The GED no longer has a Writing section. Here are tips for the other sections:
The Language Arts – Writing portion of the GED has two parts. Part I is multiple choice, consisting of 75 minutes worth of questions about 6-9 documents. Part II is the essay (look for a separate guide for Part II). The questions on the multiple-choice part focus broadly on the conventions of written English, but specifically target:
- Sentence structure
- Grammar usage
- Punctuation, capitalization, and spelling
Remember that not ALL the sentences will contain errors. Some of these multiple choice questions will have an option stating that “no revision is necessary.” Carefully check that there is in fact an inherent error if you see this as an option!
Organization questions will ask about clarity of information, transitions, topic sentences, relevancy, and the order of ideas. Use the same skills you’ve developing in reading comprehension to tackle these! If a paragraph on the GED Writing is particularly long, for example, look for a natural shift in thought, as the correct option may allow for a new paragraph to begin. Sentences within paragraphs should follow logical order, starting with topic sentences. Certain questions will require you to reorganize the flow of sentences. For transition questions, always choose the transition which correctly expresses the relationship between ideas (consistent, contrasting, cause/effect, etc.).
Sentence structure questions require you to identify and correct run-ons, fragments, misplaced modifiers, and faulty parallelism. Remember that the only way two independent clauses can be properly combined in the same sentence is with a semicolon. Sentence fragments are clauses that do not express a complete thought – in this case you may need to choose the answer which adds a missing element, such as a subject, verb, or other words. Remember to watch out for coordinating conjunctions (like “and” or “but”), and make sure they are preceded by a comma. Modifiers should also be placed as close as possible to the word or phrase they modify.
Grammar usage questions explicitly test your knowledge of basic grammar rules, including verb tense, subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, etc. Pronouns must be consistent – if a paragraph begins by using “one” it cannot shift to using “you” in the next sentence. Always match pronouns to their antecedents (the word the pronoun is replacing). Pronouns must match their antecedents in number. Singular pronouns replace singular antecedents, and plural pronouns replace plural antecedents. Just like you can’t switch-up pronouns, verb tenses within paragraphs must be consistent and logical. If a verb is underlined in a GED Writing question, ask yourself: is it in the right form? Is it the correct tense for the paragraph? Does it agree with its subject? If the answer is “yes” to all three, then there is no error.
The remaining questions will be relatively easy, requiring you to identify and correct spelling errors, capitalization errors, and misuse of commas. Though a comma comes before coordinating conjunctions, when “and” is used to make a compound noun, do NOT use a preceding comma. Commas can go on either end of a phrase if the sentence still makes sense without that phrase (called an “appositive”). Remember that we only capitalize proper nouns and adjectives, titles, but NOT seasons.
Final Tip: Trust your instincts – if something “sounds” odd to you, chances are there’s a problem in the sentence. Your job is to choose the best option available. You don’t even have to identify the error, just find a choice that sounds better!