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Cheat Sheet

The GED For Dummies

The GED test is actually five tests that cover language arts, social studies, science, and math and earn you a high school equivalency diploma. The key to passing the GED is preparing for it.Review the GED test’s format and content, figure out what you need to do to succeed on the test, be aware of what you can and cannot take with you to the test, and reduce your anxiety so you’re ready to do your best on test day.

Reviewing the GED Tests and What They Cover

Before you begin to prepare for something as important as passing the GED tests, you need to know what you’re getting into — namely, what the GED tests are all about. Each test is a series of multiple-choice questions, each having five possible answers. (However, some of the Mathematics Test questions have fill-in-the-blank answers, and the Language Arts, Writing Test, Part II requires you to write an essay.) The GED tests 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)
Language Arts, Writing, Part I 50 multiple-choice questions 75
Language Arts, Writing, Part II 1 essay 45
Social Studies 50 multiple-choice questions 70
Science 50 multiple-choice questions 80
Language Arts, Reading 40 multiple-choice questions 65
Mathematics, Part I 25 multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questions 45 (with calculator)
Mathematics, Part II 25 multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questions 45 (without calculator)

Now that you know the face of the enemy, you can begin to prepare to meet its challenges.

How to Do Your Best on the GED Tests

You plan to take the GED tests because you want to receive your high school diploma equivalency, right? You’re spending the time and money to take the tests, so why not ensure that you do your best? To do your best on these tests, make sure you’re as prepared as possible for everything the GED 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 tests. 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 come test day.

In addition, keep the following tips in mind when taking the GED:

  • 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 answers 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 tests, 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 questions.

  • Mark the answer sheets carefully. You get points only for answers marked correctly on the answer sheets.

  • If you want to change an answer (and you’re positive your first answer is wrong), make sure you completely erase your first mark. If the machine that grades the tests thinks you marked more than one answer, it will mark your answer as wrong.

  • Watch the time. You have a strict time limit.

What to Bring — And Not to Bring — 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 high-tech calculator) 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, birth date, and address on it

  • Pens and pencils (Make sure your pencils are sharpened — or if mechanical, that you bring refill leads — and your pens have new refills.)

  • A watch with a new battery and, if possible, a stopwatch feature

  • The test fee (if not prepaid)

Don’t take the following items into the test room:

  • Smartphone, cellphone, or other communication devices

  • Portable music device

  • Electronic devices, games, or calculator (a calculator is provided)

  • 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 pass the tests, 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.

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 challenge.

Reduce Your Anxiety before and during 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. Do whatever you can to reduce your anxiety and increase your preparation. Here are some ways you can lower your anxiety, starting when you sign up to take the test and continuing all the way to test day:

  • Make your way through one or more test-prep books like The GED for Dummies, 2nd Edition. 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 format. Doing so helps you get familiar with what you’ll see on the real GED.

  • Double-check the time and place of each test. The last thing you want to worry about on your way to the tests is if 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.

  • Arrive at the test site early and prepared. Arriving late for the GED tests 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 tests 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 whole 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.

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