Gaining Insight Through a Chronology of Events for the GED Social Studies Test

By Achim K. Krull, Murray Shukyn

Historians record many events chronologically and the GED Social Studies test expects you to be able to gain insight from them. They list events by date, forming a sequence of events. Such a chronology of events often sheds light on history to show, for example, how modern societies transitioned from being hunter-gatherers to manufacturing, how conflict escalated to all-out war, and how developments in technology influenced the course of history.

This table presents a chronology of events that led up to the point in time when the United States entered into World War II. This chronology helps explain the conditions, events, and decisions that convinced U.S. leaders that, after two years of remaining relatively neutral, the country needed to become an active participant in the war efforts.

Date Event
September 5, 1939 World War II starts. The United States declares
neutrality.
June 22, 1940 National Defense Tax bills passed.
July 20, 1940 FDR signs bill to build a “two oceans” navy.
September 16, 1940 The Selective Training and Service Act passed, leading to the
military draft.
March 11, 1941 Congress passes the Lend-Lease Act, allowing for the provision
of military goods to Great Britain.
August 14, 1941 FDR and Churchill announce the Atlantic Charter, outlining
their peace goals.
August 18, 1941 Congress extends the service period for military personnel by
18 months.
December 7, 1941 Japan attacks the United States in Hawaii, the Philippines,
Guam, and elsewhere.
December 8, 1941 The United States declares war on Japan.
December 11, 1941 Germany and Italy declare war on the United States.

Here are a few questions about the chronology of events presented above that are similar to questions you’re likely to encounter on the test.

  1. What evidence does the chronology show to support the idea that the United States actually supported the Allied side?

    • (A) the building of a two oceans navy

    • (B) the introduction of the draft

    • (C) the Lend-Lease Act

    • (D) all of the above

  2. When did the United States declare war on Germany?

    • (A) 1939

    • (B) 1941, after Japan attacked the United States

    • (C) December 11, 1941

    • (D) It did not; Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.

  3. What in the sequence of events shows that the United States, despite declaring neutrality, was preparing for the eventuality of war?

    • (A) a pattern of defense preparations

    • (B) the provision of military goods by the United States to Great Britain (Lend-Lease Act)

    • (C) the Atlantic Charter

    • (D) all of the above

Here are the answers.

  1. Though all the choices indicate preparations for war, only the Lend-Lease Act, Choice (C), shows specific support for the Allied side.

  2. Nowhere in the timeline does the United States declare war on Germany. A closer reading shows that Germany declared war on the United States after the United States declared war on Japan, so the correct answer is Choice (D).

  3. Choice (C) is wrong because the Lend-Lease Act didn’t involve American preparations for joining the war. Rather, it helped the Allies to fight the war on their own. And if Choice (C) is incorrect, Choice (D) doesn’t work either. The Atlantic Charter stated peace aims but didn’t involve the United States in the war. The only supported choice is Choice (A), the pattern of preparations for war.