Writing Exam Overview: GED Test Prep (page 5)
To prepare effectively for the GED Language Arts, Writing Exam, you need to know exactly what the test is like. This article explains the structure of the exam, including the types of questions and passages you will see on the test.
What to Expect on the GED Language Arts, Writing Exam
As you know, the GED Language Arts, Writing Exam has two parts. Part I consists of 50 multiple-choice questions that measure your knowledge in four key writing areas:
- sentence structure—30%
You will have 75 minutes to complete this part of the test. Each question will have five options; only one will be correct.
Because there's a lot more to writing an effective essay than good grammar or logical organization, and because effective writing is essential if you are to succeed in college or in the workplace, the GED Language Arts, Writing Exam also includes an essay. Part II consists of one essay topic. You will have 45 minutes to write an essay in response to that prompt.
A lot of people are intimidated by essay exams. After all, you are being asked to write well under pressure, and if you don't pass the essay exam, you don't pass the GED Language Arts, Writing Exam. But there is some good news about this part of the GED Language Arts, Writing Exam. For one thing, the essay doesn't have to be long. In fact, because you have only 45 minutes, you are only expected to write about five paragraphs. (In contrast, most college-level essays are expected to be at least three to five pages!) For another, you are given only one essay prompt. That means you don't have to spend any time deciding which question to answer. You only have to decide how you will answer that question.
In addition, no matter what writing prompt you get, you will be able to answer the question. All of the essay topics are general enough for anyone to write about. None of them will require you to have any kind of specialized knowledge or experience.
If you finish your essay in less than 45 minutes, you can return to Part I for the remainder of the test time. This can give you the opportunity to double-check your answers, especially those where you guessed at the answer.
Questions in Context
Unlike many other standardized English exams, the questions on Part I of the GED Language Arts, Writing Exam do not test writing knowledge and skills in isolation. Instead, all questions are asked in context. You may be used to seeing grammar or usage tests with questions like the following:
Identify the correct spelling of the word below:
On the GED Language Arts, Writing Exam, however, each question refers to specific words, sentences, or paragraphs taken from a complete passage. All of the questions in the pretest use this format, and you can expect all of the questions in Part I to look like this as well:
Sentence 8: Be sure to be honest and not embellish the truth in you are resume.
Which correction should be made to sentence 8?
- Change Be sure to Make it sure.
- Insert a comma after honest.
- Change honest to honesty.
- Replace you are with your.
- Change be honest to being honest.
(The correct answer for both examples is d.)
To answer this kind of question, you will often need to read and understand the entire sentence and often surrounding sentences as well. A smaller portion of the questions will require you to read and understand the surrounding paragraphs in order to select the correct answer. You may also need a sense of the author's purpose and writing strategies. This is especially true of revision questions that ask you to find the best place for sentences or decide the best place to start a new paragraph.
Kinds of Passages
On Part I of the GED Language Arts, Writing Exam, questions will be drawn from reading passages that are between 200–300 words and 12–22 sentences long. Most passages will have three to five paragraphs. Part I will have three different types of reading passages:
- informational, with topics such as home computers, recreational activities, historical events, family matters, health, and careers
- business communications, such as memos, letters, reports, meeting minutes, e-mails, applications, and executive summaries
- how-to documents that provide directions or instructions on matters such as finding a job, acing an interview, buying a computer, choosing a college, etc.
Types of Multiple-Choice Questions
The questions on Part I will be one of three types: correction (45%), revision (35%), and construction shift (20%).
- Correction. These questions will present you with a sentence (or sentences) and ask you to identify the correction that should be made to the sentence(s). Correction questions test your editing skills: how well you can correct errors in sentence structure, usage, and mechanics. These questions are typically worded like this:
- Revision. These questions will also present you with a sentence (or sentences) and ask you to identify the revision that should be made to the sentence(s). To revise means to look at something again (to reexamine) in order to improve it or amend it. This is quite different from editing for grammatical mistakes. Revision questions will focus on changes that clarify ideas rather than correct errors. Revision questions will also deal with improving organization, fluency, and overall impact. Revision questions are typically worded like this:
- Construction shift. These questions will present you with a sentence (or sentences) with part of the sentence(s) underlined. You will be asked to identify the best way to rewrite the underlined portion of a sentence or the best way to combine sentences. These questions may be a matter of editing or revision. For example, connecting two sentences properly may correct a sentence fragment. Construction shift questions are typically worded like this:
Which correction should be made to sentence 4?
The most effective revision of sentence 3 would begin with which group of words?
Which revision should be made to the placement of sentence 9?
Which is the best way to write the underlined portion of the sentence? If the original is the best way, choose option a.
