Reading and Writing on the GED® Test

After the math test, reading and writing are the biggest subjects most high school equivalency test-takers worry about. But passing the reading and writing tests is doable! You just need to know what to expect and to spend some time practicing.

The first thing to know is that you may be able to take one of two high school equivalency tests: the GED test or the HiSET exam. Which ones are available depends on what state you live in. Although these tests are similar, the reading and writing portions are each a little different.

Click here for a free online practice test for all the high school equivalency tests.

The GED Reasoning Through Language Arts Test

The GED test includes both reading and writing in one test, called Reasoning Through Language Arts.

On the reading portion, you'll need to read several passages, including non-fiction, plays, and fiction, and answer questions about them. If you have some problems with English grammar and can't always find the right word, that's okay! It's not going to affect this part of the test. You just need to be able to read the passage and understand what's going on.

There will also be writing drop-down questions. These questions test your language knowledge. You’ll need to choose the best option to complete sentences. You’ll need some language skills, like spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. Because the computer-based test uses drop-downs, you can select each answer and read the whole sentence to make sure it sounds right.

The part that worries most students is the GED essay, called an Extended Response. In the Extended Response, you’ll read one or two passages. Then, you’ll need to write an essay about them, using evidence from the passages.

Your essay is graded on organization, how well you stay on topic, and how well you develop your ideas. You’ll also be scored on grammar, punctuation, your choice of words, and sentence structure.

The HiSET Reading and Writing Subtests

The HiSET exam also includes reading and writing, but they are on separate tests. On the reading test, you’ll find both fiction and nonfiction passages. You’ll answer several multiple choice questions about each passage. There will be four kinds of questions:

  • Comprehension: Did you understand the meaning of the passage?
  • Inference and Interpretation: Can you read between the lines to understand what’s not said directly?
  • Analysis: Can you make statements about properties of the passage: the main idea, purpose, facts and opinions, style and tone, or literary techniques?
  • Synthesis and Generalization: Can you draw conclusions comparing two passages, or connect a passage to the real world? Can you make predictions?

The writing test has multiple choice questions plus an essay. In Part I, you’ll answer multiple choice questions that ask you to edit or revise text. The questions will include organization, clarity, sentence structure, word use, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. There will be several passages with underlined parts. You’ll need to choose the best revision to the underlined part.

Part II is the essay portion of the test. You’ll read a passage and write an essay answering a question about the passage. You’ll need to include evidence from the passage in your essay. The essay is graded on:

  • Your focus on and explanation of your main idea throughout the essay.
  • Your organization of ideas.
  • Your choice of words, sentence structure, and expression.
  • Your grammar, word use, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.

Improving Your Essay Score

It’s fairly easy to improve your essay, no matter which test you take. You might have some trouble with vocabulary and grammar, but you can still improve your essay score. Practice with essay prompts and follow these steps:

  • Read the prompt. Understand what it's asking and answer it fully.
  • Make your essay organized, with a beginning, a middle, and an ending. It should focus on one main idea that answers the prompt. Have a paragraph for an introduction, one for a conclusion, and middle paragraphs with specific details.
  • Be sure you've got details that support what you're saying. Use evidence from the passage, and connect it to the main idea.
  • Use simple sentences and check your grammar and spelling.

You can improve your essay a lot with organization and supporting details. If you are less familiar with writing in English, try to be clear and use simple sentences (to avoid confusing grammar). If your essay is well organized around a main idea that answers the prompt, you should do well.

With a little preparation, you can approach reading and writing with confidence and get the score you need to move on to higher education or a better job. Don’t let worry over language skills stop you, because you can succeed.


Yvonne Vicario, Educator


GED Information