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GED Test Prep: Reasoning Through Language Arts Writing Extended Response Questions

When you finish the first part of the Reasoning Through Language Arts (RLA) section of the GED, you start on the Extended Response—where you write an essay by analyzing arguments presented in two pieces of sample text.

You get 45 minutes to work through this part of the RLA section, and you can't tack on extra time from the previous section. So if you find that you have time left on the first part, go back and review some of the questions where you had difficulties before starting the Extended Response. After the Extended Response, you have a 10 minute break and then another hour.

For the Extended Response item, you must write a proper essay, with a clear thesis statement, a proper introduction, followed by four or six paragraphs of supporting argument, and a concluding paragraph. You'll have an erasable tablet on which to make rough notes, and if you need more, you can get additional tablets.

You won't use or have access to paper, pencils, or dictionaries. When you complete your rough draft of your essay, you write it into a window on the computer that functions like a word processor. The word processor is basic and doesn't have a grammar- or spell-checker. You're expected to know how to write properly.

The topic you're given to write on is based on given source material, usually consisting of two documents with different or opposing opinions. You're expected to analyze the source material and write an appropriate analytical response. You must show that you can read and understand the source material, do a critical analysis, and prepare a reasoned response based on materials drawn from that source text.

In your essay, you analyze both positions and then explain your viewpoint. Remember to back up your points with specific facts from the source material. When you write this essay, make sure it's a series of interconnected paragraphs on a single topic. Not only should the entire essay begin with an introduction and end with a conclusion, but also each paragraph needs an introductory sentence and a concluding sentence.

Write only on the assigned topic. To make sure you understand what the topic is about, read it several times. Essays written off topic don't receive scores. If you don't get sufficient points on the Extended Response, you likely won’t pass the other portion of the RLA section, either.

Your essay is evaluated on the following points:

  • Your argument is based specifically on the given source material.

  • You correctly use the evidence from the source material to support your argument.

  • You use valid arguments and separate the supported claims in the material from the unsupported or false claims either in the material or your head.

  • Your flow of ideas is logical and well organized.

  • You correctly and appropriately use style, structure, vocabulary, and grammar.

Consider this example of an Extended Response item:

“I will give up my muscle car when the world runs out of oil, not before....”

“We need to find alternatives to gasoline-powered vehicles. Climate change is a real threat, and burning fossil fuels contributes to that problem....”

These two opinions are the beginnings of an editorial, taking obviously different positions.

In this example, you start by determining which argument you see as stronger. Then, you make a list of information that may go into your essay to back up your argument. Trim out any information that doesn't pertain to the topic. Use unsubstantiated opinions as part of your evidence that one side or the other has a weak case.

When you start writing your essay, start with a good, strong introductory sentence that will catch a reader's attention. When you're satisfied with your introductory sentence, review your list of information. Follow that introductory sentence with a couple of sentences outlining, without explanation, your key points. Now turn each key point into a paragraph, paying attention to the flow between paragraphs to show that one relates to the previous one.

When you have all these paragraphs, it's time for a conclusion. The easiest way to write a good conclusion is to restate your evidence briefly and state that this indeed proves your point. Don't just rewrite your information, but summarize it in a memorable way. This may be difficult the first time, but with practice, it can become second nature.

If you have time, you can test how well your essay works and stays on topic. Read the introduction, the first sentence of every paragraph, and then the conclusion. They should all have the same basic points and flow together nicely. If something seems out of place, you need to go back and review.

To prepare for this part, in a few months leading up to your test date, read newspapers and news magazines. Analyze how arguments are presented and how the writers try to form and sway your opinion. Examine how well they present their data and how they use data to persuade the reader. Doing so can give you practice in critical reading and in developing your viewpoints based on others’ writings.

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