10 Essential GED Science Test Skills to Master

By Murray Shukyn, Achim K. Krull

The GED Science test evaluates skills more than knowledge. You won’t be asked to identify Newton’s laws of motion or explain the theory of evolution. However, the test may challenge your ability to draw a logical conclusion based on certain scientific evidence or to analyze an experiment and determine flaws in its design.

In short, you need to be able to demonstrate an ability to extract and process scientific information and use reason to answer questions based on that information. More specifically, you must master the ten skills presented here.

  • Determine the meaning of scientific symbols, and terms and phrases (vocabulary) in context. Although the test presents the content required to answer each question, you must be able to comprehend what you’re reading and looking at. Reading speed and comprehension improve as you gain more knowledge and understanding of scientific terminology and concepts. To prepare for the GED Science test, read science textbooks, magazines, and web content in all areas of science, including physics, chemistry, biology, and earth and space science.

    When you encounter an unfamiliar symbol or vocabulary, guess its meaning based on its context and then look it up in a dictionary or science reference to determine how close (or far) your guess is from reality. This is a good way to improve your ability to reason out the meaning of a symbol, term, or phrase while accumulating the knowledge you need.

  • Draw conclusions based on data or evidence. Certain questions on the test present data or evidence and ask you to draw a conclusion from it.

    Check the daily news for scientific discoveries and then search online to find out more about how the study was conducted and how the researchers drew their conclusions. Based on the same evidence, try to draw other reasonable conclusions.

  • Predict outcomes based on data or evidence. Some of the most practical applications of science involve making evidence-based predictions. A recent example is the use of all sorts of evidence to predict how increasing global temperatures may cause more frequent and severe weather events and the extinction of certain species.

  • Apply the scientific method to identify possible sources of errors in scientific studies. Researchers are expected to follow the scientific method — a step-by-step process for conducting experiments and other scientific investigations in a way that ensures accurate and repeatable results. Here’s a condensed version of the scientific method:

    1. Observe and ask questions.

    2. Formulate a hypothesis.

    3. Gather data.

    4. Analyze the data.

    5. Draw conclusions or not.

  • Apply formulas from scientific theories. You don’t have to memorize formulas to do well on the GED Science test, but you may need to use formulas provided on the test and crunch numbers to solve science-related math questions. Most of these formulas involve basic math: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, averaging, and calculating percentages.

  • Read graphs. When taking the GED Science test, expect to encounter several graphs, which are great for summarizing data, highlighting relationships, and tracing patterns in data. To read a graph, follow these steps:

    1. Read all text on the graph, include the title, axis labels, legend, and footnotes.

    2. Check the units and scale for each axis.

    3. Locate the data specified in the question and answer choices.

  • Extract data from tables. On the test, you’re likely to encounter at least one table that displays facts and figures in columns and rows. Like graphs, many tables have a title or heading that describes the information presented in the table.

  • Identify a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a proposed explanation for a fact or an event, based on a limited amount of evidence, that serves as a starting point for further investigation. For example, you may hypothesize that consuming sugar increases body fat more than does eating fatty foods. This would be the starting point for an experiment in which one group ate a standard diet, another ate a diet high in sugar, and a third ate a high-fat diet. On the test, be prepared to identify a hypothesis.

  • Tell the difference between independent and dependent variables. When researchers design and conduct experiments, they commonly try to determine how a change in one condition affects another condition. For example, they may test different concentrations of carbon dioxide on plant growth. The independent variable is the variable or condition that the researchers change — in this example, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air. The dependent variable is whatever changes as a result of the change in the independent variable — in this example, the growth rate of the plants.

    On the test, you may encounter questions regarding independent and dependent variables that include graphs. In these cases, values along one axis represent the independent variable, while the values along the other axis represent the dependent variable.

  • Describe a data set statistically. This involves identifying patterns or characteristics of the data using special terminology, including the following:

    • Frequency and relative frequency: The number of individuals in a group or the number of times a value occurs in a data set.

    • Mean (average): The total of all values divided by the number of values.

    • Median: The middle value in the set when the values are arranged sequentially. Half of the numbers in a data set lie below the median and half lie above the median.

    • Mode: The value that appears most often in the set. In the series 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, the number 4 is the mode because it appears three times, while the other numbers appear only twice.

    • Range: The difference between the highest and the lowest value in a data set.