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How to Write an Essay for the GED Test

by Jennifer Allman, studioD

One of the most important parts of the General Educational Development test is the essay question. While this section often makes test takers nervous, it is entirely possible to receive a strong score even if you are not a strong writer. This is because you can study for this section, just as you can for the other subjects. Spend time reading, which will help with grammar and sentence structure, and practice writing past essay questions while timing yourself. This will improve both your writing ability and your confidence on test day.

Study basic grammar and sentence structure. Some of the best writers read every day, as this helps expand their vocabulary and understand basic sentence structure. Read a variety of genres, including novels and short articles. Pay special attention to punctuation, such as the use of commas and periods. Focus on the spellings and definitions of unfamiliar words and the use of verbs and adjectives and how they enhance sentences by providing the reader with a visual description of what you are discussing.

Find several past essays to help you practice writing. The GED essay section will give you a prompt with one main topic and, usually, several follow-up questions. An example might be choosing your favorite hobby and discussing how it benefits you. The questions are both general and personal, and the test graders will be most interested in how you present your essay not your content. If your favorite hobby is softball, do not worry about whether the graders like softball or find it interesting. Instead, focus on the quality of your essay.

Read the prompt carefully and plan your essay. During the exam, you will have scrap paper, so while you are practicing, write points you want to discuss on paper, ensuring that every point talks about the topic. If there are several questions within the essay prompt, include several points for each question. The essay outline you create at this point will serve as the rough draft for the body of your essay.

Write a strong, interesting introduction. The introduction serves two main purposes -- to draw the reader into the piece with a quote, anecdote, fact or some other interesting point and to tell the reader exactly what you will be discussing throughout the rest of the essay. The first couple of sentences give you a chance to be creative as you grab the test graders' attention. End the introduction by restating the essay prompt in your own words, as this is the best way to ensure you stay on topic. It also lets the test graders know that you understand the questions and intend on answering them.

Put the body of your essay together in a clear, logical order. Use the points you wrote on your scrap paper to create the body of your essay. You are essentially telling a story, and all stories have a beginning, middle and end, so ensure that your points have a logical flow. Thoroughly answer all parts of the essay prompt, as well as the points you say in your introduction that you will discuss.

End your essay with a strong conclusion. This is your last chance to leave your reader with a solid impression of your essay, so make it memorable. As with the introduction, be creative in providing an interesting quote or anecdote or give a sentence or two about an overall lesson your have learned, the impact of the topic on your life or even a lesson that the reader can use in his own life. Restate the essay questions, again showing that you read and understood the questions and discussed them throughout the essay.

Items you will need
  •  Reading materials
  •  Sample essay questions
  •  Paper
  •  Pen or pencil


  • Have a friend read and edit your practice essays. Any changes she makes will help you learn how best to structure your work and master grammar, spelling and punctuation rules.
  • Time yourself as you write your practice essay. During the exam you will only have 45 minutes to complete this section.
  • Pay attention to the number of words you use in your practice essays. The essay should be around 200 words.
  • Your introduction and conclusion should be about one paragraph each, and the body should be about two or three paragraphs.
  • There are plenty of GED-specific study guides that you can buy to further help you study and prepare for the essay section, as well as the rest of the test.
  • Write neatly so that the test graders can easily read what you have written.

About the Author

Jen has been a professional writer since 2002 in the education nonprofit industry. Her work has been featured in the New Jersey SEEDS Annual Report, as well as several Centenary College publications, including "Centenary in the News" and the "Trustee Times." In 2009, Jen earned a Master of Arts degree in leadership and public administration from Centenary College.

Photo Credits

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