One of the most challenging parts of the GED to prepare for is the writing portion. When you’re forced to put together your thoughts into a coherent, cohesive whole, free from mistakes and lapses in logic, it can be difficult, especially on a time crunch!
There is no knowledge base or word bank that you can look over and magically come out prepared. Becoming a great writer is essentially a years-long process. Unfortunately, you don’t have that long before the next exam. But luckily, you don’t have to be a great writer to pass the writing portion of the exam. All you need to be is competent. That means:
- Stating a thesis
- Supporting your thesis with examples
- Communicating ideas clearly and effectively
- Showing an understanding for the basic rules of spelling, grammar, and syntax
You don’t have to be perfect, but you do need to be able to answer the question in essay form. To help, we’ve put together these five GED writing tips that should set you on your way.
First, Ditch The Texting Speech.
It’s common sense that an essay question is not a text message. So don’t treat it like one! Typing “u” for “you” or “ur” for “your” and “you’re” is something that happens far too often in classroom compositions, and that can carry over into testing. It isn’t that people who make this mistake are stupid. They’re just so used to sending text messages that a lot of those poor shorthand habits seep in to formal writing. The best thing that you can do to make sure this doesn’t find its way into your work is to identify your shorthand go-to’s ahead of time. If you know that you have a tendency to shorten words or sub them out with letters (like “u”), then make sure you watch for those types of words when doing a final proof of your written response before submitting. It’s a lot easier to spot individual mixups when you’re seeking them out specifically. So do a run through the text where these types of words are all that you’re looking for.
Secondly, Mind Your Homonyms.
One of the worst pieces of advice that you’ll ever hear regarding the English language is to spell things like they sound. Big mistake. And homonyms bear a great deal of the blame. Combinations like “you’re, your, yore,” “bear, bare,” and “their, they’re, there” are often used incorrectly. Page through any 500-page study guide, and you’ll see a few pages devoted entirely to existing homonyms in the English language. Here’s a pretty comprehensive list if you want to see more.
If you have trouble distinguishing the rules, it can’t hurt to give these another look in your textbook or consult with your teacher to see if she has any suggestions for how to remember certain homonyms. It’s impossible to go down the list above and learn all of them, especially in such a short period of time, but you can make great headway if you start targeting this specific language function now.
Thirdly, Make Proofreading A Priority.
Proofreading sounds so boring, especially if you’re not in love with regular reading. However, it is essential when it comes to catching mistakes. When you’re in a crunch to write an entire essay in a short amount of time, mistakes are going to happen, and the more of them you catch the better! Unfortunately, when you read something as an editor the same way that you do as a writer, you tend to see what you want to see instead of what’s actually there on the page.
One good tip we’ve picked up over the years that has helped us shift gears to editorial is this: Start with the last sentence you wrote and read back through to the beginning, one sentence at a time. This forces your eyes to slow down and see the words for what they are on the page, rather than what they are in your head.
Fourthly, Be Formal.
Just as important as being able to communicate ideas, is demonstrating that you have a command of the English language — at least enough where you can distinguish the forms of writing and place them in the right connotation. By using formal English instead of slang, you’re able to show that you recognize what the question is calling for, and that you’re able to fashion the appropriate response.
Formal No: “I gave him forty bucks to wash and detail my car, and he came back with it looking squeaky clean from the inside, out.
Formal Yes: “The service charged forty dollars for its full-service package, which included a car wash and interior detail.”
Word choice, ladies and gentlemen. It’s not just about what you say, but how you say it.
Finally, Stay Structured.
GED written response questions want more than random facts and opinions strung together to fill out a word or paragraph count. They want you to take a look at the questions, analyze it, and then present that analysis as a series of carefully worded sentences that support your main idea. To pull off that little miracle in the time allotted, you’ll need to embrace structure.
While the word itself sounds boring, it will free your mind to be creative, thought-provoking, and focused. One of the most common forms of structure used at the high school level is that of the five-paragraph essay.
In the first paragraph, the writer sets up the topic and issues a thesis statement or main idea, which will tie in to every subsequent sub-topic presented in the body.
