GED Essay Tips

Although most of the GED Reasoning Through Language Arts (RLA) exam is multiple-choice, there is an “Extended Response” portion, which will require you to write a short essay in response to one or more pieces of text. The text will present a viewpoint or multiple viewpoints on a topic. You must carefully read all the viewpoints given, and consider which argument you believe is the best supported, or, if only one argument is provided, how the author makes his argument in a convincing or unconvincing manner. “Extended Response” essays appear in the Reading, Science, and Social Studies sections of the GED, but the RLA essay will be the longest.

Your major task in this essay is to analyze. Convey to the reader you can comprehend source material, and interpret it clearly, and then communicate your own ideas about your interpretation. Quick tips to do well:

  • Use multiple paragraphs, don’t just lump your entire essay together!
  • Use transition words to show the reader the sequence of events you are discussing
  • Use correct spelling and proper grammar
  • Vary your sentence structure and try to use high-level vocabulary words
  • Stay on topic!

You will have 45 minutes total in which to write your essay. There are three areas in which your essay will be evaluated:

  • Analysis of Arguments and Use of Evidence
  • Development of Ideas and Organizational Structure
  • Clarity and Command of Standard English Conventions

That may seem a bit intimidating, but you more than likely already have these skills! Since you have 45 minutes, you must make sure you break down the timing into easily manageable chunks. Try using these guidelines:

  • PLAN – 10 minutes to read the source material and organize your essay
  • PRODUCE – 30 minutes to write a 5-paragraph essay
  • PROOFREAD – 5 minutes to re-read what you wrote and make necessary changes and improvements

Remember, since you are typing your essay on the computer screen, proofreading and editing will be much faster than if you were reading over a handwritten essay! 5 minutes may not seem like a lot of time, but you should be able to read the entire essay over at least once and correct any obvious spelling or grammatical mistakes.

Pro-tip: Don’t start writing your essay unless you have every paragraph planned out!

Since the GED RLA extended response is graded by the ACS (Automated Scoring Engine), it is relatively easy to score well if you have excellent organization using a good template. Here’s a few quick clarity tips to help you score as highly as possible on the GED RLA Extended Response:

Paragraph 1 – Introduction

Start with a 1-sentence general statement on the topic. Show you understand the argument/s by identifying the topic and its relevance, and then present your thesis statement, or the major claim you are making in regards to the arguments.

Paragraphs 2, 3, and 4 – Body Paragraphs

When you planned your essay, you should have come up with your thesis, and carefully laid out three major reasons why your position is correct. Try to use specific examples to support your point of view. Each body paragraph should only focus on 1 idea, and the 1-2 examples that support that idea. Try to keep the paragraphs between 4-6 sentences so they are succinct, direct, and clear. Avoid excessive wordiness. Sometimes more is not always better!

Paragraph 5 – Conclusion

Take 2-3 sentences to wrap up your thoughts, reiterating the correctness of your thesis, and perhaps leaving the reader with an idea of WHY they should give more consideration to the topic.

Don’t worry about choosing “wrong.” It doesn’t matter which side you choose, just be sure you can quote specific examples from the source texts to support your position!

Now you can review our sample prompt and practice writing an essay!

GED Essay Prompt >>