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What Do They Ask on the GED Test?

by Alice Drinkworth, studioD

The General Education Development program lets people who have not graduated high school earn a high school equivalency certificate. Testing centers are available in the United States and Canada. Students take a battery of five tests in the subjects of language arts, reading, social studies, science and math. Students can prepare better for the GED tests when they know what to expect.

Language Arts -- Writing

Language arts skills are evaluated with separate tests for writing and reading. Expect to take 75 minutes on 50 multiple-choice questions and 45 minutes to write an essay on the writing test. Questions include a sample document to read, such as a letter, followed by multiple-choice questions about sentence structure, word usage, the mechanics of writing and organization. Students then have 45 minutes to write an essay on a subject familiar to them. The essay is scored for mechanics such as spelling, punctuation, grammar and word choice. Organization, focus on main points and strong development of ideas are also considered when scoring the essay. A total of four points is possible on the essay portion. A score lower than two requires the student retake of the language arts test. The essay and multiple-choice sections are combined for one composite score for writing.

Language Arts -- Reading

Reading and comprehension skills are evaluated in a separate language arts test. Expect to take 65 minutes to complete 40 multiple-choice questions that evaluate student’s ability to read and understand passages. Three-fourths of the reading samples are fiction, including poetry, drama and prose fiction from before 1920, between 1920 and 1960, and after 1960. One-quarter of the test is nonfiction reading, including reviews and business communication.

Social Studies

The social studies test evaluates student knowledge on history, government, geography and economics. Expect to spend 70 minutes to answer 50 multiple choice questions. U.S. and world history questions comprise 40 percent of the test. Twenty-five percent of the questions are on civics and government, 20 percent on economics and 15 percent on geography. Questions are similar to those in the reading section. Students read a passage about social, civic or historical issues, such as immigration, and answer related multiple-choice questions.


Knowledge of life science, physics, chemistry, earth and space science is evaluated in the 80-minute-long GED science test. Students are given science-related readings, graphs, charts or diagrams to study and interpret to answer 50 multiple-choice questions. Life science comprises 45 percent of the test, physics and chemistry are 35 percent and earth and space science questions are 20 percent. A sample question may be deciding the best way to extract salt after it is dissolved in water.


Mathematics is often considered the most difficult of the GED tests. It is divided into two sections; each lasts 45 minutes. The majority of the 50 questions are multiple-choice. Ten questions require students to fill in a blank or label on a graph. Students can use an approved calculator for the first half of the test. The second half is completed without. Questions are on numbers, measurements, geometry, data analysis, statistics, probability and algebra. Students will have to solve story problems that involve math, such as calculating interest and balancing a checkbook.

About the Author

Alice Drinkworth has been a writer and journalist since 1995. She has written for community newspapers, college magazines and Salon.com. Drinkworth earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Wisconsin and won a media award for her in-depth coverage of local politics. She is also a certified master gardener.

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