Social Studies Essay Practice Question

The GED Social Studies essay question was eliminated on March 1, 2016. For Social Studies practice questions visit our GED Social Studies page.

Let’s put your essay-writing skills to the test with this sample prompt! Before you read the directions and the prompt, keep in mind that your goals for the “Extended Response” sections include:

  • Effectively managing your time in 25-minutes
  • Planning a well-organized five-paragraph essay with a strong thesis
  • Connecting your ideas with transition words and phrases
  • Using specific examples from the documents to support your position
  • Proofreading and correcting obvious spelling and grammatical errors

Be sure to give yourself five-minutes to read everything and plan out your essay before you begin. All set? Let’s get started! 

This excerpt is from George Washington’s Farewell Address in 1796:

“The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.”

This excerpt contains selections from President Harry Truman’s address before a joint session of Congress on March 12, 1947:

“The gravity of the situation which confronts the world today necessitates my appearance before a joint session of the Congress. The foreign policy and the national security of this country are involved.

One of the primary objectives of the foreign policy of the United States is the creation of conditions in which we and other nations will be able to work out a way of life free from coercion. This was a fundamental issue in the war with Germany and Japan. Our victory was won over countries which sought to impose their will, and their way of life, upon other nations.

To ensure the peaceful development of nations, free from coercion, the United States has taken a leading part in establishing the United Nations, The United Nations is designed to make possible lasting freedom and independence for all its members. We shall not realize our objectives, however, unless we are willing to help free peoples to maintain their free institutions and their national integrity against aggressive movements that seek to impose upon them totalitarian regimes. This is no more than a frank recognition that totalitarian regimes imposed on free peoples, by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundations of international peace and hence the security of the United States.

I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.

I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way.

I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes.

The free peoples of the world look to us for support in maintaining their freedoms. If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world — and we shall surely endanger the welfare of our own nation. Great responsibilities have been placed upon us by the swift movement of events. I am confident that the Congress will face these responsibilities squarely.”

In your response, develop an argument about how President Truman’s stance on American foreign policy reflected a departure from George Washington’s suggestions made 150 years earlier. Incorporate relevant and specific evidence from both excerpts, and your knowledge of the enduring issue and circumstances surrounding American foreign policy to support your analysis.


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