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If you’re thinking about taking the GED test, good for you! Studies have shown that passing the GED can further your education and your career—and it can even earn you a fatter paycheck. This study guide will give you a super-quick rundown of exactly what is on the test so that you’ll know what to expect, how to prepare, and what you don’t need to worry about.

And if you’re looking for a mid-course practice test, just jump to that section below for some quick review.

General Education Development (GED) Study Guide

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Students learn a lot of different stuff in high school (say it with me: “the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell”), but the good news is that the GED only tests a small portion of all of the different things that you learned in high school. (Or, ahem, that you were supposed to have learned in high school.) The first thing that you need to know is that the GED is actually four separate tests, and you can decide which ones you take and when.

Here’s what each of those four tests will cover:

  • Reasoning through Language Arts

    The title of that test is a mouthful, but it’s basically related to the English, Language Arts, and Literature classes that you took in high school. (Except you won’t have to fake your way through an entire test over a novel that you didn’t actually read.) This test will check your ability to understand what you read, to write clearly, and to edit other people’s writing.
    You will be relieved to hear that the reading passages on the GED are (1) pretty short and (2) focused on the practical stuff—it’s more about how to read a report at work than about how to figure out what the heck some long-dead poet was trying to symbolize by talking about burned potatoes. In other words, the emphasis is on reading non-fiction—that means true things, not made up stories—related to the workplace or the kinds of things you might be asked to read in a college class. In fact, non-fiction will be about three-fourths of the reading passages. There might be some questions about vocabulary—they aren’t trying to trip you up, but just to see if you can figure out what the words mean in the way that the author uses them. (So don’t bother trying to memorize the dictionary.) They won’t ask you about any really obscure words, either.
    They like to emphasize what they call the “Great American Conversation,” which is a nice way of referring to the 200-year-long argument that we’ve been having about what the government should and shouldn’t do. So it’s good if you are basically familiar with things like the Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, and all that good stuff. On the reading passages, they’ll ask you some questions about the details and the main idea of the passage. They might also ask you to make logical inferences. This doesn’t mean that you guess! It’s more like connecting the dots between bits of information in the passage.
    There will also be an editing section. You’ll be given a sentence or two, and you’ll need to choose the correct option from a few choices. These questions will cover things like capitalization, punctuation, grammar, and usage. You don’t need to use grammatical terms (so no point in Googling what appositives are); you just need to be able to pick the correct way to express something. (FWIW, you put commas around appositives.)
    Here’s how the writing portion works: you will be asked to analyze a writing sample. They don’t care about your opinion (sorry) of the topic; rather, they will ask you to look at what kind of evidence the author uses to make his or her point. Then, you will write a brief essay explaining how the author uses evidence.
    You are allowed 150 minutes to take the entire Reasoning through Language Arts test.

  • Math

    This test covers basic arithmetic as well as some algebra and geometry. Here’s a big, scary list of the kinds of topics you should be comfortable with for the GED math test: basic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division), decimals, percents, fractions, exponents, roots, measurement, averages, ratios, probability, data analysis (which just means reading charts and graphs), basic geometry, and basic algebra.
    You can breathe a sigh of relief that they will provide you with a formula sheet, so you don’t need to memorize how to find things like area and perimeter. The formula sheet also includes the quadratic formula and formulas for slope, interest, and distance. So you don’t need to try to burn any of those into your poor brain, but you do need to be familiar with what is on the sheet and how to use it. You’ll have 115 minutes for the math test.

  • Science

    The GED science test covers life science (40%), physical science (40%), and earth science and space science (20%). But don’t panic! The great thing about this test is that almost all of the information that you will need to answer the questions correctly will actually be included in the test. So breathe deeply. Mostly, they are testing your ability to think like a scientist. So if you know not to believe your cousin when she tells you that she lost 10 pounds by eating more candy bars, you are half-way there! Review the basics of the scientific method (you know: hypothesis, experiment, analysis, conclusions) and be aware of the kinds of mistakes people make in their thinking (hint: the plural of “anecdote” is not “data”), and you’ll be fine.
    You might be given some data to interpret or some charts to analyze or some passages to read. But you won’t need to have a bunch of facts memorized. Instead, you’ll be using your reasoning skills. The GED science test questions focus on two major themes. The first theme is human health and the environment, which can include topics like disease, evolution, and pollution. The second big theme is energy, so it might be a good idea to review things like how energy moves through an ecosystem or an organism. You get 90 minutes for the science test.

