GED Practice Exam 1: GED Language Arts, Reading

Updated on Mar 9, 2011

The following test is similar in content and format to the official GED Language Arts, Reading test. Answer every question. If you are not sure of an answer, put a question mark by the question number to note that you are making a guess. On the official GED, an unanswered question is counted as incorrect, so making a good guess is an important skill to practice. We also suggest for this pretest that you ignore the time restraints of the official GED and take as much time as you need to complete each problem.

When you have completed the pretest, take a look at the detailed answer explanations and the review table at the back of the book. Be sure to use the answers and review table to help pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses and focus your studies.

Directions: Read each question carefully and determine the best answer. Record your answers by circling the answer letter choice. You may also use the answer sheet to bubble in your answer.

Note: On the GED, you are not permitted to write in the test booklet. For this pretest, practice by making any notes on a separate piece of paper.

Questions 1 to 5 refer to the following excerpt from a memoir.

"I didn't know you were going to treat the arrival of a few friends as if it was a major catastrophe," Larry explained.

"But, dear, it's so silly to invite people when you know there's no room in the villa."

"I do wish you'd stop fussing," said Larry irritably; "there's quite a simple solution to the whole business."

"What," asked Mother suspiciously.

"Well, since the villa isn't big enough, let's move to one that is."

"Don't be ridiculous. Whoever heard of moving into a larger house because you've invited some friends to stay?"

"What's the matter with the idea? It seems a perfectly sensible solution to me; after all, if you say there's no room here, the obvious thing to do is to move."

"The obvious thing to do is not to invite people," said Mother severely.

"I don't think it's good for us to live like hermits," said Larry. "I only really invited them for you. They're a charming crowd. I thought you'd like to have them. Liven things up a bit for you."

"I'm quite lively enough, thank you," said Mother with dignity.

"Well, I don't know what we're going to do."

"I really don't see why they can't stay in the Pension Suisse, dear."

"You can't ask people out to stay with you and then make them live in a third-rate hotel."

"How many have you invited?" asked Mother….

"Well, I can't remember now… if you budget for seven or eight people, I think that would cover it."

"You mean, including ourselves?"

"No, no, I mean seven or eight people as well as the family."

"But it's absurd, Larry. We can't possibly fit thirteen people into this villa, with all the good will in the world."

"Well, let's move, then. I've offered you a perfectly sensible solution. I don't know what you're arguing about."

"But don't be ridiculous, dear. Even if we did move into a villa large enough to house thirteen people, what are we going to do with the extra space when they've gone?"

"Invite some more people," said Larry, astonished that Mother should not have thought of this simple answer for herself.

—From My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell.

  1. Which word best describes the tone of this passage?
    1. severe
    2. tense
    3. humorous
    4. angry
    5. neutral
  2. What is the nature of the conflict between Larry and his mother?
    1. Larry is confused about how many people can fit in the house.
    2. Larry's mother is misunderstanding what Larry wants to do.
    3. Neither Larry nor his mother really wants any guests.
    4. Larry wants something that his mother thinks is unreasonable.
    5. The narrator has gotten confused.
  3. What is the meaning of this sentence: "We can't possibly fit thirteen people into this villa, with all the good will in the world"?
    1. If we have enough good will, we can make it happen.
    2. No matter how much we want to, we can't do it.
    3. The 13 people might fit if they were nicer.
    4. Thirteen is an unlucky number.
    5. The villa is too small, and we should move to a larger one.
  4. This passage is narrated in
    1. first person.
    2. second person.
    3. third person.
    4. fourth person.
    5. none of the above; there is no narrator.
  5. From this passage, you might infer that Larry
    1. hates his family.
    2. is rather self-centered.
    3. has no sense of humor.
    4. has many friends.
    5. is wearing pajamas.

Questions 6 to 10 are based on the following passage.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to "glorify God and enjoy him forever."

Still we live meanly, like ants; though the fable tells us that we were long ago changed into men; like pygmies we fight with cranes; it is error upon error, and clout upon clout, and our best virtue has for its occasion a superfluous and evitable wretchedness. Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.

—From Walden by Henry David Thoreau.

  1. What does the author mean when he says that he wanted "to live deliberately"?
    1. He wanted to avoid unnecessary distractions.
    2. He was trying to avoid disease.
    3. He had been depressed and was trying to get better.
    4. He wanted to know what it was like in the woods.
    5. He had no specific plan.
  2. How does the author suggest that we "suck out all the marrow of life"?
    1. by partying every weekend
    2. by letting our neighbors do all our work
    3. by shirking our responsibilities
    4. by building a cabin in the woods
    5. by living as simply as possible
  3. The word founder in the last paragraph probably means
    1. discover.
    2. establish.
    3. shipwreck.
    4. create.
    5. lose.
  4. The author's purpose in this passage is to
    1. entertain.
    2. persuade.
    3. amuse.
    4. instruct.
    5. contradict.
  5. This passage is an example of
    1. fable.
    2. essay.
    3. drama.
    4. poetry.
    5. melodrama.

