Most of the GED Reasoning Through Language Arts (RLA) exam is multiple-choice, but there is also one “Extended Response” question. This question requires you to write a short essay in response to two passages of text. The passages will present two different viewpoints on a topic. You must read both of the passages and then decide which argument is best supported. Your essay should include evidence from the passages that shows that one of the authors better argues the issue.
Please note that you are not to write about which opinion is correct or which opinion you believe to be true. You are only asked to analyze each passage and support an argument of which passage best supports its claims. You will have 45 minutes total to read the prompt and the viewpoints given, and to draft your essay.
Essay Quick Tips
- Use paragraphs beginning with topic sentences to separate major ideas and to better organize your argument.
- Utilize logical transition words to seamlessly move from one paragraph to the next.
- Use correct spelling and proper grammar.
- Vary your sentence structure and incorporate appropriate, advanced vocabulary words.
- Stay on topic! Produce an outline prior to beginning your essay to organize your thoughts.
Your GED essay will be evaluated across three areas:
- Analysis of Arguments and Use of Evidence.
- Development of Ideas and Organizational Structure.
- Clarity and Command of Standard English Conventions.
The task may seem intimidating, but you more than likely already have these skills! Your essay will receive three scores — one for each of the listed areas.
Since you have 45 minutes, you must make sure to effectively utilize your time; this is best accomplished by practicing essays under the same 45 minute time limit.
Rely upon these timing guidelines as you write your GED essay:
- PLAN — Spend 10 minutes reading the source material and organizing your essay response.
- PRODUCE — Spend 30 minutes writing your (ideally) 5-paragraph essay.
- PROOFREAD — Save 5 minutes for re-reading what you wrote and making necessary changes and improvements.
Remember, since you are typing your essay on the computer screen, proofreading and editing can be done much more quickly than if you were reading over a handwritten essay! Five minutes may not seem like much, but you should be able to read the entire essay over at least once and correct any obvious spelling or grammatical mistakes.
Pro-tip: Don’t start writing until you have every paragraph planned out! Outlining your argument is the best method for producing a coherent and cogent response.
Since the GED RLA extended response is graded by the ACS (Automated Scoring Engine), it is relatively easy to score well if you rely upon a good template from which to organize your essay. Here are a few quick tips regarding clarity to help you score as highly as possible on the GED RLA Extended Response:
Paragraph 1 — Introduction
Start with a 1-sentence general statement regarding the topic. Show that you understand the argument(s) by identifying the topic and its significance, and then presenting a bold and concise thesis statement; this can also be your major claim with regard to the arguments. Consider the following example thesis:
Though the first argument highlights important considerations regarding (the topic of) ________, ultimately the second argument is better supported and more convincing.
Paragraphs 2, 3, and 4 — Body Paragraphs
When you plan your essay, you should devise your thesis (choosing which side you found to be best-supported), and carefully lay out three major reasons why it is best-supported.
Use specific examples to support your point of view. Pull selections from the argument you are stating is best supported, and explain why they are good supporting examples, or why they make valid points of consideration.
Each body paragraph should only focus on one major idea, and the 1–2 selections from the passage that support that idea. Try to keep the paragraphs between 4–6 sentences so that they are succinct, direct, and clear. Avoid excessive wordiness; sometimes more is not better!
Paragraph 5 — Conclusion
In 2–3 sentences, wrap up your thoughts, reiterating the correctness of your thesis (why the argument you chose is better supported), and perhaps leave the reader with an idea of WHY they should give more consideration to the topic. You can also use the conclusion to offer a degree of concession to the other argument, perhaps admitting that there are one or two good qualities to the other argument, before reiterating that the argument you selected is ultimately better supported and more convincing.
Finally, don’t worry about choosing the “wrong” side. It doesn’t matter which side you choose, or which argument you choose to say is better-supported, just be sure that you can quote specific examples from the source texts to support your ideas!
Now, review our sample prompt and practice writing an essay!
