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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 difficulty and improve scoring.
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 writing test.
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 development?
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 good 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.
Additional Resources
— The American Council on Education, the administrative agency for the GED, provides information about testing, official test sites, GED scores, example test questions and GED transcripts.
— More detailed testing advice is available about the GED test, including the essay exam and scoring at The website also provides a short movie, with answers to the most common questions about the GED, at

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