Knowing What’s on the GED Social Studies Test

By Achim K. Krull, Murray Shukyn

Prior to taking any test, you want to know what’s on it. It’s no different with the GED Social Studies test. This article reveals what’s on the Social Studies test so you can focus your GED test-prep efforts on these key content areas:

Content Area Percentage of Questions
Civics and government 50%
American history 20%
Economics 15%
Geography and the world 15%

Each of these areas requires somewhat different skills, as explained in the following sections.

Getting up to speed on government and civics

Government questions involve how the government functions. Civics questions explore the rights and responsibilities of those being governed. To answer these questions, you must be able to do the following:

  • Read and understand extracts from original documents.

  • Understand how your government functions, based on passages on the test.

  • Understand your rights and responsibilities as a citizen and be able to answer questions about them.

Looking back at U.S. history

You don’t need to be a historian or Civil War buff to perform well on the GED Social Studies test, but you do need to be able to extract pertinent information from reading passages and reason out answers to questions. Here are a few tips to help you prepare to answer such questions:

  • Practice reading history books, newspaper editorials, magazines, and any other printed source of historical information or current events, especially those that involve politics and civics.

  • Compare and contrast sources and opinions.

  • Read with a healthy dose of skepticism.

  • Develop timelines.

Cashing in on economics questions

In economics, vocabulary is very important. Though you don’t have to memorize key terms in advance, knowing their meanings improves reading speed and comprehension. Here are some key economics terms:

  • Monopoly: A situation where one company is so dominant that it can charge whatever it wants for the product or service.

  • Competition: A key component of capitalism that helps to maintain supplies of goods and services at affordable prices for consumers.

  • Opportunity cost: Lost profit from not being able to pursue one opportunity because one’s resources are invested in pursuing some other opportunity.

  • Laissez faire: A hands-off policy that’s embraced by free-market capitalists who believe that the forces of supply and demand are the best way to maintain supplies of goods and services at affordable prices.

  • Capitalism: An economic system in which companies are privately owned and controlled rather than owned and controlled by the government.

  • Socialism: A political and economic system that combines public ownership with private enterprise and promotes sharing the profits of industry among all citizens, a practice commonly referred to as distribution of wealth.

  • Communism: An economic and political system that promotes communal ownership of the means of production in accordance with the motto “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” In practice, though, it doesn’t normally turn out so well. Communism has become state capitalism, where the government owns and runs virtually all sectors of the economy, (a “command economy”) and controls the population using police-state tactics.

  • Microeconomics: Microeconomics examines financial interactions between companies and consumers. It studies how individuals and companies make financial decisions, allocate resources, and make choices. It also involves the role of government in the economy, from government regulation to fiscal and monetary policy.

  • Macroeconomics: Macroeconomics examines how world economies relate and how one economy influences the development of another.

Knowing a little about key economic thinkers is also helpful. See what you can find out about Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes.

Exploring geography and the world at large

These questions focus on three areas: the relationship between the environment and societal development, borders between people and nations, and human migration (immigration and emigration).

To prepare to tackle these questions, here’s what you do:

  • Read maps, graphs, tables, and illustrations.

  • Read widely. Social studies covers more than just history; read about geography and different cultures as well.

  • Try to draw inferences and identify causal relationships as you read.