GED Essay Prompt >>
The Extended Response section of the GED can be very intimidating. But as momma used to say, “practice makes perfect.” The more familiar you become with the writing process, the better your chances of passing! Use our practice GED essay topics to help perfect your writing skills!
How to practice for the Extended Response section
- Set a timer for 45 minutes. This is how long you have to write your essay during the actual GED exam. It is best to practice under conditions that mimic the real test.
- Whenever possible, type your practice responses. During the GED, all your essays will be written on the computer.
- Always outline your answer first. Taking a few minutes at the beginning to structure your essay can save you valuable writing time later.
- Vary your response topics. The GED asks test-takers to write on a variety of subject matter. Prepare yourself by finding different prompts that stretch your writing abilities.
- Keep in mind that successful prompts generally contain 4-7 paragraphs with 3-7 sentences each. Whenever you practice, aim for essays that are in the 400-500 word range.
- Use specific evidence from the text when writing. Doing so creates a stronger essay by showing you read and understand the information presented.
For a more in-depth view of extended responses, check out the RLA Guide for Adult Educators. This is a complete overview of how to write a GED essay, as well as how the essay will be scored. Guidelines are given so that you can follow as closely as possible to a real testing situation.
Where to find practice GED Essay topics
When looking for GED essay topics online, keep in mind that not all sites reflect updated GED information. Many sites still list pre-2014 GED requirements for written responses. Writing topics that ask you to respond with a personal opinion are no longer featured on the current GED.
A quality GED essay topic always provides 2 articles written with opposing opinions. Your task is to read both articles, then determine which opinion is best supported throughout the text. Your personal opinion is never asked for or shared in your response.
GED Testing Services
Start here first! GED Testing Service is always a great place to find quality GED essay topics. This site has 5 different reading passages. Covering a range of topics, these passages provide conflicting arguments on issues such as cell phone usage, game-based learning, parenting, internet use and hosting the Olympics. Like many essay prompts, analyze the passages, then develop an essay based on which position is best supported by the text.
GED Practice Questions
In this prompt, two articles highlight differing perspectives on police militarization. In addition to regular essay instructions, a sample response is provided for review. The sample essay is a good example of what GED essays should look like. Compare your essay with the sample to see which areas need improvement.
GED Test for Dummies
Taken directly from their book, Dummies authors present arguments for and against making cyberbullying a criminal defense. After reading both arguments, write your essay explaining which opinion is best supported. Always use specific evidence found in the text to validate your essay.
For tips on how to determine which argument is stronger, Dummies also provides step-by-step guided instruction in essay writing.
How to Pass the GED
The topics here vary from Miranda Rights to Santa Claus. For each GED essay topic, two opposing opinions are shared. You write on the one that is better represented. In addition to the prompts, the site explains the process that goes into writing a 5-paragraph GED essay for the Extended Response section.
Another bonus: essays for BOTH sides of the argument are provided. Each essay is outlined and thoroughly explained according to the site’s guidelines. For a comprehensive view of how to compose an essay, this is a great site to visit.
ACE Leon Evidence-Based Writing Prompts
Although these prompts are not framed in the true GED extended response format, they still offer a great way to practice. There are over 7 different writing topics to choose from. Because this is evidence-based writing, structures are in place to help guide your responses.
Create your own GED essay topics
If you get to a point where you can’t find any more practice writing prompts, consider making up your own. GED essay topics generally reflect current events. Find an article that expresses an opinion on any topic, and write an essay analyzing that information.
Practicing the components of quality essay writing is helpful no matter what topic you focus on. Just make sure you cite evidence from the article in your essay!
We have lots more GED information waiting for you! Check out any of our great Magoosh blogs for loads of GED tips, guides and resources.
About Beth Gonzales
Beth is an educator and freelance creative designer who devises innovative and fun-loving solutions for clients. She works with families, students, teachers and small businesses to create and implement programs, campaigns and experiences that help support and maximize efforts to grow communities who critically think, engage and continue to learn.
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