GED Social Studies Extended Response Sample

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

The GED Social Studies Extended Response requires you to relate materials to key issues in American economic, political, and social history. Although you don’t need a detailed knowledge of American history, you must have a broad sense of key issues because your answer needs to go beyond just the facts and attitudes presented in the text.

Here’s a sample Extended Response prompt, like you may see on the Social Studies test.

Stimulus: The following statements were made about slavery sometime before the Civil War. The Jay letter, written almost a hundred years before the Civil War reflects the views of abolitionists, common right up to the Civil War. Hammond’s speech reflects the continuing justification of, and for, slavery. In what way is this an enduring issue to this day?

It is much to be wished that slavery may be abolished. The honour of the States, as well as justice and humanity, in my opinion, loudly call upon them to emancipate these unhappy people. To contend for our own liberty, and to deny that blessing to others, involves an inconsistency not to be excused. (John Jay, letter to R. Lushington, March 15, 1786.)

In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. That is, a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill. Its requisites are vigor, docility, fidelity. Such a class you must have, or you would not have that other class which leads progress, civilization, and refinement.

It constitutes the very mud-sill of society and of political government; and you might as well attempt to build a house in the air, as to build either the one or the other, except on this mud-sill. Fortunately for the South, she found a race adapted to that purpose to her hand.

A race inferior to her own, but eminently qualified in temper, in vigor, in docility, in capacity to stand the climate, to answer all her purposes. We use them for our purpose, and call them slaves.

We found them slaves by the common “consent of mankind,” which, according to Cicero, “lex naturae est.” The highest proof of what is Nature’s law. (The “Mudsill Theory,” James Henry Hammond, speech to the U.S. Senate, March 4, 1858.)

Prompt: Isolate the main issue presented in these two quotes, identify the points of view of the authors, consider how these positions reflect an enduring issue in American history, and use your own knowledge of the issue to show how this continues to be one of the enduring issues.

To start drafting your response, first make a list of key points each author uses to support his position. List them as pro and con, and relate them to the enduring issue you’ve identified. Now think back to your own general knowledge of the issue, and consider what other information you can bring to the essay to explain how and why this is an enduring issue.

For example, you could consider why the Founding Fathers argued non-whites should count as only three-fifths of a person. You could consider that there will always be people at the bottom of the food chain, regardless of race, and there will always have to be people who do the drudge work.

Go beyond the idea of racial discrimination and consider the idea of equality of opportunity. Whatever points you choose to use, you need to go beyond the text and build on your own knowledge of American history and issues.

When composing your response, you should select a few key statements. In the Jay letter, the most significant statement is “To contend for our own liberty, and to deny that blessing to others, involves an inconsistency not to be excused.” How can society argue that it is acceptable to have some deprived of freedom when regarding freedom essential for itself?

The Hammond speech is more practical. In essence, he states that in order for some to be wealthy, others must be poor. You can discuss it in several ways: the dissonance between slavery and freedom, or the necessity of poverty to have wealth. In modern terms, you could argue about “the 99 percent and the 1 percent.” That then allows you to develop an argument about the enduring issue.

You need to use quotes from these two source documents to show that this is indeed an enduring issue, and add your own information to that to back the argument.