Questions 11 to 15 are based upon the following poem.


A long orange knife slits the darkness from ear to ear. Flat sheets of Kansas have been dropped where the water was. A blue snake is lying perfectly still, freezing to avoid detection—no, it is the barge-road.


It's six weeks past the solstice. What is the sun thinking of? It skulks above the southern woods at noon.

Two ducks descend on the thin creek that snakes through the plain of ice.

They dream of a great flood coming to devastate this plastic geography. We can all remember other things than snow.


At dusk the east bank glows a colder orange, giving back heat reluctantly. (The sickle moon gives it back quickly.) The snake is glacier-green where an oil barge has lately churned it. Tonight unlucky creatures will die, like so many soldiers or parents, it is nobody's fault.

—From "Winter on the River" by William Meredith.

  1. What is the long orange knife referred to in line 1?
    1. a letter opener
    2. an orange peel
    3. the sunset
    4. the sunrise
    5. the moon
  2. What is the blue snake mentioned in line 4?
    1. a blue snake
    2. a strip of rubber
    3. a piece of fruit
    4. a mirror
    5. a frozen river
  3. What is the most likely meaning of solstice in line 7?
    1. the middle of winter
    2. a quiet place
    3. a bandage
    4. the previous month
    5. leap year
  4. Tis poem is written in
    1. iambic pentameter.
    2. heroic couplets.
    3. rhyming dactyls.
    4. free verse.
    5. sonnet form.
  5. This is an example of
    1. persuasive poetry.
    2. imagistic poetry.
    3. alliteration.
    4. personification.
    5. irony.

Questions 16 to 20 refer to the following excerpt.

AMANDA: [delighted, like a child] Do you realize that we're living in sin?

ELYOT: Not according to the Catholics, Catholics don't recognize divorce.

AMANDA: Yes, dear, but we're not Catholics.

ELYOT: Never mind, it's nice to think they'd sort of back us up. We were married in the eyes of Heaven, and we still are.

AMANDA: We may be all right in the eyes of Heaven, but we look like being in the hell of a mess socially.

ELYOT: Who cares?

AMANDA: Are we going to marry each other again, after Victor and Sibyl divorce us?

ELYOT: I suppose so. What do you think?

AMANDA: I feel rather scared of marriage really.

ELYOT: It is a frowsy business.

AMANDA: I believe it was just the fact of our being married, and clamped together publicly, that wrecked us before.

ELYOT: That, and not knowing how to manage each other…

AMANDA: [crossing to RIGHT of table] When we were together, did you really think I was unfaithful to you?

ELYOT: Yes, practically every day.

AMANDA: I thought you were, too; often I used to torture myself with visions of your bouncing about on divans with awful widows. [she stands behind her chair]

ELYOT: Why widows?

AMANDA: I was thinking of Claire Lavenham really.

ELYOT: Oh Claire.

AMANDA: [pushing her chair into the table; sharply] What did you say "Oh Claire" like that for? It sounded far too careless to me.

ELYOT: [wistfully] What a lovely creature she was.

AMANDA: [sitting on the RIGHT arm of the settee] Lovely, lovely, lovely!

ELYOT: [blowing her a kiss] Darling!

—From Private Lives by Noel Coward.

  1. How would you describe Amanda and Elyot's attitude toward marriage?
    1. serious
    2. committed
    3. flippant
    4. angry
    5. celibate
  2. This couple can best be described by which of the following sentences?
    1. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
    2. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
    3. Live and let live.
    4. Grab all the gusto you can.
    5. Every dog has its day.
  3. Why did Elyot and Amanda probably get divorced?
    1. They got tired of one another.
    2. They met other people that they liked better.
    3. They were never married in the first place.
    4. They were incompatible.
    5. Each thought that the other was unfaithful.
  4. This couple is most likely to
    1. be unhappy in any marriage.
    2. have many children.
    3. live happily ever after.
    4. become rich and famous.
    5. move to New Zealand.
  5. This play most likely
    1. ends happily.
    2. ends sadly.
    3. has three acts.
    4. is in Shakespearean form.
    5. has no rising action.

Questions 21 to 28 refer to the following excerpt.

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two—and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves…

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

"Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again—you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say 'Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice—what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."

"You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor…

"You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you—sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"…

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first."

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs—the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jeweled rims—just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone…

And then Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."

—From "The Gift of the Magi," by O. Henry.

