How important is the proper use of commas in OET writing tasks?

Proper use of commas in OET writing tasks is crucial as it enhances sentence clarity and ease of comprehension. Incorrect use of commas may lead to confusion and lower scores. Test takers must familiarize themselves with the punctuation rules and practice their application to excel in the OET writing test.

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Tip-1 The right way to use commas when separating items in a list

When listing three or more items, use commas to separate each item. 

Examples

  • I have advised Ms Manuel to reduce her sodium intake, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and attend regular check-ups to monitor her hypertension.
  • Mrs Jones was advised to follow an exercise plan, avoid smoking, and get regular tests to monitor her heart health. 
  • Mr Smith was instructed to eat nutritious meals, minimize stress, and schedule regular exams to monitor his blood pressure. 
  • Mrs Brown was educated to maintain an appropriate weight, control her cholesterol levels, and visit the doctor annually to monitor her overall health.
  • Ms Davis was encouraged to consume the right food, incorporate more physical activity into her life, and visit her healthcare provider regularly for diabetes management.

Before the last item, you should include a comma known as the Oxford comma.

  • The surgeon operated on Mr Manuel’s leg, abdomen, and kidney.
  • He was prescribed ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and, as needed, codeine.
  • She had a fever, sore throat, and runny nose.
  • He was experiencing chest pain, dizziness, and nausea.
  • She was diagnosed with endocarditis, anaemia, and hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy.

Tip: 2 Why Using a Comma After an Introductory Element Can Change the Meaning of a Sentence?

After an introductory word, phrase, or clause, use commas to separate it from the remaining sentence.

Introductory words, phrases or clauses

Examples:

Today
During home visit
On examination
On observation 
At his last consultation
During his last consultation
Over the following days
On the subsequent day
Over the past two weeks
 However 
In addition

Example sentences:

  • During his last check-up, Mr Smith noted increased agility following knee replacement surgery.
  • During his most recent appointment, Mr Smith stated that he could move more freely after his knee replacement surgery.
  • On examination, his skin was inflamed.
  • Today, he appeared distressed.
  • After several days of medication, the patient has regained normal body functioning. 
  • Following the doctor’s recommendation, the patient has seen marked improvement in their symptoms.
  • Over the two months, his weight has reduced by 5 kg.
  • After reviewing the patient’s medical history, the doctor determined that the condition had improved.
  • After several days of rest and treatment, the patient exhibited enhanced symptoms. 
  • After taking the medication for a week, the patient began to experience improved well-being.

Tip – 3 How to separate non-essential information using a comma in an OET letter?

The information is less important to the context. Rather than making it another sentence, we add the word and phrases to the existing sentence with the help of commas.

 Or we can call it “Appositives”. Appositives are usually placed in apposition with the noun they refer to or explain. Appositives can be used to add information to a sentence or identify the noun that appears in the sentence.

Examples:

  • The patient, a seven-year-old boy, complained of headaches. 
  • David, the paediatrician, prescribed the appropriate medication. 
  • The woman, suffering from a severe cold, was prescribed antibiotics. 
  • The elderly patient, who has diabetes, was given insulin.
  • The patient, an elderly woman with a rare autoimmune disease, needed her medication adjusted.
  • The test results, showing elevated white blood cells, indicated an infection.
  • The procedure, an MRI scan, revealed extensive damage to the knee joint.
  • The patient, a 60-year-old woman, was diagnosed with a heart condition.
  • The doctor prescribed a medication, an ACE inhibitor, to help reduce the symptoms. 
  • The cancer treatment, chemotherapy, was not successful.

Tip – 4 – If you write independent clauses, use commas to separate the sentence

An independent clause is a group of words that expresses a complete thought. It has a primary clause structure and can stand alone as a sentence. An independent clause can also be combined with other independent clauses with conjunctions to form a more complex sentence.

 A quick tip: Remember to use commas when using coordinating conjunction

Coordinating conjunctions are words that join two or more words, phrases, or clauses in a sentence. The most common coordinating conjunctions are: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. They are sometimes referred to as FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).

Examples: 

  • The patient had serious symptoms, but fortunately, his condition has improved.
  • Mammograms can detect breast cancer early, but they can also lead to false positives. 
  • Regular breaks from the screen can help ease fatigue, yet engaging in physical activity is also beneficial.
  • She is an experienced doctor, yet she still learns new things daily.
  • She attends regular check-ups with her primary care doctor, and she has a dietician for nutritional advice.
  • John was advised to seek the help of a physiotherapist, and he will start his appointments next week. 
  • Mr Manuel was suggested to visit a physiotherapist, and he will commence his treatments next week.
  • The x-ray showed that his lung had healed, yet the doctor recommended that he take antibiotics regularly.
  • The nurse checked his temperature and found that he was running a fever, yet the doctor could diagnose him quickly.
  • I can either go to the hospital or I can stay home

Tip: 5 Do we need to use commas in a dependent clause ?

A dependent clause that begins a sentence should be followed by a comma to separate it from the main clause.

Subordinating conjunction examples:

  • Although
  • Even though 
  • Whenever 
  • Because 
  • Since 
  • Where 
  • Despite 
  • If 
  • After 
  • Before

We will mention the main point in the second sentence after the comma in the dependent clause.

Examples:

  • Although viral infections may spread quickly, medical treatment is often necessary.
  • If symptoms worsen, it is important to tell your doctor. 
  • While some doctors prefer traditional treatments, others embrace cutting-edge methods. 
  • Until a diagnosis is reached, it is impossible to treat the patient correctly. 
  • Despite a high-cost treatment, the patient must follow up with their doctor. 
  • As long as the patient stays compliant, they may see improvements in their health. 
  • Unless an alternative treatment is pursued, the disease may progress further.
  • After a diagnosis is made, the patient can develop a treatment plan.
  • Even if treatments are available, many diseases can still be incurable.
  • Before the patient is discharged, the doctor needs to review the results.
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