Most of the GED Reasoning Through Language Arts (RLA) exam is multiple-choice, but there is also one “Extended Response” question. This question requires you to write a short essay in response to two passages of text. The passages will present two different viewpoints on a topic. You must read both of the passages and then decide which argument is best supported. Your essay should include evidence from the passages that shows that one of the authors better argues the issue.
Please note that you are not to write about which opinion is correct or which opinion you believe to be true. You are only asked to analyze each passage and support an argument of which passage best supports its claims. You will have 45 minutes total to read the prompt and the viewpoints given, and to draft your essay.
Essay Quick Tips
- Use paragraphs beginning with topic sentences to separate major ideas and to better organize your argument.
- Utilize logical transition words to seamlessly move from one paragraph to the next.
- Use correct spelling and proper grammar.
- Vary your sentence structure and incorporate appropriate, advanced vocabulary words.
- Stay on topic! Produce an outline prior to beginning your essay to organize your thoughts.
Your GED essay will be evaluated across three areas:
- Analysis of Arguments and Use of Evidence.
- Development of Ideas and Organizational Structure.
- Clarity and Command of Standard English Conventions.
The task may seem intimidating, but you more than likely already have these skills! Your essay will receive three scores — one for each of the listed areas.
Since you have 45 minutes, you must make sure to effectively utilize your time; this is best accomplished by practicing essays under the same 45 minute time limit.
Rely upon these timing guidelines as you write your GED essay:
- PLAN — Spend 10 minutes reading the source material and organizing your essay response.
- PRODUCE — Spend 30 minutes writing your (ideally) 5-paragraph essay.
- PROOFREAD — Save 5 minutes for re-reading what you wrote and making necessary changes and improvements.
Remember, since you are typing your essay on the computer screen, proofreading and editing can be done much more quickly than if you were reading over a handwritten essay! Five minutes may not seem like much, but you should be able to read the entire essay over at least once and correct any obvious spelling or grammatical mistakes.
Pro-tip: Don’t start writing until you have every paragraph planned out! Outlining your argument is the best method for producing a coherent and cogent response.
Since the GED RLA extended response is graded by the ACS (Automated Scoring Engine), it is relatively easy to score well if you rely upon a good template from which to organize your essay. Here are a few quick tips regarding clarity to help you score as highly as possible on the GED RLA Extended Response:
Paragraph 1 — Introduction
Start with a 1-sentence general statement regarding the topic. Show that you understand the argument(s) by identifying the topic and its significance, and then presenting a bold and concise thesis statement; this can also be your major claim with regard to the arguments. Consider the following example thesis:
Though the first argument highlights important considerations regarding (the topic of) ________, ultimately the second argument is better supported and more convincing.
Paragraphs 2, 3, and 4 — Body Paragraphs
When you plan your essay, you should devise your thesis (choosing which side you found to be best-supported), and carefully lay out three major reasons why it is best-supported.
Use specific examples to support your point of view. Pull selections from the argument you are stating is best supported, and explain why they are good supporting examples, or why they make valid points of consideration.
Each body paragraph should only focus on one major idea, and the 1–2 selections from the passage that support that idea. Try to keep the paragraphs between 4–6 sentences so that they are succinct, direct, and clear. Avoid excessive wordiness; sometimes more is not better!
Paragraph 5 — Conclusion
In 2–3 sentences, wrap up your thoughts, reiterating the correctness of your thesis (why the argument you chose is better supported), and perhaps leave the reader with an idea of WHY they should give more consideration to the topic. You can also use the conclusion to offer a degree of concession to the other argument, perhaps admitting that there are one or two good qualities to the other argument, before reiterating that the argument you selected is ultimately better supported and more convincing.
Finally, don’t worry about choosing the “wrong” side. It doesn’t matter which side you choose, or which argument you choose to say is better-supported, just be sure that you can quote specific examples from the source texts to support your ideas!
Now, review our sample prompt and practice writing an essay!
