The Social Studies section of the GED test is scheduled for 90 minutes. Sixty-five minutes are allocated for the multiple-choice and short-answer questions, whereas the Extended Response item — an essay — takes 25 minutes. Here is a breakdown:

  • Multiple-choice and short-answer questions: The short answers’ source text and data will vary. About half of the questions are based on one source item, such as a graph or text, with one question. Other items have a single source item, such as a graph or text as the basis for several questions. In either case, you'll need to analyze and evaluate the content presented to you.

    The test items evaluate your ability to answer questions, using reasoning and analysis skills. The information for the source materials comes from primary and secondary sources, both text and visual. That means you need to be able to “read” charts, tables, and graphs as well as standard text materials.

  • Extended Response: Also known as the essay, this part of the Social Studies section requires similar skills and works much like the Reasoning Through Language Arts Extended Response. You're presented with one or two source texts, and your assignment is to evaluate the source text. You need to consider the quality of the argument(s) presented and then write an essay responding to and evaluating the opinions or information presented.

The content of this section is drawn from these four basic areas:

  • Civics and government: The largest part (about 50 percent of the section) focuses on civics and government. The civics and government items of the test examine the development of democracy, from ancient times to modern days. Other topics include how civilizations change over time and respond to crises.

  • American history: American history makes up 20 percent of the Social Studies section. It covers all topics from the pilgrims and early settlement to the Revolution, Civil War, World Wars I and II, Vietnam War, and current history — all of which involve the United States in one way or another.

  • Economics: Economics make up about 15 percent of the section. The economics portion examines basic theories, such as supply and demand, the role of government policies in the economy, and macro- and microeconomic theory.

  • Geography and the world: This area also makes up 15 percent of the section. The areas with which you need to become familiar are very topical: sustainability and environmental issues, population issues, and rural and urban settlement. Other topics include cultural diversity and migration and those issues that are of universal and not national concern.