AQE Test English punctuation: learning the basics

Punctuation questions in the AQE test are a yearly part of the Basic Skills passage – the second section of English in every paper. This section tests your knowledge of grammar, homophones, spelling and punctuation.

You use many types of punctuation in English, but the AQE test really focuses on only a few aspects – questions marks, commas and apostrophes. Of all of these, most people find apostrophes trickiest to learn and remember.

Right now, we ‘re going to learn about question marks and commas. Yes, it’s good for you to know how to use capital letters, speech marks and so on, but you must know about question marks and commas for AQE.


Question marks in AQE Test English punctuation

  • Use instead of a full stop at the end of a direct question.

Top tip Рwhen you ask or read a question , your voice will usually go up at the end of the sentence.

AQE questions about question marks are mostly worded like this –

A question mark is needed instead of a full stop in one line of the passage. Tick the number of the line where the question mark is needed.

You will be given a choice of four lines, and have to tick the box containing the line where there should be a question mark.


Recently this topic has been tested with a different question –

There is a question mark used incorrectly in one of the lines of the passage. Tick the number of the line where the error was made.

You will be given a choice of four lines, and have to tick the box containing the line where the mistake is. This time you’re looking for a question mark in the passage where there shouldn’t be one.

Pretty straightforward, isn’t it? Either way, it comes down to a choice – question mark or not?


Commas in AQE Test English punctuation

Commas are trickier than question marks, as you use them in the middle of a sentence, not at the end. It’s sometimes not as obvious where to put them!

Stick a comma into a sentence where you need to –

  • Pause when you read it out – commas break up longer sentences
  • Pause after a word, phrase or name at the start of a sentence – No, I am not a fan of Ed Sheeran. Ruby, can you pour the tea?
  • Separate words at the end of a sentence – Could you tidy up, please?
  • Separate words in a list
  • Use more than one adjective before a noun (not as complicated as it sounds) – She was a focused, ambitious worker. The teacher is a strict, determined leader.
  • Use speech marks, but only sometimes – “Tom,” he said, “are you still awake?” (You might use a comma, full stop, question mark or exclamation mark.)


FYI – other AQE Test English punctuation: a quick recap

Use capital letters for –

  • proper nouns (Dublin, Justin Bieber)
  • acronyms (UK for United Kingdom, CIA for Central Intelligence Agency)
  • days, months (Sunday, April)
  • titles (The Lord of the Rings, Let It Go)
  • historical events (Second World War, Magna Carta)
  • the pronoun I
  • most importantly, the start of a sentence!

Use speech marks – “…”

  • Around the words that a person or character says/said out loud

Use exclamation marks !!!

  • For surprise, excitement, a warning, command or when someone SHOUTS!

Check out more English tips here.




Previous Article
Next Article