Tips for Answering Multiple Choice Questions on the GED Social Studies Test

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

Multiple-choice questions on the GED Social Studies test basically ask you to choose a correct answer from four choices. You can handle these questions in several ways. Read the question and answer choices, and then go through the text carefully to find which answer choice is correct. If you can’t decide based on that reading, review the answer choices.

You can probably eliminate one or two of them because they’re obviously wrong. Then skim the text again, looking for information based on the choices left. If that doesn’t provide you with an answer, then you may have to guess. If you’ve eliminated the improbable choices, you may have to choose from only two or three options, which gives you reasonable odds of picking the correct answer.

The answer choices must reflect something in the text. Or, if none of the answer choices fulfill the question, you may have to choose none of the above if that option is provided. Remember, you need to work quickly because you have only about 90 seconds per question.

Check out some multiple-choice questions based on the following passage.

Bridging both temperate and tropical regions, Mexico’s terrain includes mountains, plains, valleys, and plateaus. Snow-capped volcanoes slope down to pine forests, deserts, and balmy tropical beaches. This diverse topography supports a variety of industries, including manufacturing, mining, petroleum, and agricultural production. As a member of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mexico has the United States and Canada as main trading partners.

In economic terms, Mexico boasts a GDP (gross domestic product) of $370 billion ($8,100 per person), which ranks it 13th in the world. Mexico currently enjoys an annual growth rate of more than 6 percent. Beginning in 1985, Mexico began a process of trade liberalization and privatization. From 1982 to 1992, government-controlled enterprises were reduced from 1,155 to 217.

Which of the following is not part of Mexico’s terrain?

  • (A) plateaus

  • (B) polar ice caps

  • (C) mountains

  • (D) valleys

The key to this question is realizing that it’s asking for something that isn’t included in the passage. Be sure you watch for words such as not and except and double negatives, such as not impossible or not unlikely, especially in multiple-choice questions. In this case, the correct answer is Choice (B) because Mexico doesn’t lie either at the North or South Pole, where polar ice caps are found.

The passage mentions the other answer choices — plateaus, mountains, and valleys — but this question asks for what isn’t mentioned.

Which adjectives demonstrate that the Mexican climate represents extremes in temperature?

  • (A) sunny and rainy

  • (B) dark and misty

  • (C) plains and valleys

  • (D) snow-capped and balmy

Here’s an example of a question and answer choices whose wording can be misleading if you don’t read carefully. The question asks for the answer choice that represents extremes in temperature. So the only choice that works here is Choice (D) because it’s the only one that deals with temperatures.

Snow-capped volcanoes represent an extremely low temperature, while balmy beaches refer to the higher temperatures found in a tropical climate. Other adjectives — such as sunny and rainy or dark and misty — don’t refer to changes in temperature but rather weather. Plains and valleys are nouns that refer to terrain, not temperature.

In this example, “diverse topography” refers to

  • (A) differences in terrain

  • (B) uniqueness in manufacturing

  • (C) differences in agriculture

  • (D) diversity of tropical beaches

This question shows why understanding subject-appropriate vocabulary is importatnt. Topography is another word for terrain. Diverse means different, so Choice (A) is the correct answer. Manufacturing and agriculture are types of industries, and tropical beaches are just one type of terrain.

Which countries are Mexico’s trading partners in NAFTA?

  • (A) the United States and the United Kingdom

  • (B) France and Germany

  • (C) the United States and Canada

  • (D) Canada and the United Kingdom

The correct answer is Choice (C). The text states that the United States and Canada joined with Mexico to form the North American Free Trade Agreement. The United Kingdom, France, and Germany aren’t partners in NAFTA.

What happened in Mexico between 1982 and 1992?

  • (A) Government control of enterprises increased.

  • (B) The government controlled fewer enterprises.

  • (C) Mexico achieved the highest GDP in the world.

  • (D) Mexico’s growth rate was less than 6 percent.

The correct answer is Choice (B). According to the passage, during the decade from 1982 to 1992, Mexico’s government reduced its control of enterprises from 1,155 to 217. It didn’t increase enterprise control, nor did Mexico achieve the highest GDP in the world — 12 countries were higher. The country’s growth rate was more than 6 percent.