How to Develop Your Reading Skills for the GED

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

To succeed on the GED RLA test, you can prepare in advance by reviewing rules of grammar, punctuation, and spelling and by familiarizing yourself with the format and subject matter of the test. Here are some of the best ways you can prepare:

  • Read as often as you can. This strategy is the best one and is by far the simplest, because reading exposes you to correct grammar. What you read makes a difference. Reading catalogs may increase your product knowledge and improve your research skills, but reading literature is preferable because it introduces you to so many rules of grammar.

    Reading fiction exposes you to interesting words and sentences. It shows you how paragraphs tie into one another and how each paragraph has a topic and generally sticks to it. Reading historical fiction can give you some insight into what led up to today and can also help you with the Social Studies test.

    You should also read nonfiction — from instructions to business letters, from press releases to history books and historical documents. Nonfiction is generally written at a higher reading level than fiction and uses a very formal style, the kind expected of you when you write an essay for the Extended Response item. Older documents can be a special problem, because the writing style is very different from what’s common today.

    Read everything you can get your hands on — even cereal boxes — and identify what kind of reading you’re doing. Ask yourself questions about your reading and see how much of it you can remember.

  • Develop your reading speed. Reading is wonderful, but reading quickly is even better — it gets you through the test with time to spare. Check out Speed Reading For Dummies, by Richard Sutz with Peter Weverka (Wiley), or do a quick Internet search to find plenty of material that can help you read faster. Whatever method you use, try to improve your reading rate without hurting your overall reading comprehension.

  • Master the rules of basic grammar. On this test, you don’t have to define a gerund and give an example of one, but you do have to know about verb tenses, subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, possessives, and the like. As your knowledge of grammar and punctuation improves, have a bit of fun by correcting what you read in small-town newspapers and low-budget novels — both sometimes have poor editing.

  • Practice grammar and proper English in everyday speaking. As you review the rules of grammar, practice them every day as you talk to your friends, family, and coworkers. Although correct grammar usually “sounds” right to your ears, sometimes it doesn’t because you and the people you talk to have become used to using incorrect grammar.

    If you see a rule that seems different from the way you talk, put it on a flashcard and practice it as you go through your day. Before long, you’ll train your ears so that correct grammar sounds right.

    Correcting other people’s grammar out loud doesn’t make you popular, but correcting it in your head can help you succeed on this test. Also, listen for and avoid slang or regional expressions. Y’all may be a great favorite in the South but wouldn’t work well on a college application.

  • Understand punctuation. Know how to use commas, semicolons, colons, and other forms of punctuation.

  • Practice writing. Write as much and as often as you can, and then review it for errors. Look for and correct mistakes in punctuation, grammar, and spelling. If you can’t find any, ask someone who knows grammar and punctuation for help.

  • Keep a journal or blog. Journals and blogs are just notebooks (physical or virtual) in which you write a bit about your life every day. They both provide good practice for personal writing. Blogging or responding to blogs gives you practice in public writing because others see what you write.

    Whether you use a personal journal or a public blog, though, keep in mind that the writing is the important part. If public writing encourages you to write more and more often, do it. If not, consider the private writing of a journal or diary.

  • Improve your spelling. As you practice writing, keep a good dictionary at hand. If you’re not sure of the spelling of any word, look it up. How do you look up the spelling of a word if you can’t spell it? Try sounding out the word phonetically and look in an online dictionary. Type in the word and select the word that looks familiar and correct.

    Add the word to a spelling list and practice spelling those words. In addition, get a list of common homonyms — words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different definitions — and review them every day. (You need to know, for example, the difference between their, there, and they’re and to, two, and too.) Many dictionaries contain a list of homonyms.

  • Keep in mind that these questions are some form of multiple-choice. Among the various answer choices, the test questions generally give you the correct answer. Of course, they also tell you three other answers that are incorrect, but all you have to do is find the correct one! As you practice speaking and writing, you tune your ears so the correct answer sounds right.

  • Take practice tests. Take as many practice tests as you can. Be strict about time limitations, and check your answers after you’re finished. Don’t move on until you know and understand the correct answer. The time you spend taking and reviewing these practice tests is well worth it.