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How to Write & Pass a GED Essay

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The GED essay intimidates a lot of people. Writing a whole essay from scratch in 45 minutes or less can be tough, but it doesn't have to be. This GED essay writing guide will help you know what to expect and how to pass the written portion of the test. Learn all about the GED extended response with examples, tips, and a breakdown of everything you'll be graded on.

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What is the GED Essay?

The GED test is made up of four subjects: mathematical reasoning, social studies, science, and reasoning through language arts (RLA). The RLA subject test includes two parts, one of which is the GED extended response, sometimes called the GED essay. You will have 45 minutes to complete the essay to the best of your ability. If you don’t finish in time, don’t worry! The essay is only worth 20% of your final RLA score, so you can still pass the test even if you don’t get a high score on the essay.

The extended response can be on a variety of topics, but it will always follow the same format. You will be given two different articles on the same topic, usually argumentative essays with a firm position. You will be asked to evaluate the two arguments and write your own argumentative essay determining which article presented the strongest position. The essay should be 3-5 paragraphs long, with each paragraph between 3-7 sentences.

Example GED Essay Questions

All GED essay questions will ask you to read and evaluate two passages that take different stances on the same topic. Essays should determine which passage presents a stronger argument and back up that claim with analysis of evidence from the passages.

Here is an example GED essay question:

Analyze the arguments presented in the press release and the letter to the editor.
In your response, develop an argument in which you explain how one position is better supported than the other. Incorporate relevant and specific evidence from both sources to support your argument.

Remember, the better-argued position is not necessarily the position with which you agree. This task should take approximately 45 minutes to complete. 1

1 "Extended Response Scoring - GED." https://ged.com/wp-content/uploads/extended_response_scoring.pdf. Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.

Example GED Essay

The following is an example high scoring essay:

Both the press release and the letter to the editor offer positions that are supported by both fact and opinion. The press release seeks to exhort the new bill for expansion of Highway 17, while the letter argues that the passing of the bill could prove detrimental to the district. While both sides make an acceptable case, the latter provides a stronger argument.

One example of the letter’s stronger argument is the explanation that federal tax dollars pay for the road, as it will incorporate six different states, therefore eliminating this particular state’s ability to strike the bill down. This proves, with factual information, that the district did not have a fair say in the bill. The notion that few residents will use the road that their tax dollars are providing is an opinion. However, a resident and small-business owner in the town is more credible in the awareness of the town’s concern, as compared to a representative who attended a few meetings in the town hall.

Another example of the better supported argument in the letter is the reference to the construction jobs as temporary. The press release praises the new jobs created by the highway construction, as this is a valid point. However, the author of the letter is correct in the fact that the jobs will not create a boom in the district’s economy, or fill in the gap caused by the closures in the manufacturing plants, as the press release leads listeners to believe. The road construction does not solve the long-term issue of unemployment in the town. In addition, the author of the letter counters the argument that new motels, restaurants, and gas stations along the highway will create permanent jobs for the residents of the town. She explains that, “…only minimum wage jobs will remain.” This is a valid argument also, as unemployed residents that need enough income to support a household would not be much better off. Providing restaurant or motel jobs is very unlikely to feed or support an entire family. It will not pick up the laid-off employees of the manufacturing plants, who may have worked for many years towards promotions and a pension.

Another example of the letter’s stronger argument is the author’s explanation of the 2001 study. She concedes that the representative is correct in citing that bypasses are proven to reduce noise and traffic in town, but she argues that the study shows a negative effect on local businesses. This piece of the study was not mentioned by Representative Walls or the press release, and it is a proven fact. This draws more credibility to the argument in the letter. Also, although it is a speculation, it is more reasonable that traveler’s will stick to the main highway and not venture miles off their path into small town when chain gas stations, restaurants, and motels are conveniently located directly at the highway exits. It is less likely that old roads in the towns will become historical locations, attracting tourists and boosting small business sales.

Despite the argument and evidence given by the press release, it appears that the letter to the editor offers a stronger case. The author’s ideas are backed up by logical explanations and facts with a few speculations. Though the press release offers some fact, it is mainly specked with anticipations and hopes, driven to overshadow any doubts and quell any concerns. The letter is penned by a resident of the town and owner of a business, subject to firsthand opinions of the citizens of the district. The press release is pushed by an elected representative who, upon visiting the town a number of times and consulting a small percentage of the constituents, is convinced she understands the majority. Although both parties may very well have the best interests of the district in mind, and either position could be correct, it is clear that the letter provides a better-supported argument.2

2 "Extended Response Scoring - GED." https://ged.com/wp-content/uploads/extended_response_scoring.pdf. Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.

GED Essay Practice

For GED essay practice, try writing your own essay based on the example above. Set a timer for 45 minutes and do your best to write an essay with your own analysis and ideas.

You can practice more writing skills with this free test or enroll today in the GED Academy to get access to more GED essay prompts and personalized feedback from GED Essay graders.

GED Essay Structure

The structure for the GED essay can take a few different forms, depending on how you decide to organize your ideas. No matter what, it should include an introduction paragraph, 1-3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph. To receive a passing score, your essay must present a clear topic supported by details from both passages. Include your main idea in an introductory paragraph. In middle paragraphs, make connections between your details and your main idea. Your conclusion should also fit logically with the details.

The introduction should demonstrate your understanding of the overall topic based on the passages you read and a claim. The claim is a statement of your argument. It doesn’t need to go into detail, but should state your essay’s position on the questions presented.

The body paragraphs will go into more detail. They will include a combination of summary, analysis, and evidence to back up your claim. Be sure to include analysis of both passages.

The conclusion should explain the result of your findings and reinforce your original claim.

How is the GED Essay Scored?

You can earn up to six points on the GED extended response. There are three main categories your essay is graded on, and you can earn up to two points for each.

  1. Creation of arguments and use of evidence: Craft a strong claim and use analysis of the arguments and evidence from the passages to support it.

  2. Development of ideas and organizational structure: Write a substantial essay with clear transitions between ideas, including a strong introduction and conclusion.

  3. Clarity and command of standard English conventions: Use appropriate language and demonstrate strong language and grammar skills.

The extended response accounts for 20% of the total RLA score.

8 Tips to Help You Pass the GED Essay

  1. Read all the instructions. The most common reason people score low on the essay is because they misunderstand the prompt.
  2. Make an outline. After reading the passages and the prompt, write down your ideas and organize them during your pre-writing.
  3. Make a list of evidence. When you read the passages, take notes on the important details you want to remember later, so you don’t have to spend time searching for it later.
  4. Write your introduction last. A lot of people get tripped up by how to start the essay. If that’s you, just skip this step and go back to it once you’ve written the rest of the essay.
  5. Write first, edit later. You only have 45 minutes, so use your time wisely. Write your first draft of the essay before you start fine-tuning and editing it. Save that for your remaining time so you don’t turn in a half-written essay.
  6. Use formal language. Avoid “I” statements like, “I think” or casual language like slang.
  7. Don’t check the clock. Time always seems to go faster when you need it to go slow. Every time you look at the clock, that’s breaking your focus on your essay.
  8. Practice! The only way to get better at writing essays is to write more essays. Practice using the GED Writing Practice Test, and remember to time yourself!