Language Arts, Reading Exam Overview: GED Test Prep (page 2)
In this article, you will learn all about the GED Language Arts, Reading Exam, including what kind of questions and reading passages to expect.
What to Expect on the GED Language Arts, Reading Exam
The GED Language Arts, Reading Exam tests your ability to understand both literary and nonfiction texts. You will be asked to read these texts and then answer 40 multiple-choice questions about those passages. One quarter (25%) of those questions will be based on nonfiction passages; the other 75% will be based on literary texts, including stories, poems, and plays. You will have 65 minutes for this exam.
Types of Passages
The reading passages on the GED, except poems, are typically between 300–400 words. Most of the passages will be excerpts from larger works. Each exam will include:
- one poem of 8–25 lines
- one excerpt from a play
- one commentary on the arts (most likely about a visual art experience, such as a film, museum exhibit, or painting)
- one business-related document (such as an excerpt from an employee manual)
- one or more excerpts from fiction (novels and short stories) and nonfiction prose (essays, editorials/articles, autobiography/memoir)
The passages include literature from a wide range of historical periods and literary movements. You can expect texts from three different time periods:
- pre-1920 (ancient and classical literature)
- 1920–1960 (modern literature)
- 1960–present (contemporary literature)
The passages on the GED Language Arts, Reading Exam are also carefully chosen to reflect the rich diversity of writers and themes in literature. For example, your test may include a poem by a American Indian man, an excerpt from a story by a Chinese-American woman, and an excerpt from a play about civil war in Africa.
Technically, the term literature means any written or published text. This can include everything from a classic such as Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn to your latest grocery shopping list. Of course, most of us don't curl up next to a warm fire with our favorite shopping list or give a computer manual to a friend as a birthday gift. These texts serve a function, but they do not necessarily provide us with the pleasure of a literary text.
Literary texts are fundamentally different from functional texts. Literary texts are valued for:
- the message they convey
- the beauty of their forms
- their emotional impact
While a functional text may have a practical message and convey important or useful information, it does not typically convey a message about values or human nature as literary texts do. A functional text also usually follows a standard format and has little emotional impact.
One generally thinks of fiction (invented stories) when thinking of literary texts, but literary texts can also be nonfiction (true stories). For example, Maya Angelou's autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is literary, not functional, although it is the true story of her life. Similarly, "The Knife," an essay by Richard Selzer, describes his true experiences and reflections as a surgeon. His amazement at the beauty and complexity of the human body and the beauty of his descriptions and style make it unquestionably a literary text.
Seventy-five percent of the passages on the GED Language Arts, Reading Exam are described as "literary" and 25% as "nonfiction." Of course, nonfiction texts can also be literary. The nonfiction referred to here is the commentary on the arts and the business-related documents. Each exam will have between seven and nine passages, with four to six questions for each passage. Five to seven of those passages will be literary (one or more poems, excerpts from plays, and excerpts from stories or novels, and possibly one or more excerpts from literary nonfiction text such as autobiographies or essays). Two to three of those passages will be functional nonfiction (commentary and business documents).
Types of Questions
There are four types of multiple-choice questions on the GED Language Arts, Reading Exam:
- Comprehension questions (20%) test your basic understanding of what you read. They may ask you to restate information, summarize ideas, identify specific facts or details, draw basic conclusions about the information presented, or identify implications of the ideas you have just read about. For example, question 1 from the pretest is a comprehension question:
- the poet.
- the speaker.
- an eagle.
- a man on a mountain.
- the reader.
- Analysis questions (30–35%) test your ability to break down information and explore relationships between ideas (e.g., a main idea and a supporting detail); distinguish between fact and opinion; compare and contrast items and ideas; recognize unstated assumptions; identify cause and effect relationships; and make basic inferences. For example, question 7 from the pretest is an analysis question:
- he wants to die.
- he hopes it will help him forget.
- he thinks he is invincible.
- he hopes it will get him another promotion.
- he wants Kathy to think he is brave.
- Synthesis questions (30–35%) ask you to develop theories and hypotheses about the texts. In terms of reading comprehension, this is essentially an extension of the inference-making skill. Questions may ask you to determine the author's purpose or intent, infer cause and effect, infer how the author or a character feels about a related issue, or determine the effect of a particular technique. For example, question 3 from the pretest is a synthesis question:
- make the reader feel as lonely as the eagle.
- paint a detailed picture of an eagle on a mountain.
- convey the magnificence and power of eagles.
- convince the reader to get involved in saving endangered species.
- tell a story about a special eagle.
- Application questions (15%) ask you to use the ideas from a passage in a different context. For example, question 5 from the pretest is an application question:
- The World Wildlife Fund
- National Human Rights Organization
- International Mountain Climbers Club
- The Vegetarian Society
The "he" that the speaker refers to in the poem is
After he extends his tour, John Wade sometimes "went out of his way to confront hazard" (lines 23–24). He does this because
The poet's goal is most likely to
If the poet could belong to a contemporary organization, which group might he join?
Doing well on the GED Language Arts, Reading Exam requires both solid reading comprehension skills and an understanding of the types and elements of literature. The rest of the chapters in this section will review reading comprehension strategies, the elements of each of the types of passages you will find on the exam, and specific tips for understanding each kind of text.
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