GED Test Tips: Evaluating the Different Questions

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

Although you don’t have to know too much about how the GED test questions, or items, were developed to answer them correctly, you do need some understanding of how they’re constructed. Knowing the types of items you’re dealing with can make answering them easier — and you’ll face fewer surprises.

To evaluate the types of questions that you have to answer, keep these tips in mind:

  • As soon as the computer signals that the test is running, start by skimming the questions. Don’t spend a lot of time doing so — just enough to spot the questions you absolutely know and the ones you know you’ll need more time to answer.

  • Rely on the Previous and Next buttons on the bottom of the screen to scroll through the questions. After you finish skimming, answer all the questions you know first; that way, you leave yourself much more time for the difficult questions.

  • Answer the easiest ones first. You don’t have to answer questions in order. Nobody except you will ever know, or care, in which order you answer the questions, so do the easiest questions first. You’ll be able to answer them fastest, leaving more time for the other, harder, questions.

Knowing the question type can shape the way you think about the answer. Some questions ask you to analyze a passage or extract from a document, which means the information you need is in the source text. Others ask you to infer from the passage, which means that not all of the information is in the passage.

Although none of the tests are labeled with the following titles, the GED test questions assess your skills in these areas.

Analysis

Analysis questions require you to break down information and look at how the information bits are related to one another. Analyzing information in this way is part of reasoning and requires you to

  • Separate facts from opinions. Unless the text you’re reading gives evidence or “proof” to support statements, treat them as opinion.

  • Realize that when an assumption isn’t stated it may not necessarily be true. Assumptions stated in the passage or question help you find the best answer.

  • Identify a cause-and-effect relationship. For example, you have to eat an ice-cream cone quickly in hot weather. The cause is the hot weather and the effect is that the ice cream melts quickly.

  • Infer. You may be asked to reach a conclusion based on evidence presented in the question. Inferring is a fancy way of saying that you’ll reach a conclusion. In the preceding example, you can infer that you should stay in an air-conditioned space to eat your ice cream or eat it very quickly.

  • Compare. If you consider the similarities between ideas or objects, you’re comparing them. The world is like a basketball because both are round, for example.

  • Contrast. If you consider the differences between ideas or objects, you’re contrasting them. For example, the world isn’t like a basketball because it’s so much larger and has an irregular surface.

Relating to other people in social situations exposes most people to these skills. For example, in most sports-related conversations between friends (or rivals), you quickly figure out how to separate fact from opinion and how to infer, compare, contrast, and identify cause-and-effect relationships.

Application

Application questions require you to use the information presented to you in one situation to help you in a different situation. You’ve been applying information left and right for most of your life, but you probably don’t realize it. For example, when you use the information from the morning newspaper to make a point in an argument in the afternoon, you use your application skills.

Comprehension

A comprehension question asks whether you understand written material. The GED test-makers expect you to be able to state the info on the test in your own words, develop a summary of the ideas presented, discuss the implications of those ideas, and draw conclusions from those implications. You need to develop these comprehension skills to understand what the questions are asking you and to answer the questions successfully.

The best way to increase your comprehension is to read extensively and to ask another person to ask you questions about what you read. You can also use commercial books that specifically help you with your comprehension by presenting you with written material and asking you questions about it.

Synthesis

Synthesis questions require you to take apart blocks of information presented to you and put the pieces back together to form a hypothesis, theory, or story. Doing so gives you a new understanding or twist on the information that you didn’t have before. Have you ever discussed something that happened, giving it your own twist to create a brand new narrative? If so, you’ve already put synthesis skills to use.

Evaluation

Any time someone presents you with information or opinion, you judge it to make sure it rings true in your mind. This evaluation helps you make decisions about the information presented before you decide to use it.

If the clerk behind the ice-cream counter suggests you get a raspberry cone instead of the flavor you wanted because everyone knows that raspberry melts slower than all the other flavors, you may be a bit suspicious. If you notice that the clerk also has four containers of raspberry ice cream and only one of each other flavor, you may evaluate it as biased or even incorrect.

Cognitive skills

Mental skills that you use to get knowledge are called cognitive skills and include reasoning, perception, and intuition. They’re particularly important in reading for understanding, which is what you’re asked to do on the GED test. You can increase your knowledge and comprehension by reading books, researching on the web, or watching documentaries. After you read or watch something new, discuss it with others to make sure you understand it.