Writing an Effective Essay: GED Test Prep

Updated on Apr 24, 2014

Part II of the GED Language Arts, Writing Exam has only one question—an essay prompt. But this test is just as important as Part I, and you must pass the essay test to pass the entire GED Language Arts, Writing Exam. This article will tell you how to write an effective essay for the GED. You will learn six steps to take during an essay exam, including how to brainstorm and organize ideas and how to write with style.

On Part II OF the GED Language Arts, Writing Exam, you will be asked to write a short essay about a general topic. You will have 45 minutes to demonstrate how effectively you can express your ideas in writing.

A strong GED essay will have these five key elements:

  1. A clear main idea (thesis). Do you have something to say?
  2. Sufficient development. Have you explained your ideas?
  3. Strong support. Have you supported your ideas?
  4. Effective organization. Have you presented your ideas and support in a logical order?
  5. Grammatical correctness. Have you followed the conventions of standard written English?

As a general guide, you will need to write about four or five paragraphs to have a sufficiently developed essay. That includes an introductory paragraph that states your main idea, two or three paragraphs developing and supporting that main idea, and a brief concluding paragraph. Your essay should be approximately 250–300 words.

General Writing Strategies

To do well on the essay, you need to have a solid grasp of general writing strategies. These strategies are those basic techniques writers use to develop a readable and engaging text. They include the ability to:

  • write in a way that is appropriate for audience and purpose
  • provide appropriate and sufficient support
  • craft effective introductions and conclusions
  • use effective transitions
  • revise for more effective writing

Audience and Purpose

Effective writing has at its core a constant awareness of and attention to audience and purpose. Good writers are always thinking about their readers: Who are they? What do they know about the subject? What prejudices or preconceived notions might they have? What will keep their attention? Good writers are also always thinking about purpose. Is their goal to teach a lesson? Provide information? Entertain? Answer a question? Convince or persuade?

Writing for Your Audience

Knowing your audience will help you make a couple of key writing decisions. First, it helps you determine your level of formality. Will you use slang or very formal language? It depends upon your relationship with your reader. On the GED, you will be expected to write for a general audience. That is, you should assume your readers are "everyday" people with a wide variety of interests and backgrounds. You will need an appropriate level of formality for this audience. Treat your readers with respect, but do not put them off by sounding too formal or pretentious. Avoid slang (too informal) or jargon (technical or specialized language). Let your writing be natural without being too informal.

Your audience also determines the level of detail and specificity in your essay. Because you are writing for a general audience and not friends, you cannot assume that readers know the context of your ideas and experiences. For example, if you are arguing that Internet sites should be censored, do not assume that readers have seen the kind of sites you are talking about—or even that they have been on the Internet. You will need to briefly describe those sites to give your readers sufficient context.

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