Understanding the Scientific Method for the GED Science Test

By Murray Shukyn, Achim K. Krull

Part of GED Science Test For Dummies Cheat Sheet

The scientific method is a step-by-step approach to answering science questions and solving problems that you will need to know for the GED Science test. It ensures the credibility and reproducibility of experimental evidence. Here’s a detailed version of the scientific method:

  1. Observe.

    Many of the most important scientific discoveries start with an observation — information obtained primarily through the senses (seeing, hearing, touching, and so on).

  2. Research.

    Another scientist may have answered the question or solved the problem already. Research provides insight into what’s already been done to answer the question or solve the problem.

  3. Formulate a hypothesis.

    A hypothesis is a proposed explanation for a condition or occurrence that can be tested and either proved or disproved (falsified). A hypothesis can usually be phrased as an if/then question; for example, “If I warm a cup of water, it will dissolve more sugar.”

  4. Define variables and controls.

    Establishing variables and controls is the first step toward designing an experiment:

    • Variables: Conditions that are changed to determine the effects of those changes. In the water/sugar example, heat is the variable being changed.

    • Controls: Conditions that remain unchanged, to prevent them from influencing the results. In the water/sugar example, using water from the same source and making sure the same amount of water is used for each test are controls.

  5. Create a procedure.

    A procedure is a step-by-step process for conducting the experiment or study, including specifics about the data that will be collected and how it will be recorded.

  6. List and gather the required materials.

    Before starting an experiment or study of any sort, the scientist needs to gather all the supplies needed, including, in some cases, participants for the experiment or study.

  7. Conduct the experiment or study.

    It’s show time! Scientists conduct the experiment or study and record the results.

  8. Analyze the data.

    Analysis can be as simple as looking at the resulting data from an experiment or study, or it may involve plugging it into a spreadsheet, rearranging it, using it to create graphs, and so on.

  9. Draw conclusions or not.

    The results may lead to certain conclusions, may be inconclusive, or may bring up other questions that need to be answered first. In some cases, the conclusions reveal a problem in the design of the experiment or study, or the way it was performed.