GED® Study Guide: Be An Active Learner

By Joy Marquez, Educator

It doesn't matter if you're studying for the GED test, the TASC test, or the HiSET exam. Odds are that you, like most high school equivalency (HSE) students, are a busy adult. Your time is precious. Whether you're paying for classes or studying on your own, you don't have the time to waste. You want a study program that will prove effective.

What makes a study program effective? Well, in a nutshell, successful study is about retaining knowledge and owning it. Learning. Not memorizing. This is what high school equivalency tests really measure: using knowledge that you own. The best way to own your knowledge is through active learning.

Learn Actively

For most people, learning doesn't magically occur by listening to a lecture or by reading a book. Most of us learn best when we're actively engaged in the learning process. There’s an old saying that goes, “Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Involve me and I will understand.” This is the core principle of active learning.

It’s really about seeing the big picture. It’s not enough to memorize individual facts so you can repeat them back for a test. You can memorize all sorts of things and still have no idea what it all means. To learn—really learn—you need to see how it all fits together.

Take math for example. In classrooms, students learn a lot of “answer getting” strategies. They often learn shortcuts rather than learning the math that will allow them to make sense of a problem. A student might learn that they can add two fractions using the “butterfly technique,” for example. Well, what happens if they need to add three fractions? Or four? The shortcut doesn’t work. The student is lost. The student is also understandably frustrated.

Learning is an active process. It’s not enough to just get the right answer. It’s more important to understand WHY a right answer is right and why a wrong answer is wrong. It’s more important to understand the process than it is to find the answer to any one question.

Learn Relevantly

You probably know people who claim to be “bad at math.” Maybe they got a D in high school algebra. Maybe they failed calculus. Yet these same people might also be a wiz when it comes to personal finance. They balance their personal budgets like a pro. They plan for expenses. They do their own taxes and never get audited. Why? Aren’t they bad at math? What’s changed?

Relevance. It makes all the difference. Numbers on a whiteboard are just numbers on a whiteboard. The numbers on your paycheck, however, might mean food, rent, or a new car stereo. When information is relevant to you, it becomes a whole lot easier to understand.

Part of active learning is bringing yourself to the problem. Find the relevance. Try to imagine ways that the information might apply to your own life. Once you can make this connection, the information becomes relevant. Once information becomes relevant, you are actively engaged. From there it quickly becomes knowledge—knowledge that you own. 

Learn Stylishly

Some people learn best by hearing. Others learn best by seeing. Some people can immediately see the logic of how something fits together. Others are better at picking out specific details. Educators call these different aptitudes “learning styles.” One student might be great with equations but struggle with word problems. Another student might have the exact opposite experience. No two people learn best in exactly the same way.

As you probably guessed, it’s important for you to discover your own learning style. Do you enjoy lectures? Or do the words you hear create images in your mind? Do you prefer to learn with your hands? Or would you rather read first and act later? Maybe you never thought about your learning style. Just by asking yourself a few questions, it's probably something you can easily identify.

Once you understand your learning style, you can use it to your advantage. When studying, convert the material to the learning style that makes you comfortable. If you prefer to listen, try reading aloud. If you prefer to visualize, try drawing a picture. If a question doesn't interest you, translate it into something that does. Whenever possible, use learning materials designed for your learning style.

Learn Essentially

While a HiSET, TASC, or GED study guide can help you prepare, it can’t focus on your individual needs. Why waste time studying things you don’t need to know? Target your learning with a personalized learning plan from Essential Education. We teach skills and concepts in the context of real-life situations. This is called situational learning. Because the material is connected to real life, it’s easier to understand.

Essential Education isn’t free, but it is cheap. What good are free online classes, if they don’t help you pass the test? If you plan to take the GED test make sure your study program has been approved by the GED Testing Service. Currently, Essential Education is the only home study course 100% approved by the GED Testing Service. We guarantee you will get what you need to pass.

Many states now offer a choice of high school equivalency tests. We give you courses for all three major HSE tests for one low price. Try each of them out and decide which test is best for you. Our online study programs are complete study systems that will make sure you're prepared for the test.

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GED® Study Guide: Be An Active Learner by Joy Marquez is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United Stated License, redistribution of this article is allowed under the following terms outlined here.