  • Social Studies

    This test covers civics and government (50%), United States history (20%), economics (15%), and geography and the world (15%). In other words . . . just about everything. But the good news is that as long as you are familiar with the basics, you will be able to do well on this test. Much of the information that you need will be provided to you. They aren’t just going to ask you to spew a bunch of memorized facts, like the capital of Bolivia or how old the president has to be. Instead, they might show you a chart and ask you to draw some conclusions from it. Or, they might have you read a passage from an editorial and analyze it.
    They organize most of the material on this test around two themes. The first is the idea of democracies and human rights. The second theme explores how people develop systems in response to geography or events. If that sounds kind of vague . . . yeah. But basically what they want you to think about are big-picture questions about why and how society responds to changes. You get 70 minutes to complete the social studies test.

  • Test Format

    You should also know a bit about the test format. You will not be shocked to hear that there will be multiple choice, fill in the blank, short answer, and essay questions. But they also have two other kinds of questions that are a bit less common. “Drag and drop” questions require you to move text or an image to the correct location. There are also “hot spot” questions—these require you to click on the correct part of a graphic of some sort. As you have probably figured out by now, you have to take the GED on a computer. You don’t need to be Steve Jobs to do well on it, but you do need to know the basics of using a computer, including being able to type and edit your essay in a reasonable amount of time. (So if you are all about the hunt-and-peck, you’re going to want to brush up on your typing ability before the test.) There will be an on-screen calculator that you can use, but we have to be honest: it’s a pretty weird calculator. You will definitely want to prepare beforehand for how to use it so that you don’t waste time during the test trying to figure out how the $^(@$% parentheses work on it.

GED Practice Quiz

It’s time to see how well you can do! We’ve got a mix of questions below that will help you see where you are in your progress. Once you have written your answer, click on (or tap on the phone) the question to see answers and explanations. You can do it!

Please do keep in mind that we can’t guarantee the accuracy of this test, so we do recommend you also run through a full-length practice exam.  We’ll share some in the resources section below.

Reasoning through Language Arts

Use the following passage to answer the questions that follow it.

“How can you tell the difference between the cold and the flu? Imagine there’s a twenty-dollar bill taped to the outside of your front door. If you are willing to get out of bed to get it, you have a cold. If you aren’t, then you have the flu. That is not exactly a scientific test, but it does get at an important truth: flu symptoms leave their sufferers feeling horrible, and many people underestimate the seriousness of the flu. In an average flu season, about one in ten people will get the flu. Tens of thousands will die from flu symptoms, with the elderly being especially susceptible to complications. The flu virus normally travels from your fingers to your respiratory tract, where it reproduces and invades other cells. In addition to aches, you are likely to have a sore throat, fever, cough, and fatigue. Interestingly, most of these symptoms are not the result of the virus per se but rather of your immune system’s attempt to fight the virus. So while you certainly won’t feel like taking a walk in the park, you can at least gain some comfort from knowing that those aches and pains attest to your body’s heroic effort to fight back against the flu virus.”

Question 1: Which word best describes the author’s tone?

A. impassioned
B. objective
C. hostile
D. skeptical

Answer: The correct answer is option B, objective.

“Tone” refers to the attitude that the author has toward the topic of the passage. In this case, the author’s tone is best described as objective, since the author is providing information about the flu that is neutral and well-informed, without trying to persuade you to adopt a position. The author does not show any evidence of being impassioned (is anyone really passionate about the flu?), hostile, or skeptical.

Question 2: Which of the following would be the best title for this passage?

