6 Tips for Reading Efficiently on the Computerized GED Test

By Murray Shukyn, Dale E. Shuttleworth, Achim K. Krull

One issue for all students of the new GED test is that it’s done on a computer, and reading materials on a computer screen is very different from reading on paper. Studies have shown that people read more superficially and retain less of what they read on a computer screen. To help you overcome that, here are a few tips to make your reading more efficient.

As you prepare for the test, practice reading on the computer screen. When reading on paper, especially when reading for understanding, people tend to use their fingers to lead their eyes across the text. Doing so while reading on a computer screen is difficult and slows you down — especially when you’re working with timed materials and have very little time for each individual item.

You need to break yourself of that habit and focus without that finger. Begin by reading printed text materials without using your finger to guide you and then switch that new reading skill to a tablet and finally to a computer screen. Training your eyes to read down the center of the page and using your peripheral vision will also increase your reading speed.

When you’re ready to take the test, follow this advice:

  • Adjust the monitor. Skimming materials is easier when you can visually take in the entire width of the text at a glance. Although your field of vision is much wider than any monitor, you really only actively read the center portion of what you’re looking at. Adjust the monitor, font size, and your distance from the screen as much as possible to achieve that.

  • Skim the material first. Go through the material quickly and look for the key points contained in the text. Read the answer choices if answering questions, and then go back to the text to look for specific references that will help you find the answer.

  • Carefully reread the specific points that you think will answer the question. Sometimes when you read too quickly, you read what you think is there and not what’s really there. This often happens if you think you already know the answer.

  • Make notes when reading longer texts. The computer doesn’t always allow you to highlight key points as you may do when reading on paper, but the GED test center does provide an erasable pad. Use it to jot down key points as you skim the text. Note the first word of the paragraph or line containing the key point to make it easier to find it when you’re in a hurry.

  • Use your erasable tablet when skimming on the RLA Extended Response prompt. For the RLA Extended Response, you’re asked to explain why one text makes a better or stronger argument than another. (In case you’re wondering, RLA is short for Reasoning through Language Arts.)

    As you skim and make notes, divide your erasable tablet into four quadrants. Use the left two quadrants for points on one sample text and the right two quadrants for the other sample text. Use the two top quadrants for positive points and the two bottom quadrants for negative points. Making notes in this fashion will help you keep track of all the key elements you need to prepare and draft your essay.