The GED Essay Test: Understand the Essay, Improve the Score
If you're planning to take the GED Test soon, it's essential to
understand the essay section since many test candidates find it
one of the most difficult aspects of the language arts exam.
Understanding what this part of the GED test expects -- and how
it's scored -- is an excellent way to reduce test difficulty,
test anxiety and improve the score.
The GED, the common term for the General Education Development
credential, is the adult's alternative to a high school diploma.
The GED credential is awarded after passing tests in science,
social studies, math, and reading and writing, or language arts.
Most of the GED test is multiple-choice. But part of the
language arts writing test requires the candidate to write an
original essay, based on a provided prompt. The essay will need
to make an explanation or present a point of view. Two pages are
provided for the essay, but there's no requirement that all the
space is used. Still, at least 200 words are recommended.
Timing for the test is flexible. A total of 120 minutes is
allowed for both parts of this language arts exam, with 75
minutes slotted for the 50 questions in part one and 45 minutes
slotted for the essay test. However, GED candidates who finish
the first part in less time can devote the remaining time to the
second part. Or, if more time is needed for the first section
and less for the second, a candidate may use remaining time from
the essay and return to the multiple-choice section of the
The essay is scored on a 4-point scale, and scored by two
trained GED essay readers.
The two GED readers' scores are averaged. If the essay receives
a score of 2 or higher, the essay score is combined with the
language arts multiple-choice score to form a composite. If a
GED candidate receives a score of 1 or 1.5 on the essay, there's
no composite score, and the candidate must retake both the essay
and multiple-choice portion of the test.
GED essay readers may not be more than one point apart in their
scoring. In those cases where the readers are more than one
point apart, the chief reader for the GED scoring site will set
the score by agreeing with the reader whose score follows the
GED Testing Service scale.
Individual essay scores are not reported, but the score accounts
for 35 percent of the test.
Essay scoring is based on five areas, and measures the overall
impression of the essay:
1. Does the paper respond to the assigned prompt--did the
candidate use the topic on the test, and remain on-topic?
2. Can the reader see or follow an organized plan for
3. Are there specific and relevant details to support the
paper's focus? 4. Are the conventions of language (grammar,
usage, and mechanics) generally followed? 5. Is the word choice
precise, varied, and appropriate?
Here's a simple way to understand these five requirements. The
essay is scored on organization, essay focus to the prompt and
how well the ideas are developed and supported. The essay is
also scored on appropriate English mechanics such as grammar,
punctuation, along with word choice and sentence structure.
However, the most important measure is organization, focus to
the main prompt, and idea development.
Prompts differ from test to test, cover topics of general
interest and are not released in advance of the test. Here's an
example of a prompt:
'What is your most important reason for obtaining the GED
credential? How do you think it will help you achieve a goal in
the next year? In your essay, identify your most important
reason for obtaining the GED and the most important goal you
plan to achieve with it. Explain your point of view and support
your goal, using your own experience, background and knowledge
to support your essay.'
So, what's the best way to prepare for the essay test? Practice.
To best prepare, practice writing two-page essays in the
45-minute time period. Ask for critique and guidance to
determine how well your essays are organized, focus on a
particular subject and explore ideas that support your main
topic. You'll also want to know that your grammar and use of
English mechanics are sound.
The American Council on Education, the national administrative
agency for the GED, provides information online about testing,
official test sites, GED scores, example test questions and GED
More detailed testing advice is available about the GED test,
including the essay exam and scoring at http://www.passGED.com/.
Official GED test site information is available at