A. How to Avoid the Flu
B. Why the Elderly Are More Likely to Die of the Flu
C. Basic Information about the Flu
D. Why Antibiotics Won’t Help Your Flu

Answer: The correct answer is option C.

The trick to questions about the best title is that they are another way of asking you about the main idea of a passage. So it isn’t enough to find a title that mentions a detail of the passage—you want something that relates to the whole enchilada.

Question 3: In an average flu season, how many people do not get the flu?

A. 10%
B. 90%
C. tens of thousands
D. tens of thousands of the elderly

Answer: The correct answer is option B.

If you read the passage carefully, you’ll see that it stated that about ten percent of people get the flu. That means that 90% of people do not. If you chose option A, it means that you missed the word “not” in the question (doh!)—consider that your reminder to read the questions more carefully in the future!

Question 4: Which of the following is written correctly?

A. He, too, brought two pies to the party.
B. He, two, brought too pies to the party.
C. He, to, brought too pies to the party.
D. He, two, brought to pies to the party.

Answer: The correct answer is option A.

This question test whether you know the difference between the words to, two, and too. Here’s a refresher: two is the number after one, too means also, and to usually comes right before a verb (as in “to run”).


Use the following passage to answer the questions that follow it.

“Granite may be studied as an example of the second great group of rocks—the unstratified, or igneous rocks. These are not made of cemented sedimentary grains, but of interlocking crystals which have crystallized from a molten mass. Examining a piece of granite, the most conspicuous crystals which meet the eye are those of feldspar. They are commonly pink, white, or yellow, and break along smooth cleavage planes which reflect the light like tiny panes of glass. Mica may be recognized by its glittering plates, which split into thin elastic scales. A third mineral, harder than steel, breaking along irregular surfaces like broken glass, we identify as quartz.”

(Adapted from The Elements of Geology by William Harmon Norton)

Question 5: Granite is a member of which class of rocks?

A. igneous
B. sedimentary
C. metamorphic
D. all of the above

Answer: The correct answer to this question is option A.

You may already have been familiar with the three main classes of rocks, but if you were not, you could have inferred it from this passage since the first sentence indicates that granite is an example of igneous rocks. See, like we said: the answer to science questions is usually right there in the passage.

Question 6: Which of the following scenarios is most likely to lead to the formation of granite?

A. a rock on a beach is weathered by the tides
B. a rock on the bottom of a river is smoothed over time
C. a rock lands on earth as a meteor
D. hot magma cools slowly underground

Answer: The correct answer is option D.

The passage indicated that granite is formed from crystals that formed from a molten mass, which means material that started out very hot (do not touch!) but cooled over time, and option D is the only option which reflects that scenario, even though meteors are definitely way cooler to think about.

Question 7: Which of the following is not mentioned in the passage as a component of granite?

A. feldspar
B. mica
C. limestone
D. quartz

Answer: The correct answer is option C.

A close reading of the passage shows that the author mentions feldspar, mica, and quartz as components of granite, but limestone is not mentioned at all. (It’s actually a sedimentary rock.)

Question 8: Which of the following shows the organization of this passage?

A. contrast, history, example, problem
B. classification, formation, composition
C. history, example, classification
D. classification, example, problem

Answer: The correct answer is option B.

The passage begins with the classification of granite as an example of igneous rocks. Then, the passage explains how granite is formed. Finally, it discusses the usual composition of granite. Thus, option B is the best answer.


Question 9: Maria bought a bottle of hair gel that contains 14.6 ounces of gel. If she uses 0.2 ounces of gel each day, how long will the gel last?

A. 36 days
B. 44 days
C. 60 days
D. 73 days

Answer: The correct answer to this question is option D, 73 days.

To solve it, you need to perform a division problem. Since 14.6 divided by 0.2 equals 73, that is the correct answer. We think Maria’s hair looks very natural, by the way.

Question 10: Juan fell asleep at 10:45 pm, and his alarm woke him up at 6:15 am. How many minutes did Juan sleep?

A. 250 minutes
B. 420 minutes
C. 450 minutes
D. 500 minutes

Answer: The correct answer to this question is option C, 450 minutes.

