General GED Test Information: GED Language Arts, Reading (page 4)
Congratulations on your wise decision to take the General Educational Development examination—commonly known as the GED®. This decision shows that you have made some determination to advance yourself in life, to improve your education, and to widen your career choices. Perhaps you have decided to head to college to study some field that will open up new career opportunities. Or perhaps you want to advance in your present career, but need to establish your educational credentials first. These are the two most common reasons for taking the GED, but there are many others—setting a good example for your children, finding greater satisfaction in life, and so forth.
About GED Language Arts, Reading
Whatever your reason for taking the GED, you have made the right first step: picking up this book to prepare for success. As you work through the following chapters, you will learn all that you need to know to master the Language Arts, Reading section of the GED. We will show you strategies for studying, explain techniques for greater reading comprehension, and explain in detail the various types of literature and questions that you will encounter on the test. Then, you can test yourself in advance with our practice tests to pinpoint the areas where you might need more work. But the book is only as good as the use you make of it, so familiarize yourself with what is inside this book and how it is organized.
GED Test Overview
The General Educational Development (GED) exams are your key to unlocking a better future. A GED certification will open the doors to higher education, better jobs, higher pay, greater respect and prestige—it will open doors that may be locked against you at present. In fact, your decision to take the GED exam may prove to be one of the most significant decisions of your life.
And you're not alone in that decision: In 2005, more than 680,000 people took the test in the United States alone.
The fact that you are reading this book indicates that you are serious about your plans, and serious about taking—and passing—the GED examination. This book is the tool that you need to succeed on the Language Arts, Reading section of the GED. It will teach you the study skills needed to prepare for the exam, the specific information that you need to understand various types of literature, strategies that will help you immensely in both studying for the test and taking it, and several practice exams to test yourself in advance.
What Is the GED?
The GED exams originated in 1942. They were designed to provide the equivalent of high school diplomas to soldiers who had left school in order to fight in World War II. Today they are used to assess whether a person has the basic knowledge and learning skills that one acquires through a standard American public education. Most colleges and employers in the United States readily recognize and accept the GED certificate as equal to a high school diploma.
The GED exam consists of five separate tests: Mathematics; Language Arts, Reading; Language Arts, Writing (parts 1 and 2); Social Studies; and Science. The entire exam takes 7 hours! But don't let that frighten you away; you may retake any individual sections that you don't pass without retaking the entire exam.
You may be able to take the GED in French or Spanish if English is not your primary language. Contact the GED test administrators for further information.
Accommodations for Disabilities
If you have special needs from a physical or learning disability, the test center will provide special accommodations. These disabilities include such concerns as blindness, deafness, and dyslexia. Contact the GED test administrators for further information.
A Tough Exam
In 2005, more than 423,000 people passed the GED—more than 60%. Yet these statistics also demonstrate an important fact you must not overlook: The GED is hard! In fact, the GED is designed so that only 60% of graduating high school seniors can pass. It is deliberately designed, in other words, to be difficult. You do not want to sail into the test center on exam morning and take the test cold, without any practice or preparation. People who do that end up taking the exam again, and they usually learn from their first experience that they need to prepare in advance.
Each section of the GED is scored separately on a 200- to 800-point basis—800 being the highest possible score. To pass the GED, you must reach a minimum score for each test section, and a minimum overall average score for the entire test. The minimum passing score is determined by each state or province, but most set the passing level at a minimum 410 on each section and a minimum 450 overall. This means that you can score as low as 410 on some sections, but the average score of all sections must be at least 450. Contact your GED test administrators to find out what is considered a passing score in your state or province.
The GED Language Arts, Reading Section
This book is not an overview of the entire GED exam, but a specific tool to help you prepare for the Language Arts, Reading section of the exam.
The Language Arts, Reading section of the exam consists of 40 questions and takes 65 minutes. Most of this section focuses on literature, while 25% of the questions are drawn from nonliterary texts. The literature includes fiction (45% of the questions), poetry, and drama (with 15% each). Nonliterary texts include informational text (such as news articles), reviews of the arts (such as movie reviews), business documents, and literary nonfiction.
