalency.
The Adult Education Office at the Nevada Department of Education offers information for students, including student success stories, newsletters, and statistics. Additionally, Nevada offers two programs for those interested in earning their high school equivalencies: a program for non-incarcerated adults, and a Corrections program. Both programs are operated through local school districts and funded by the State Legislature.
Similar to Nevada, New Jersey offers all three test options to students seeking their high school equivalencies. However, unlike other states, the New Jersey Adult Education department of the Department of Education has announced that “there is no longer a total score requirement needed to pass. If a student passes all individual sections of the test, they will receive the state-issued Diploma. Passing Scores from any test can be combined to award the State Diploma.”
Therefore, if you started taking the GED before the TASC test was introduced in New Jersey, and you want to complete your remaining subtests with TASC, you can. To apply for this option or to start the TASC test, begin by browsing the Test Resources. These resources include links to the TASC practice test and preparation classes, the necessary forms, and any additional requests for qualifications.
According to the New York State High School Equivalency (HSE) Office, New York State has selected the TASC test to replace the GED test. This means that the TASC test is now the primary pathway to a New York State High School Equivalency Diploma, as of January 2, 2014. New York made this decision because the TASC test is a secure, reliable, and valid instrument that verifies examinees have the knowledge in core content areas, and that this knowledge is equivalent to that of graduating high school seniors.
Test takers in New York State will need to select and work with an official test center in their community to complete the application. It is important for test takers to know that the TASC test is only administered at testing centers that have been approved by the New York State Education Department. It is administered jointly by McGraw-Hill Education CTB and the State Education Department.
New York State has provided resources about how the TASC test will be implemented. Many of the students interviewed on the TASC test blog, such as Chantal Reddon and Mike Puccio, are citizens of New York State.
The West Virginia Department of Education offers a site-full of information and training documents regarding the TASC test. Here, you can find a PDF answering the Frequently Asked Questions, created by West Virginia educators, for West Virginia students. There are additional resources for students who are specifically concerned with literacy, family literacy, and even distance learning.
Familiarizing yourself with this site can be beneficial, as the West Virginia Department of Education provides the state TASC policy.
More states are in the process of approving the TASC test. States such as Wyoming have recently announced TASC test approval. If you are interested in taking the TASC test and your state hasn’t announced approval yet, you may consider contacting your state department to see if the test is in the process of approval.
At least two different high emphasis skills on the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Reading subtest focus on analysis:
- Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.
- Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.
But what is analysis? And how do you analyze?
In reading, analysis is sometimes called critical reading. According to the librarians at Harvard Library, critical reading or analysis is an “active engagement and interaction with texts.” It is also considered essential to academic success at most universities.
If you are taking the TASC test because you are interested in enrolling post-secondary courses, then this is definitely a skill you want to start practicing today.
Instructors at the University of Texas, El Paso, recommends focusing on these three specific aspects of a passage when you analyze:
- The Text as a Material Object
Whether the text is a paragraph long or a couple pages long, it is presenting an argument. The author might present it in a formal tone or in a creative tone. The text has a specific context because it is written at a specific moment in time from a specific perspective that represents the author’s or narrator’s mindset and beliefs. Consider these characteristics in an attempt to discover what the text is arguing for, or what it is trying to tell you.According to teachers at the Annenberg Learner Journey North project, the organization is important and should be considered thoroughly. Start by looking for titles, subtitles, headings, and keywords. This is called previewing. After you’ve scanned the passage, consider how you think the author organized the information:
- How did the author organize it? Chronologically? Cause and effect relationship? Compare and contrast? Something else?
- Why was the text organized this way? Was it easy to find the main ideas and supporting details?
- Was the organization more persuasive? Did it make the argument stronger? If not, what could have made the text stronger?
- The Text as a Work of Art
The instructors at UTEP suggest looking at the following aspects of the text to get a better sense of the passage as art. You might not have time to look at all of these aspects as you read, but you should consider at least two or three of them as you read and answer corresponding questions:
- Clarity: How clear is the writing? Is it easy to understand?
- Grandeur: What is the language like? Is it strong, educated, or mature? Why?
- Beauty: Is the passage pleasurable to read? What kind of imagery is used?
- Speed: Does the passage flow well? Or, does it seem to drag as you read?
- Character: Are there characters or narrators? Are they believable?
- Truth: Are the facts used to support the argument true? How are they used?
- Gravity: Why does this text matter? Why should the reader care?
- The Text from the Reader’s View
It is typical for you to explore your personal viewpoint as an individual reader when you are writing in response to a passage. However, there will probably not be any multiple-choice questions on your personal opinions regarding the text.It is still important to think about how you feel as a reader after engaging with the text. Think about how much you liked, enjoyed, or agreed with the text. Consider whether or not the argument clashed with your own viewpoints. If it did clash, in what ways did it clash with your viewpoints? Did the entire argument clash with your views, or just smaller aspects of the argument? Finally, think about what you learned from your reading.
Some Final Pointers
If you are using a paper-based test, feel free to write on the passage. Take notes in the margins, underline sentences that stick out to you, and circle words that are interesting to you. These notes can help you answer the questions. If you have to skip a question, and come back later, you can refer back to your notes instead re-reading the passage.
If you are using a computer-based test, you might be able to use a piece of paper to jot down some notes. It depends on the testing center, so make sure you ask the administrator when you schedule the test. Paper is often provided at the center, and you simply need to bring a pencil.
Sergio Garcia, age 19 from New York, recently passed the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™. Sergio’s motivation came from seeing his friends around him begin their careers. He too has big ambitions of earning a bachelor’s degree and becoming a detective. He decided to take the TASC test after seeing changes to high school equivalency exams due to College and Career Readiness standards.
If he could offer one piece of advice to future test takers it’s to “think and focus.” Today, Sergio is sharing his TASC test story with us, along with some invaluable advice.
1. Prior to taking the TASC test, what was the highest-grade level you completed (and when was that)?
The highest grade I completed was tenth grade about three years ago.
2. What kept you from earning your diploma in high school?
Surrounding myself with the wrong people, my low self-esteem, and ditching class were all obstacles in my way.
3. What made you decide to persevere in earning your diploma? What was your motivation and inspiration?
Realizing that I want a bright future for myself. My motivation and inspiration was seeing others around me graduate high school and college and begin their careers.
4. Why did you choose TASC test?
The TASC test is offered here in my home state of New York. I wanted to take the new 2014 high school equivalency exam since the test changed in the beginning of 2014 due to the Common Core.
5. Did you take the paper-and-pencil or online version of the TASC test?
I took the paper-and-pencil test at my local testing center, which is only a few minutes away from my house. I chose to take the test on paper and not on computer due to my comfort level.
6. How did you prepare for the TASC test? How did the study materials help?
To prepare for the test I took night classes at my local testing center for a month and studied about 2 hours each day on my own time using “Kaplan New TASC® Strategies, Practice, and Review 2014.”
7. Did you face any challenges during the process? How did you overcome them?
Every time I failed a practice test on my own time it brought me down, but I persevered. I continued taking practice tests until I was satisfied with my results.
8. What plans do you have for your future? What are your goals, dreams, and ambitions?
I plan to earn a Bachelors of Arts degree in Criminal Justice, become a police officer, and over time become a detective
9. What is your number one piece of advice or tip for all TASC test takers?
My number one piece of advice is to study constantly and take practice tests. You may think you don’t know what some questions are asking, but you do. Reread the questions. Dissect the questions. Think and Focus.