How to Choose Wisely in the Reading Component of the GED

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

The GED RLA test reading portion consists of excerpts from fiction and nonfiction. You’re presented with a reading passage, followed by a series of questions based on the reading passage.

When working through the reading component of the real GED test, read the questions first so you get an idea of what you need to look for in the passage. Read the questions carefully — they aren’t trick, but they do require you to be a good reader. Finally, be sure to read the passage carefully.

Look for errors and hard-to-read sentences. If you encounter words that you don’t recognize, look at the surrounding text, which can often give you clues about the mystery word’s meaning. Check out this example from a newspaper:

Vaccination is important to all of us. It is not only about individual health but also protection for the collective. Many people in the last 15 years have refused measles vaccine for their children. According to a 1998 U.K. study written by a Dr. Wakefield, children given the MMR vaccine had a higher risk of developing autism. Many celebrities got involved, promoting this idea.

The resulting publicity caused a significant drop in the rate of immunization.

Since then, that study has been totally discredited. In fact, Dr. Wakefield has had his British medical license revoked. But the malady is still present; the after-effects linger on. Some people are still not convinced of the safety of vaccination. Others object on principle or for reasons of faith.

As the rate of vaccination has dropped, more cases of measles are being reported. Health authorities in the United Kingdom reported some 2,000 cases of the measles in 2012. So far this year, they have recorded more than 1,200 cases. U.K. health authorities have started a massive public health effort to immunize as many children as quickly as possible.

Measles spreads from person to person whenever an infected person sneezes or coughs. While most people will recover completely within ten days, a small percentage of people develop serious complications. Some require hospitalization or end up with permanent disabilities. This is an especially serious risk for small children.

In 2002, the World Health Organization stated that measles was virtually eradicated in North and South America. However, as the rate of immunization dropped, measles made a significant comeback. The United States and Canada have seen a number of recent outbreaks, one in Quebec in 2007 and another in Ontario in 2008 and again in 2012.

Many outbreaks are linked to unvaccinated travelers returning from Mexico, India, or Europe, where risk of exposure is higher. Outbreaks continue wherever vaccination rates are lower. There are usually about 60 cases a year in the United States, but in 2011 there were over 200. In the first half of 2013, the CDC reported 160 cases, the highest in decades, including more than 60 cases in New York City alone.

One reason outbreaks have been relatively small so far is a sort of “herd immunity.” Because measles spreads by proximity, if 95 percent of the population has been vaccinated, the chances of spreading the infection are significantly reduced. If most people are vaccinated, it confers a sort of herd immunity on the entire population. But the rate of immunization has dropped for the last decade.

It is now less than 90 percent in many areas, and measles is making a comeback. A few people need to be concerned about vaccines, especially if they have allergies. But for most people, vaccines are safe and effective. Don’t put yourself, your children, or the community at risk; make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date. Everyone benefits if you do.

The normal number of measles cases in the United States annually is approximately ___________.

This question is a perfect example of when reading the questions first, before reading the passage, can really benefit you. If you know that you’re looking for a specific number, you have the answer as soon as you find it in the passage.

On the other hand, if you read the passage first and then have to go back and skim the passage and don’t read carefully, you may feel rushed and accidentally choose one of the other numbers in the article. The correct answer in this case is 60, which you can find in the second-to-last sentence of the fifth paragraph.

There are only small outbreaks of measles, despite fewer people being vaccinated in the United States because

  • (A) measles has been almost eradicated around the world

  • (B) few people are traveling to Mexico or Europe

  • (C) enough people are vaccinated to give a herd immunity

  • (D) none of the above

If you search the article for reasons measles has been relatively controlled, despite reduced vaccination rates, you come across this: “If most people are vaccinated, it confers a sort of herd immunity… .” So Choice (C) is the correct answer. Choices (A) and (B) are simply wrong, and Choice (D) doesn’t apply.

Measles is making a comeback for a number of reasons. Which of the following is a reason for renewed measles outbreaks?

  • (A) the gradual reduction of herd immunity

  • (B) continued fear of the side effects of vaccines

  • (C) measles has not been eradicated in Europe and Asia

  • (D) all of the above

The article mentions that measles has been virtually eradicated in North and South America. That implies that it hasn’t been eradicated in the rest of the world. So Choice (C) could be a reason for measles outbreaks. Choice (B) is stated at the beginning as a reason some people weren’t being vaccinated and why measles is returning. That leaves only one reason, Choice (A).

As the article states, herd immunity is only present if a significant proportion of the population is immunized. However, more people are refusing vaccinations, so you can deduce that herd immunity is declining. Because Choices (A), (B), and (C) are all correct, the correct answer is Choice (D).