The second, third, and fourth paragraphs, each tackle a main point that ties back in to the thesis statement and works to support the whole. Each new paragraph ends with a transition leading into the next until you get to the end of the fourth paragraph. From there, you transition to your concluding paragraph where you restate the thesis and facts that support it and leave your reader with a final statement that encourages the reader in some way — to seek answers, to think for themselves, to remember something fondly. This varies depending on the topic of the essay and how it is written leading up to that point.
Once you look beyond the length of the piece and realize that each of the middle paragraphs are set up largely in the same way, and that the introductory and conclusion paragraphs have their own functions, it becomes easier to think less about what you’re going to write and more about how you’re going to say it.
The writing portion is a good indication of your thoughtfulness as a student and your ability to recognize personal and professional situations and respond accordingly. While it may not kill your chances of performing well on the GED, it’s worth noting that students struggling with this portion of the test will probably struggle in other areas. If you feel uneasy about your chances, we suggest doing as much writing as possible before exam day.
Recreate the environment of the test. Use actual practice questions to get a sense for the types of questions asked. And while you’re at it, keep reading. After all, good writers always start out as readers, and they continue to do so throughout the entirety of their careers. Best of luck as you move forward with the GED writing test.
Written by Aric Mitchell
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For some students, writing an essay is a difficult task. The GED contains two extended response sections. Our top tips for GED writing will help you get ready for the extended responses on the GED writing exam.
About GED Writing
According to GED Testing Service, a well-crafted response to a GED writing prompt is around 300-500 words long! That equals 4-7 paragraphs with 3-7 sentences per paragraph. Writing anything less might not be an accurate representation of your skills and could result in a low score.
Writing takes place during the Extended Response portion of the GED exam. Scoring is based on how well you answer the provided prompt using basic English conventions and language. Your essay should make sense, communicate your ideas effectively and clearly relate to the prompt.
Top Tips for GED Writing
Use our 5 top tips to keep your GED writing in top-top shape!
1. Practice using real sample questions
Hundreds of GED sample questions are only a few clicks away online. Familiarize yourself with the prompt for each response. What is it asking you to do? What evidence from the text do you need to find to support your ideas? Some prompts ask you to provide a quote or cite specific evidence in your answer. Some ask you to analyze or compare passages.
Practice using sample questions like those from GED Testing Service to help hone your skills for the real test. Set a timer for 45-minutes if you want a more accurate preview of what the test will feel like!
2. Use formal language
Too often, writers slide into the language they use while texting or speaking to their friends. A GED extended response essay is not a good time to use abbreviations or slang. IMO, save that for after the test.
Essay scoring is based on the proper use of English language conventions. Grammar, sentence structure and word choice is all very important to your final score. Think about how you would speak at a professional conference or to the President of the United States – your essay writing should have the same formal tone.
3. Structure and organize your thoughts
A well-written essay is clear and concise. Help organize your thoughts by using the 1:3:1 writing rule.
- 1 opening paragraph: states your main idea by answering the question given in the prompt
- 3 body paragraphs: have three different ideas that support your main idea; one paragraph per idea. Include evidence from the text to support your ideas. Add more paragraphs here if needed.
- 1 closing paragraph: restate your main idea, making sure your answer to the prompt is clear
Begin your extended response by spending 5-7 minutes creating an outline following this structure. This format may seem awkward at first, but stick with it! It is one of the easiest ways to organize your thinking as you sit down to write your essay.
4. Edit and proofread your work
Save the last 5-10 minutes of your extended response time for proofreading! Check your writing for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes or unclear statements. Reading your paper out loud (in a quiet voice, or course) can also help catch writing errors that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
5. Type on the computer when you can
GED writing is online only. Your typing skills don’t have to be great in order to be successful on the test, but being comfortable with a keyboard certainly will help. If possible, type all your practice essays when you study. The more comfortable you are thinking and typing, the better off you will be the day of the test.
Need a little more practice on the keyboard? Sign up for some free online classes! Learn common finger positioning and key location. Skip ahead a few lessons if you just need to work on speed and accuracy.
Find other helpful writing tips and guides in our Magoosh GED blogs!
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