Test Tips and Strategies: GED Test Prep
The GED Language Arts, Reading Exam in a Nutshell
This GED Language Arts, Reading Exam consists of 40 multiple-choice questions about texts from three different time periods: pre-1920, 1920–1960, and 1960–present. Each exam will include a poem, an excerpt from a play, a commentary on the arts, a business-related document such as a memo or report, and at least one excerpt from a work of fiction. Each passage (except the poem) will be approximately 300–400 words long.
Questions will test your basic comprehension (20%) of the texts, your ability to analyze the texts (30–35%), your ability to "synthesize" (draw inferences from) ideas from the texts (30–35%), and your ability to apply information or ideas from the texts to different contexts (15%). You may be asked about the main idea or theme of a text, about a character's feelings or motivations, or the significance of a symbol. You may be asked to identify a specific fact or detail or to predict the effect of an action described or implied in the text. You might be asked about the effect of a rhetorical technique or to identify the tone of a passage.
Getting Ready for the Exam
The GED Language Arts, Reading Exam covers a lot of material. It tests your comprehension not just of functional texts but also of the many genres and time periods of literature. Between now and test time, one of the best things you can do is to read as much as possible, especially the genres with which you are least familiar. The more comfortable you are with literature, the easier it will be to understand what you read, and the more comfortable you will be at test time.
As you read various texts, remember that you don't necessarily have to like what you read. Hopefully, you will find the experience enjoyable and rewarding. But if you don't like every poem you read, that's okay. Different writers have different styles, and sometimes the writer's style and subject matter may simply not appeal to you. What matters is that you are able to appreciate the text and understand what the author is trying to say. Whether you like the writer's style or not, whether the subject matter thrills you or bores you, keep reading and developing your reading comprehension skills. You may find some authors and texts that have a profound impact on you. You might also develop a love for a genre that will last throughout your life.
Finding the Main Idea
Remember that the main idea is the thought that controls the text. What is the author trying to say? What point does he or she want to get across? The main idea may be explicitly stated in a topic sentence (for a paragraph) or a thesis statement (for a complete text). It can also be implied. In literature, the main idea is called the theme. The theme is the "sum" of all of the elements of literature, including plot, character, symbolism, tone, language, and style.
Here are some specific tips for finding the main idea:
- Remember that themes and main ideas are general and should cast a "net" over the whole passage or text.
- Consider the author's purpose. What do you think the writer is trying to accomplish with this text? Why do you think he or she wrote it?
- Try to fill in the blanks:
- This story (poem, play, essay, etc.) is about ______ (insert topic).
- The writer seems to be saying ______ (general thematic statement) about this topic.
- Try giving the text a new title that conveys the main idea or theme. What would you call the passage?
If you can support your statement with specific evidence from the text, and if that statement is general enough to encompass the whole passage, you have probably successfully identified the main idea or one of the themes of the text. (Literary texts, especially long ones such as novels, can have more than one theme.)
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