The 40 multiple-choice questions in the Language Arts, Reading section are intended to test your ability to understand and apply written material. The types of writing will reflect what you would be expected to deal with in college as well as in a professional working environment. The questions themselves ask you to understand, apply, analyze, and draw inferences from the written passages.
What You'll Be Reading
Most of the reading selections on the exam are drawn from literature, and each exam will include the following:
- drama (plays, movie scripts, etc.)
- prose fiction written prior to 1920
- prose fiction written between 1920 and 1960
- prose fiction written after 1960
The remaining 25% of the test is based upon nonfiction writing. These written passages are drawn from:
- nonfiction prose
- critical reviews of the arts, such as movies
- professional and civic documents, such as legal documents, corporate mission statements, etc.
The reading passages in the exam are not long, running between 200 and 400 words for prose and 8 to 25 lines for poetry. Furthermore, before each passage of literature, the exam includes a purpose question designed to help you focus on some central idea as you read the passage. These purpose questions will give you a hint of the types of actual test questions which will follow the passage, and will assist you to pay particular attention to certain elements within the written passage.
What You'll Be Asked
Each written passage is followed by four to eight questions. These questions will test your abilities in the following areas:
- Comprehension. Comprehension questions simply test how well you understood the passage that you were asked to read. They will measure your ability to restate information, summarize ideas, and see relationships to other ideas.
- Application. Application questions test your ability to take information from a text and see how the ideas or principles apply in real-life situations.
- Analysis. Analysis questions require you to think more deeply about a passage, to go beyond merely understanding words and ideas. You will be asked to distinguish between facts and opinions, recognize an author's basic assumptions, identify cause-and-effect relationships, compare or contrast ideas, and draw conclusions.
- Synthesis. Synthesis questions are like analysis questions, except that they apply to the entire passage rather than to selected points within the passage. These questions will ask you to explain how a passage is organized, define the overall tone of a passage, identify the author's point of view, and so forth.
Literary Time Periods on the GED
As already stated, you will encounter a variety of literature on the GED, including poetry, drama, and fiction. These will be drawn from three groups: literature written prior to 1920, literature written between 1920 and 1960, and literature written since 1960.
The reasoning behind these categories is based upon the idea that literature went through drastic changes during the twentieth century. This notion is open to scholarly debate, but for our purposes it is helpful to understand, in brief, some elements that you will find in literature from each of those periods.
Pre-1920. This time period is loosely referred to, for GED purposes, as Ancient and Classical writing. Obviously, it includes essentially everything ever written from ancient times into the twentieth century. This is quite a broad category to define in easy terms, but the writings that you will encounter from before 1920 will generally be dealing with broad themes: love, power, death, pride, and other universal concepts. You may encounter writing styles and vocabulary that seems strange, but don't allow yourself to be distracted by such things. Just read more carefully, and you will find that the central ideas of the passage will become apparent.
1920 to 1960. Literature from this period might be called Modern Literature. This is a period that saw many very significant worldwide events, including the aftermath of World War I, the trauma of World War II, and the worldwide Great Depression. Literature written during this period may seem easier to understand because vocabulary and writing styles have not changed significantly in the past 80 years. Yet you may also encounter different topics in this time period, including the conflict between Communism and Democracy; a distrust of those who hold power (such as government or industrial figures); and a new fascination with things such as psychoanalysis, the origins of mankind, nuclear power, and other modern controversies.
1960 to the Present. The literature of this period may be thought of as Contemporary Literature. It is typically written in a very informal style, using the sort of language and grammar that people use in everyday speech. In fact, it will often include specific dialects and use of slang, as it attempts to capture the thoughts and speech of certain groups of people. Contemporary Literature addresses ideas that should be quite familiar to you already, such as equal rights, feminism, the technological revolution (computers, the Internet, and so on), the environment, and so forth.
Preparing for the GED Language Arts, Reading Test
By now, you may be tempted to panic. Perhaps you've never read much poetry, or maybe Shakespeare seems incomprehensible; you might feel some anxiety about having to read and answer questions on literature from time periods that you are unfamiliar with.
The most important rule for you to remember is this: Don't panic! Anxiety is your enemy, and the truth is that you have no reason to be anxious about these issues. This book is specifically designed to prepare you for all elements of the Language Arts, Reading section of the GED, and the fact that you are reading it proves that you are well on your way to gaining mastery.
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