Which is the most effective combination of sentences 2 and 3?
Types of Essay Prompts
Part II of the GED Language Arts, Writing Exam is, of course, the essay. The test will include one writing prompt—a topic and direction for your essay. The prompts are designed to be general enough for all test candidates to respond in a short (200–300 word) essay that explains or describes an idea, situation, or experience. (In other words, you should write a factual piece based upon your own opinions, knowledge, and experiences, not a fictitious story.)
The essay prompt on Part II will typically be one of three types:
- A narrative prompt that asks you to describe an experience and why it is significant to you. Here's an example:
- A persuasive prompt that asks you to take a position on an issue and explain why you have taken that position. Here's an example:
- An expository prompt that asks you to explain or describe your response to a specific situation or question. These topics can vary widely. Here is an example:
Sometimes events take an unexpected turn and things turn out differently than we imagined. Tell about a time when something unexpected happened to you. In your essay, describe what was supposed to happen and how things actually turned out. Use supporting details throughout your essay.
The Internet includes many websites with images and content that are inappropriate for children. Other sites on the Internet promote violence or intolerance against certain groups of people. Should websites like these be censored? In your essay, state your position on this issue and explain why you take that position. Use your personal observations, experiences, and knowledge to support your essay.
Our relationship with our neighbors is very important. Sometimes these relationships are the source of great joy in our lives; other times, they can be the source of great trouble. In your opinion, what makes a good neighbor? In your essay, identify the characteristics of a good neighbor and explain why these characteristics are important for people living side by side. Use your personal observations, experiences, and knowledge to support your essay.
The importance of responding accurately to the prompt cannot be understated. If you do not write on the assigned topic, you will not receive a score for the essay exam.
How the Tests Are Scored
You will receive one point for each correct answer on Part I. Part II is scored on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 6 (highest). The ACE uses a special formula to combine these scores and then convert them to the standard 200–800 scale. Thus, you will receive one score for both parts of the GED Language Arts, Writing Exam. Individual essay scores are not reported. For the combined score, the multiple-choice results represent 65% and the essay represents 35%
Part II, the essay, is scored by two independent readers. The scores of the independent readers are combined and averaged.
The essay is graded holistically, which means that the readers assess the essay's overall effectiveness, not just its grammatical correctness. You can still earn a high score if you have a few comma splices or misspelled words (after all, you aren't allowed to use a dictionary). If your essay
- has a clear main idea
- maintains focus
- develops its ideas
- provides strong support
- is logically organized
- adheres to the conventions of standard written English
you are well on your way to a passing score.
While scoring an essay is far more subjective than correcting a multiple-choice exam, the ACE has developed a detailed scoring rubric to guide readers through the essay scoring process. This rubric lists the specific criteria that an essay should meet for each score.What follows is a scoring rubric modeled after the official scoring guide for Part II of the GED Language Arts, Writing Exam. Be sure to review the scoring guide carefully. The more you know about what is expected of your essay, the better you will be able to meet those expectations.
Sample Essay Scoring Rubric
The essay exam is scored on a four-point scale from 4 (high) to 1 (low). The four levels of writing are:
- 4. Effective
- 3. Adequate
- 2. Marginal
- 1. Inadequate
The overall evaluation will be based on the following five areas:
- Response to the assigned topic
- Organization of the essay
- Demonstration of the development and details
- Conventions of language (grammar, usage, mechanics)
- Word choice
A "4" Essay
- presents a well-developed main idea and a clear focus that responds to the assigned prompt
- exhibits a logical and clear organizational plan
- offers support that is specific, substantive, and/or highly illustrative
- consistently follows sentence structure and the conventions of Edited American English (EAE)
- exhibits accurate, diverse, and appropriate word choice
A "3" Essay
- uses the writing prompt to establish a main idea
- exhibits a sufficient organizational plan
- demonstrates a reasonably focused development with some relevant details and examples
- generally controls sentence structure and the conventions of Edited American English (EAE)
- exhibits appropriate word choice
A "2" Essay
- responds to the prompt, but the focus may shift
- exhibits some indication of organizational plan
- demonstrates some development, but details and examples may be redundant or generalized
- exhibits inconsistency in sentence structure and the conventions of Edited American English (EAE)
- exhibits a narrow range of word choice, frequently including inappropriate choices
A "1" Essay
- lacks a clear purpose or presents more than one purpose
- shows evidence of insufficient organizational plan
- is significantly underdeveloped or offers inadequate or inappropriate support
- exhibits minimal or no control of sentence structure and the conventions of Edited American English (EAE)
- exhibits weak or inappropriate word choice
A "0" score will be given to essays that are blank, illegible, or develop a topic other than the one assigned in the prompt.
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