GED Essay Prompt >>
GED Test For Dummies Cheat Sheet
From GED Test For Dummies, 4th Edition
By Achim K. Krull, Dale E. Shuttleworth, Murray Shukyn
If you don’t have a high school diploma, consider taking the GED (General Educational Development) exam. The GED is a series of four tests (covering language arts, social studies, science, and math) that evaluate your abilities at the high school level. If you pass the test, you earn a high school equivalency diploma. The key to passing the GED test is preparation: Decide if using your own calculator is beneficial; review the GED test’s format and content; know what to do to succeed on the test; be aware of what you can and can’t take with you to the test; and reduce your anxiety on test day.
Using Your Own Calculator on the GED Test
You can bring your own calculator to the GED test and use it during the Social Studies test, the Science test, and Section 2 of the Mathematical Reasoning test.
You can use your own calculator provided the following:
It is a TI-30XS on-screen calculator.
You place it in a secure locker before beginning the GED test.
You retrieve it and return to your seat within three minutes during a newly introduced break between Sections 1 and 2 of the Mathematical Reasoning test.
You aren’t allowed to use your physical calculator for Section 1 of the Mathematical Reasoning test, which consists of about six to ten questions. After you answer those questions in Section 1, you will be given a three-minute break to retrieve your calculator.
Note that bringing your own calculator is completely optional; if you’d rather, you can continue to use the on-screen embedded calculator throughout these sections.
Here are a few of considerations to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to bring your own calculator:
Is the three-minute dash to retrieve a physical calculator worth the disruption?
Is using a physical calculator a sufficient benefit over the on-screen calculator to make up for the disruption?
Do you know how to use the calculator well enough to make it worth your while?
Reviewing the GED Test and What It Covers
Before you begin to prepare for something as important as passing the GED test, you need to know what you’re getting into — namely, what the different test sections are all about. Each test section is a series of mostly multiple-choice questions, each having four possible answers. However, some items are specifically designed for the computer interface, such as fill-in-the-blank, drag-and-drop, drop-down menu, and hot-spot questions, as well as Extended Response and Short Answer items.
The Reasoning through Language Arts (RLA) and Social Studies tests both have an Extended Response, which requires you to write a good, draft-quality essay with correct spelling and grammar on an assigned topic. You have a time limit in which to write the essay. The RLA test allows you 45 minutes, while the Social Studies test allows 25 minutes. The Science test asks you a Short Answer question (basically a mini essay).
The GED test sections vary in length and have different numbers of questions. The information in the following table gives you a brief overview of each test:
|Test||Test Structure||Time Allowed (In Minutes)|
|Reasoning through Language Arts||Approx. 20 questions||35|
|Approx. 30 questions||60|
|Social Studies||Approx. 50 questions||65|
|Science||Approx. 50 questions including 2 Short Answer items (allow 10 min per)||90|
|Mathematical Reasoning||Approx. 46 questions (the first 5 you do without a calculator)||115|
Now that you know the face of the enemy, you can begin to prepare to meet its challenges.
Make sure you check the GED Testing Service for ongoing updates and further information. This test is a work in progress, and the GED Testing Service is making changes and modifications regularly based on experience and feedback from clients.
10 Tips for Doing Your Best on the GED Test
You plan to take the GED test because you want to receive your high-school diploma equivalency, right? You’re spending the time and money to take the test, so why not ensure that you do your best? Make sure you’re as prepared as possible for everything the GED test has to throw at you.
The best way to prepare yourself is to take as many practice tests, or pretests, as you can. After taking these pretests, you can check your answers with those provided. For your added benefit, most answers also come with explanations to help you understand why they’re right. If you take these pretests seriously, you’ll get an idea of how well you’ll do on the real test. And if you follow the rules on the practice tests and check all your answers (and understand why you missed the ones you did), you’ll be ready for the real GED test come test day.
In addition, keep the following tips in mind when taking the GED test:
Listen to all directions given before the test. The words of the examiner just before the test tell you everything you need to know to answer the questions properly, which is very important when you’re taking a standardized test.
Read and follow all the directions given on the test. If you don’t follow all the instructions given on the test, you may not pass it, and, as a result, you may have to take it again if you want to receive your high-school equivalency diploma.
Carefully read each question and all the answers offered. If you skip reading one or more of the answer choices for a question, you risk missing the best answer because you didn’t read it (which means you risk getting the question wrong).
Always choose the best answer based on the material presented. Everyone brings outside knowledge into the test, but you must remember that the questions aren’t testing your prior knowledge. They’re testing your ability to answer questions based on the material presented.
