How to Prepare for the GED RLA Extended Response

By Achim K. Krull, Murray Shukyn

The Extended Response essay on the GED Reasoning Through Language Arts test requires some very specific skills, ranging from grammar and proper language usage to comprehension and analysis skills. If you’ve ever had an argument about who has the best team or which employer is better, you already know how to assess arguments and respond. Now you need to hone those skills. As you prepare for the RLA Extended Response, do the following:

  • Read, read, and read some more. Just like for the other parts of the RLA test (and most other subtests on the GED test), reading is important. Reading exposes you to well-crafted sentences, which can help you improve your own writing. Reading also expands your horizons and provides you with little bits of information you can work into your essay.

    As you read, make an outline of the paragraphs or chapters you read to see how the material ties together. Try rewriting some of the paragraphs from your outline, and compare what you write to the original. Yours may not be ready for prime time, but this little exercise gives you practice in writing organized, cohesive sentences and paragraphs, which can go a long way in this part of the test.

  • Practice editing your own work. After the test starts, the only person able to edit your essay is you. If that thought scares you, practice editing your own work now. Take a writing workshop, or get help from someone who knows how to edit. Practice writing a lot of essays, and don’t forget to review and edit them as soon as you’re done writing.

  • Review how to plan an essay. Few people can sit down, write a final draft of an essay the first time around, and receive a satisfactory grade. Instead, you have to plan what you’re going to write. The best way to start is to jot down everything you know about a topic without worrying about the order. From there, you can organize your thoughts into groups.

  • Practice writing on a topic (and not going off topic!). Your essay must relate to the given topic as closely as possible. If the test asks you to write about your personal goals, and you write about a hockey game you once played in, you can kiss your good score on this part of the test goodbye.

    To help you practice staying on topic, read the newspaper and write a letter to the editor or a response to a columnist. Because you’re responding to a very narrow topic that appeared in a particular newspaper article, you have to do so clearly and concisely — if you ever want to see it in print. (You can also practice staying on topic by picking a newspaper article’s title and writing a short essay about it. Then read the actual story and see how yours compares.)

  • Think about, and use, appropriate examples. You’re dealing with information presented in the source text. You’ll find information in the source text for and against the position you are to argue. When you take a position, you need to use materials from the source text to support your position. Use that information. Look for flaws in the logic.

    You can find good examples of such arguments in the editorial section of a newspaper or in blogs. Look at how the writers develop their arguments, use logic to support their positions, and perhaps use false logic or flawed reasoning to persuade the readers.

  • Practice general writing. If writing connected paragraphs isn’t one of your fortes, practice doing so! Write long emails. Write long letters. Write to your member of Congress. Write to your friends. Write articles for community newspapers. Write short stories. Write anything you want — whatever you do, just keep writing.

  • Write practice essays. The test includes an RLA-style extended response essay with prompts in actual test format. Write an essay based on the topic given. You can also practice essays by taking newspaper or blog editorials and writing rebuttals. Then ask a knowledgeable friend or former teacher to grade them for you. You may also consider taking a preparation class in which you’re assigned practice topics to write about. When you think you’re finished practicing, practice some more.