Understanding the GED Science Test Format and Topics Covered

By Murray Shukyn, Achim K. Krull

The GED Science test contains about 50 questions of different formats, and you have 90 minutes to answer them. Within this time limit are two short answer items that the GED Testing Service estimates should take you about 10 minutes each to complete. This leaves you about 70 minutes for the other 48 items (slightly less than one and a half minutes per question). The short answer items aren’t timed separately.

The information and questions on the Science test are straightforward — no one is trying to trick you. To answer the questions, you have to read and interpret the passages or visual materials provided with the questions (and you need a basic understanding of science and the words scientists use when they communicate).

The speed at which you read makes a difference. The two skills you should work on for reading are speed and comprehension. Being able to read a passage in less than ten seconds is of no use if you don’t understand it.

In terms of organization, some of the items are grouped in sets. Some items are stand-alone questions based on one issue or topic. Some questions follow a given passage, chart, diagram, graph, map, or table. Your job is to read or review the material and decide on the best answer for each question based on the given material.

In terms of subject matter, the questions on the Science test check your knowledge in the following areas:

  • Physical science: About 40 percent of the test is about physical science, which is the study of atoms, chemical reactions, forces, and what happens when energy and matter get together. As a basic review, keep the following in mind:

    • Everything is composed of atoms.

    • When chemicals get together, they have a reaction — unless they’re inert (which means they don’t react with other chemicals; inert chemicals are sort of like antisocial chemicals).

    • You’re surrounded by forces and their effects. (If the floor didn’t exert a force upon you when you stepped down, you would go through the floor.)

    For more information about physical science (which includes basic chemistry and basic physics), read and review a basic science textbook. You can borrow one from your local library. Amazon may rent the book you want for a low price. Check out all possibilities including material on the Internet. You can also find material on the Internet. When reading this material, you may need definitions for some of the words or terms to make understanding the concepts easier.

    Use a good dictionary or the Internet to find definitions. (If you use the Internet, type any of the topics into a search engine and add “definition” after it. Become amazed at the number of hits produced, but don’t spend time reading them all.) As you gather a larger and larger science vocabulary, keep track of the words and definitions in a book so that you can refer to them as needed.

  • Life science: Another 40 percent of the test covers life science — the study of cells, heredity, evolution, and other processes that occur in living systems. All life is composed of cells, which you can see under a microscope. If you don’t have access to a microscope and a set of slides with cells on them, most life science-related books and the Internet have photographs of cells that you can study.

    When someone tells you that you look like your parents or that you remind them of another relative, they’re talking about heredity. Reading a bit about heredity in biology-related books can help you practice answering some of the questions on the Science test.

    Use a biology textbook to help you review for this portion of the test. (Get your hands on a copy of one at your local library or use your favorite search engine to look for information on the web.)

  • Earth and space science: The remaining 20 percent of the test covers earth and space science. This area of science looks at the earth and the universe, specifically weather, astronomy, geology, rocks, erosion, and water.

    When you look down at the ground as you walk, you’re interacting with earth science. When you look up at the stars on a clear night and wonder what’s really up there, you’re thinking about space science. When you complain about the weather, you’re complaining about earth science. In a nutshell, you’re surrounded by earth and space science, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding materials to read on this subject.

You don’t have to memorize everything you read about science before you take the test. All the answers to the test questions are based on information provided in the passages or on the basic knowledge you’ve acquired over the years about science. However, any science reading you do prior to the test not only helps you increase your basic knowledge but also improves your vocabulary. An improved science vocabulary increases your chances of being able to read the passages and answer the related questions on the test quickly.

As the basis for its questions, the Science test uses the National Science Education Standards (NSES) content standards, which are based on content developed by science educators from across the country.