  1. The couple described in this passage are probably
    1. members of royalty.
    2. ordinary working-class people.
    3. middle aged.
    4. overweight.
    5. not very religious.
  2. The description that "Della wriggled off the table and went for him" suggests that
    1. Jim was frightening his wife.
    2. Jim was late for supper.
    3. Della was eagerly excited to see her husband.
    4. Della was furious with her husband.
    5. the couple were both embarrassed.
  3. The word laboriously suggests that
    1. Jim was tired from a hard day at work.
    2. Della was making him work too hard.
    3. Jim was not very intelligent.
    4. Jim was struggling to understand.
    5. Della was pregnant.
  4. Why does Della break into tears when she opens her Christmas present?
    1. She is disappointed in the gift.
    2. She cut her finger on the wrapping paper.
    3. Jim is glaring at her angrily, ruining the moment.
    4. She knows that she is about to divorce Jim.
    5. She is deeply touched by what Jim bought her.
  5. The word ardent most likely means
    1. lovely.
    2. green.
    3. passionate.
    4. trees.
    5. late.
  6. Della and Jim would most likely
    1. hate their jobs.
    2. have divorced parents.
    3. be politically active.
    4. give generous gifts to friends.
    5. not have many friends.
  7. What has happened to Jim's watch?
    1. He lost it in a game of poker.
    2. He sold it to buy Della's combs.
    3. Someone stole it at work.
    4. Della took it to the repair shop.
    5. We are not told.
  8. This passage is an example of
    1. personification.
    2. metaphor.
    3. climax.
    4. irony.
    5. dialogue.

Questions 29 to 35 refer to the following poem.

      Mark but this flea, and mark in this,
      How little that which thou denyest me is;
      Me it sucked first, and now sucks thee,
      And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;
      Confess it, this cannot be said
      A sin, or shame, or loss of maidenhead,
          Yet this enjoys before it woo,
          And pampered swells with one blood made of two,
          And this, alas, is more than we would do.
      Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare,
      When we almost, nay more than married are.
      This flea is you and I, and this
      Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is;
      Though parents grudge, and you, we're met,
      And cloistered in these living walls of Jet.
          Though use make thee apt to kill me,
          Let not to this, self murder added be,
          And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.
      Cruel and sudden, has thou since
      Purpled thy nail, in blood of innocence?
      In what could this flea guilty be,
      Except in that drop which it sucked from thee?
      Yet thou triumph'st, and saist that thou
      Find'st not thyself, nor me the weaker now;
          'Tis true, then learn how false, fears be;
          Just so much honor, when thou yield'st to me,
          Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee.
                            —"The Flea," by John Donne.
  1. What is the narrator suggesting in this poem?
    1. He is trying to seduce a woman.
    2. He is contemplating the life cycle of a flea.
    3. Life is full of sorrow.
    4. We should not kill living creatures.
    5. Yesterday is gone forever.
  2. This poem is divided into
    1. rhyme pattern.
    2. couplets.
    3. stanzas.
    4. meter.
    5. pentameters.
  3. What three lives in one flea is the narrator referring to?
    1. The flea has sucked blood from the couple, making three lives.
    2. The narrator is speaking of a former lover.
    3. The woman is pregnant.
    4. The narrator is referring to his in-laws.
    5. The meaning is unclear.
  4. What are these living walls of Jet in the second stanza?
    1. a monastery
    2. an airplane
    3. the woman's hair
    4. the cat
    5. the flea
  5. What is the rhyme scheme in the first stanza?
    1. a, b, a, b, c, d, c, d
    2. a, a, b, b, c, c, d, d, d
    3. b, c, a, b, c, a, d, d
    4. free verse
    5. no rhyme scheme
  6. The narrator's attitude toward love is probably
    1. very serious.
    2. very casual.
    3. resentful.
    4. disengaged.
    5. descriptive.
  7. What has happened in the third stanza?
    1. nothing
    2. The narrator has given up.
    3. Someone else has entered the room.
    4. The woman has left.
    5. The woman has killed the flea.

Questions 36 to 40 refer to the following passage.

The recent level of turnover in the company has been of some concern to management, and we are anxious to address the root causes.

In the past 12 months, 17% of our total personnel have left the company for reasons other than retirement. This figure is up 3% from last year, and up nearly 5% from previous years.

Exit interviews have revealed several recurring trends in these turnovers. Almost 15% of those leaving have cited labor union agitation as a key factor in their decision to leave. Of these, more than half specifically stated that they had been bullied and harassed by fellow workers who have been trying to force them to join the labor union.

This trend must not be permitted to continue. Union agitators are certainly within their rights to lobby for increased dues and membership, but they are not permitted to use coercion on company grounds. Bullying is grounds for immediate termination, and instances should be reported to management immediately.

  1. The purpose of this passage is to
    1. investigate employee turnover.
    2. put a stop to bullying.
    3. explain the statistics of recent events.
    4. gain information on employee turnover.
    5. avoid employee absences.
  2. The word coercion in this passage most likely means
    1. to write a memo.
    2. a new job responsibility.
    3. to lose one's job.
    4. to gain cooperation by force.
    5. a promotion.
  3. According to the passage, employee turnover rates are
    1. good for business.
    2. unrelated to anything else.
    3. decreasing each year.
    4. staying about the same.
    5. increasing each year.
  4. The most important factor in employee turnover has been
    1. job dissatisfaction.
    2. union agitation.
    3. low pay.
    4. poor health benefits.
    5. It is not stated.
  5. The tone of this passage is
    1. businesslike.
    2. humorous.
    3. flippant.
    4. angry.
    5. confrontational.
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