To solve it, first determine how many full hours elapse between 10:45 pm and 6:15 am. The answer to that is 7. Next, we multiply 7 times 60, since there are 60 minutes in an hour, even if it doesn’t feel like it because you are having fun. That equals 420. But we aren’t done yet! In addition to 7 full hours, there are another 30 minutes to account for. So, we add 30 to 420. Our final answer is 450 minutes.

Question 11: Omar has two options for paying for a car he is buying. His first option is to pay $24,000 in cash. His second option is to make a down payment for $3,000 and then to pay $400 per month for 60 months. How much money will Omar save if he chooses the first option?

A. $500
B. $1000
C. $2000
D. $3000

Answer: The correct answer to this question is option D.

To solve it, first determine how much Omar will pay in the second scenario. If he makes 60 payments of $400 each, that equals $24,000. If we add the down payment to that, the total that Omar pays in the second scenario is $27,000. Since the problem asks for the difference between the two options, we subtract $24,000 from $27,000 and determine that he will pay an additional $3,000 if he chooses the second option. (And this is why you should always pay cash.)

Social Studies

Use the following passage to answer the questions that follow it.

Excerpt from the Inaugural Address of President Harry S Truman:

“The American people desire, and are determined to work for, a world in which all nations and all peoples are free to govern themselves as they see fit, and to achieve a decent and satisfying life. Above all else, our people desire, and are determined to work for, peace on earth—a just and lasting peace—based on genuine agreement freely arrived at by equals. In the pursuit of these aims, the United States and other like-minded nations find themselves directly opposed by a regime with contrary aims and a totally different concept of life. That regime adheres to a false philosophy which purports to offer freedom, security, and greater opportunity to mankind. Misled by that philosophy, many peoples have sacrificed their liberties only to learn to their sorrow that deceit and mockery, poverty and tyranny, are their reward. That false philosophy is communism.”

Question 12: Based on this speech, which of the following would President Truman be LEAST likely to support?

A. monitoring an election to be sure people only voted once
B. canceling an election
C. permitting an ethnic minority group to vote
D. efforts to increase voter turn-out

Answer: The correct answer to this question is option B.

In the passage, President Truman states that America wants people to be free to govern themselves. Options A, C, and D all reflect efforts to permit people to govern themselves, so he would be unlikely to oppose those ideas. On the other hand, option B suggests limiting the right of people to govern themselves, so he would have been likely to oppose it.

Question 13: Based on this speech, which of the following would President Truman support?

A. the colonization of Africa
B. the take-over of Middle Eastern countries to stabilize oil prices
C. the extension of the Soviet sphere of influence
D. a new peace treaty in Europe

Answer: The correct answer to this question is option D.

The speech indicates that Truman supports peace between countries acting as equals—and colonization, taking over countries, and extending Soviet influence are pretty much the opposite of nations treating each other as equals! That leaves option D.

Question 14: President Truman accuses communism of all of the following except for what?

A. contrary aims from the United States
B. claiming to offer freedom and security
C. being a false philosophy
D. practicing deceit

Answer: The correct answer is option B.

If you read closely, you’ll see that Truman does claim that communist societies have contrary aims (option A), represent a false philosophy (option C), and are deceitful (option D). But he actually says that they do in fact claim to offer freedom and security—but they can’t really do it. Obviously, he wasn’t a fan.

Question 15: President Truman’s speech mentions which of the following disadvantages of communism?

A. decreased technological innovation
B. increased pollution
C. loss of freedom
D. increased conflict and war

Answer: The correct answer is option C.

While Truman may have thought all of these things, there is only one actually mentioned in this passage, and it is option C—note that he uses the words “sacrificed their liberties.”

More GED Study Resources

Hopefully the above study guide and practice tests have been helpful to your study journey. As a next step, we’d recommend you find a GED course or study guide that you can use to systematically study the topics needed.

Congrats on starting your GED study journey! Study hard but also remember to enjoy it. Learning should be fun!