Understanding the Order of Steps in Processes for the GED Social Studies Test

By Achim K. Krull, Murray Shukyn

One key skill you need for the GED Social Studies test is understanding the sequence of events required to achieve certain ends. Before the president can sign a law into effect, it has to go through a variety of steps. The Constitution requires specific steps be taken to bring someone to court. Before a company decides to build a new plant, it does financial projections and needs assessments, transportation, and site studies.

Choosing a candidate for election follows a process set out in local, state, or federal legislation. Economic systems have an impact on how people live; studying how various systems achieve their social goals is part of this process.

The Social Studies portion of the GED test may require you to extract a sequence of events from a passage or explain the effects of such a process. Examine this passage from USA Elections in Brief:

Most states now hold primary elections. Depending on the laws of the state, primary voters may cast a ballot for a party’s presidential nominee and a slate of “pledged” delegates, may vote for the presidential candidate with delegates to be chosen later to reflect the vote, or may indirectly vote for a candidate in a caucus by choosing convention delegates who are “pledged” to one or another candidate.

Under the caucus system, partisans who live within a relatively small geographic area — a local precinct — get together and vote for delegates who are pledged to support specific candidates for president. Those delegates, in turn, represent their precinct at a county convention, which chooses delegates to attend the congressional district and state conventions. The delegates to these conventions ultimately elect delegates to represent the state at the national convention. Although this system takes place over several months, the candidate preferences are essentially determined in the first round of voting.

The actual size of any state’s delegation to the national nominating convention is calculated on the basis of a formula established by each party that includes such considerations as the state’s population, its past support for the party’s national candidates and the number of elected officials and party leaders currently serving in public office from that state. The allocation formula that the Democrats use results in national conventions that have about twice as many delegates as those of the Republicans.

As a result of these reforming tendencies since World War II, two important trends stand out. First, more states have moved their presidential primaries and caucuses earlier on the calendar toward the decisive early stage of the nominating season, a trend known as “front-loading.” Being an early primary or caucus state may allow voters in the state to exercise more influence over the ultimate selection of the nominees.

In addition, it may encourage the candidates to address the needs and interests of the state early on, and may force candidates to organize within the state, spending money on staff, media, and hotels to try to obtain a decisive psychological victory early in the party nomination process.

In addition, in some parts of the country, states have cooperated with one another to organize “regional primaries” by holding their primaries and caucuses on the same date to maximize the influence of a region. Both of these trends have forced candidates to begin their campaigns earlier to gain a foothold in the increasing number of states that hold the early contests.

Here are a few practice questions related to the passage you just read.

  1. What is the effect of the caucus system on individual voters’ ability to elect their party’s candidate for president?

    • (A) Voters directly elect the presidential candidate.

    • (B) Voters elect delegates to attend a state convention that elects the presidential candidate.

    • (C) Voters elect precinct delegates, who are the first step in electing a series of delegates to wider assemblies who will eventually select the presidential candidate.

    • (D) Voters elect candidates to attend the national convention to select the presidential candidate.

  2. In what way does the primary process affect the way candidates campaign for election?

    • (A) Candidates are more likely to try to appeal to delegates rather than to the voters themselves.

    • (B) Candidates are likely to invest more resources in states that hold their primaries early in the election cycle.

    • (C) Candidates tend to focus their efforts on individual precincts rather than on entire states.

    • (D) Candidates pour more campaign money into states with a larger number of delegates.

  3. The purpose of front-loading is to

    • (A) enable candidates who win early primaries to have greater success in later primaries

    • (B) enable candidates to more effectively address the needs of voters in early primary states

    • (C) enable states to hold regional primaries to increase their influence in the region

    • (D) give voters in early primary states more influence over national elections

How did you do? Compare your answers to these explanations.

  1. The correct answer is Choice (C). Voters make up only the initial stage of the selection process. Voters in each precinct elect delegates to represent them at a county convention. These delegates choose other delegates, who represent the voters’ wishes at the congressional district and state conventions. These delegates then elect other delegates that represent the state at the national convention.

  2. Look to the last sentence of the third paragraph for the answer. Candidates are highly motivated to win the early primaries because success in those primaries is likely to influence success in later primaries, Choice (B).

  3. Front-loading is described in the third paragraph as a way to give voters more influence over the ultimate selection of candidates. That matches Choice (D).