Answer all the questions. Practice guessing logically if you aren’t sure of an answer. You don’t lose any points for guessing wrong — you just don’t gain any.
Trust your instinct. Your first answer is usually right. Don’t spend a lot of time changing answers.
Mark the answers carefully. You get points only for clearly selected correct answers on the screen.
Because the computerized GED test has multiple question formats, that means you need to make sure you click on the correct answer bubble in multiple-choice problems, drag the appropriate answer choices (and in the right order) in drag-and-drop questions, select the correct option in drop-down menu items, spell and punctuation correctly in fill-in-the-blanks, and click on the exact point you intend in hot-spot questions.
If you want to change an answer (and you’re positive your first answer is wrong), you can do that. But do that only if you have time left over after finishing all the other work in that section of the test.
Do the easiest questions first. If you get stuck on a question, leave it. Go on to things you know well and come back later, time permitting.
You can’t transfer time between the question-and-answer sections and the essays in the Reasoning through Language Arts or Social Studies tests. Each section is marked separately. Use leftover time in these sections to review your work.
Watch the time. You have a strict time limit.
What to Take to the GED Test Center
Before you leave your house to go to the GED test center on test day, make sure you take a few important items (like your picture ID) with you — and leave behind a few other items (like a midmorning snack or backpack) that you won’t be allowed to take into the test room.
Do bring the following items with you to the test site:
Identification with your picture, date of birth, and address on it
Mints or gum as a refreshment
The test fee (if not prepaid) or proof of payment
Don‘t take the following items into the test room:
Smartphone, cellphone, or other communication devices
Portable music device
Electronic devices, games, or unsanctioned calculator
Bringing your own calculator is optional. If you take your own calculator, it has to be a TI-30XS on-screen calculator. If you’d rather, you can just use the on-screen embedded calculator.
Food or drink
Textbooks, notebooks, reference books
Purse, backpack, briefcase, or duffel bag
Jacket, coat, hat, and gloves
You’re entering the test center to take (and pass) the test, not relocate your entire inventory of helpful devices. You may miss these items, but leave them at home or in your car. You don’t want to risk having the test moderator disqualify you for any reason, and there may not be any safe storage for these items at the test center.
The one thing you can bring that may be more helpful than all those electronic gadgets is your brain. (Please don’t try leaving it at home on the kitchen counter.) Careful thinking combined with careful preparation can successfully get you through the GED test challenge.
9 Ways to Ease Anxiety about the GED Test
You may be the type of person who experiences a lot of anxiety and panic before taking a test. Instead of working yourself up as test day approaches, spend your energy and time preparing for the GED test. Do whatever you can to reduce your anxiety and increase your preparation.
Here are some ways you can lower your anxiety, starting from signing up to take the test and continuing all the way to test day:
Make your way through one or more test-prep books, such as GED Test For Dummies, 4th Edition (Wiley). These books will give you an idea of what to expect on test day.
Take as many pretests as you can to get used to answering questions in the GED test format. Doing so helps you get familiar with what you’ll see on the real GED test.
Double-check the time and place of each test. The last thing you want to worry about on your way to the test is whether the time and place are right.
Plan a route to get to the test site in plenty of time, and plan an alternate route in case any traffic problems arise. Planning your route is important and will ensure that you arrive relaxed and on time. Know the cost and availability of parking, if you drive.
Arrive at the test site early and prepared. Arriving late for the GED test will leave you standing outside the test room, which means you’ll have to prepare all over again and take the test the next time it’s offered.
Arrive well rested. Falling asleep during the GED test may provide an amusing story for everyone else in the room, but, for you, it would be a disaster. Arrive well rested and stay alert for the entire test — you’ll be glad you did when you get your results back.
Take a few deep breaths and picture yourself acing the test. Tricks like this one can help you relax and see yourself as being successful.
Remind yourself of all the preparation you’ve done. By the time test day rolls around, you’ve done everything you can do in the way of preparation. Now all you have to do is take the test!
Repeat a mantra to yourself to help reduce any anxiety. In the morning, look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I’m in charge of my panic, and I’m going to send it on vacation — now!” Whenever you feel any anxiety popping up, repeat the saying a few times. Doing so may sound silly, but it really does work.