Subject Areas You Will Need to Know for the GED Social Studies Test

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

The question-and-answer section of the GED Social Studies test includes about 50 questions. The exact number varies from test to test, as the difficulty level of the questions varies. Most of the information you need will be presented in the text or graphics accompanying the questions, so it’s important to read and analyze the materials carefully but quickly. The questions focus on the following subject areas:

  • Civics and government: About 50 percent of the Social Studies test includes such topics as rights and responsibilities in democratic governance and the forms of governance.

  • American history: About 20 percent of the test covers a broad outline of the history of the United States from pre-colonial days to the present, including such topics as the War of Independence, the Civil War, the Great Depression, and the challenges of the 20th century.

  • Economics: Economics involves about 15 percent of the test and covers two broad areas, economic theory and basic principles. That includes topics such as how various economic systems work and the role of economics in conflicts.

  • Geography and the world: In broad terms, the remaining 15 percent covers the relationships between the environment and societal development; the concept of borders, region, and place and diversity; and, finally, human migration and population issues.

The test materials cover these four subject areas through two broad themes:

  • Development of modern liberties and democracy: How did the modern ideas of democracy and human and civil rights develop? What major events have shaped democratic values, and what writings and philosophies are the underpinning to American views and expressions of democracy?

  • Dynamic systems: How have institutions, people, and systems responded to events, geographic realities, national policies, and economics?

The Extended Response item (that is, the essay you write at the end of the test) is based on enduring issues, which cover issues of personal freedoms in conflict with societal interests and issues of governance — states’ rights versus federal powers, checks and balances within government, and the role of government in society.

These are all issues that require you to evaluate points of view or arguments, and determine how such issues represent an enduring issue in American history. You need to be able to recognize false arguments, bias, and misleading comparisons.

If you’re a little worried about all of these subject areas, relax. You’re not expected to have detailed knowledge of all the topics listed. Although it helps if you have a general knowledge of these areas, most of the test is based on your ability to reason, interpret, and work with the information presented in each question.

Knowing basic concepts, such as checks and balances or representative democracy, will help, but you don’t need to know a detailed history of the United States.