How to Extract Evidence to Support Inferences and Analyses for the GED Social Studies Test

By Achim K. Krull, Murray Shukyn

The question-and-answer items on the GED Social Studies test require extracting evidence from passages to support inferences and analyses. All passages contain details or evidence that present supporting information. The trick is finding it.

The questions themselves typically tell you what you need to find in the passage. The question may ask you to choose which option from a list of inferences and conclusions most accurately reflects the details presented in the passage. Or it may present you with an inference or claim made in the passage and ask you to identify which piece of evidence from the passage supports it.

To answer questions such as these, take the following steps:

  1. Start reading the passage to identify the main idea or thesis.

    The main idea or thesis typically is stated in the first paragraph, often in the first sentence.

    A title tells you what the passage is about.

  2. Continue reading the passage to identify any sub-claims that support the main idea and evidence that supports the sub-claims or main idea.

    You’re scoping out the passage at this point to find out where claims and supporting evidence are located so you can quickly dip back into the passage to find information to answer specific questions.

  3. Read the question and any and all answer choices.

    If the question contains answer choices, you have the answer right in front of you.

  4. Determine whether you know the answer.

    If you do, identify the correct answer. If you have multiple choices, return to the passage and find the piece of evidence that answers the question and matches one of the answer choices.

Select or enter the correct answer.

Here’s a sample passage from Economics For Dummies by Sean Flynn (Wiley).

Market economies are simply collections of billions of small, face-to-face transactions between buyers and sellers. Economists use the term market production to capture what happens when one individual offers to make or sell something to another individual at a price agreeable to both.

In markets, the allocation of resources is facilitated by the fact that each resource has a price, and whoever is willing to pay the price gets the resource. In fact, market economies are often called price systems because prices serve as the signals that direct resources. Holding supply constant, products in high demand have high prices, and products in low demand have low prices.

Because businesses like to make money, they follow the price signals and produce more of what has a high price and less of what has a low price. In this way, markets tend to take limited resources and use them to produce what people most want — or at least, what people are most willing to pay for.

For instance, the guy who sells you a TV at the local store has no idea about the total demand for TVs in the world, how many tons of steel or plastic are needed to produce them, or how many other things weren’t produced because the steel and plastic needed to make the TVs was used for TVs rather than other things.

All he knows is that you’re willing to pay him for a TV. And if he’s making a profit selling TVs, he orders more TVs from the factory. The factory, in turn, increases production, taking resources away from the production of other things.

The first step is to identify the main idea or thesis statement. The first sentence of the first paragraph is the thesis statement: “Market economies are simply collections of billions of small, face-to-face transactions between buyers and sellers.”

The next step is to analyze the passage for supporting evidence — evidence that fleshes out the main idea or supports the thesis statement. The second sentence in the passage defines the term market production, and the rest of the passage explains the concept. You can summarize the supporting evidence by outlining it:

  • Every resource has a price.

  • She who pays the price gets the resource.

  • Prices are established by supply and demand.

    • Constant supply causes prices of better selling goods (higher demand) to rise.

    • Constant supply causes prices of slower selling goods (low demand) to drop.

  • Business responds to price signals.

    • Produce more of high-priced products.

    • Produce less of low-priced products.

  • Resources are allocated to produce high-demand products.

  • Extended example, indicated by “for instance.”

By summarizing the supporting details in the passage, you’re essentially extracting evidence from the passage that supports claims made in the passage or inferences that can be drawn from the supporting evidence.

Here are a few questions based on the passage that test your ability to identify the main idea or thesis and extract evidence from the passage to answer questions about claims made in the passage or inferences that can be drawn from the supporting evidence.

  1. What point does the author make in this passage?

    • (A) The economy is a price system.

    • (B) The market economy is the sum of all transactions, large and small.

    • (C) Factories set production levels based on sales volume.

    • (D) Sales volumes determine prices of goods.

  2. What determines the price of goods?

    • (A) a constant volume of goods

    • (B) high demand

    • (C) low demand

    • (D) sales volume

  3. What will make prices for televisions drop?

    • (A) increase in sales

    • (B) decrease in sales

    • (C) stable sales volume

    • (D) fewer sellers

Now check your answers.

  1. All the choices are at least partially true. However, only one of the answer choices encompasses the entire point in one statement: Choice (B).

  2. The choices offered here are all true; you need to determine which is the most complete answer. The only complete answer is Choice (D), sales volume.

  3. Answering this question requires you to make a deduction based on the information presented. The answer isn’t directly stated in the passage. Choice (B) is the best answer.