Understanding the GED RLA Extended Response Format

By Achim K. Krull, Murray Shukyn

This 45-minute part of the GED Reasoning Through Language Arts (RLA) test has only one item: a prompt on which you have to write a short essay (usually 600 to 800 words).

For this part of the test, you’re given one topic and a few instructions. Your task is to write an essay of three or more paragraphs on that topic. Remember that you can’t write about another topic or a similar topic; if you do, you’ll receive zero points for your essay, and you’ll have to retake the entire RLA test.

The focus for the evaluation of this part of the GED test is on your reading comprehension, analysis and organization, and writing skills.

The test presents you with one or two passages of argumentation. The writer of each passage takes a position on an issue and defends that position with evidence and the power of reason. You must examine the positions, determine which is the stronger and best defended, and write an essay explaining why you made that choice. You have to do that regardless of how you feel about the issue. The point is to analyze and show that you understand the strategies used to defend positions.

As part of that process, you must analyze the arguments for logical consistency, illogical conclusions, and false reasoning. This area is where your critical analysis skills come into play. Does Point A from the author really make sense? Is it valid and backed by facts?

Finally, you must write your answer in a clear, concise, and well-organized response. The evaluation examines how well you write, including the following aspects:

  • Your style

  • Varied sentence structure and vocabulary

  • Use of transitional sentences

  • Appropriate vocabulary

  • Correct spelling and grammar, including word usage and punctuation

You have an erasable tablet for rough notes, points, and draft organization. Use it. The computer screen has a window that offers a mini-word processor with some basic functions, such as cut and paste and undo and redo. However, it doesn’t offer a spell-checker or grammar-checker.