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Science Study Guide

By Leonard Williams, Personal Tutor

Are you looking for a GED science study guide because science seems difficult or abstract? It sounds hard, doesn’t it? It involves math and research and reading. The good news is, you don’t need to study anything too complex. After all, there’s a lot of science in the everyday world. This study guide will tell you everything you need to know, and you’ll get started on the fastest path to pass the GED. You’ll learn tips and tricks to learn quickly.  It won’t be too hard!

A good place to start studying is a free, online GED Science practice test to find out how you’re doing! It will help you find out what you need to study first.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Science Test 

Is the GED Science test hard?

The GED Science Test can be hard if you’re not prepared, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some quick tips on how to be prepared:

  • Study reading first. If you have trouble reading what’s on the science test, you’ll have trouble answering the questions.
  • Learn about science experiments and studies. A lot of the questions will ask you about science experiments.
  • Learn to read and understand data, tables, charts, and graphs. There will definitely be charts, graphs, and tables on the test!
  • Learn science symbols and words. If you understand the notation for atoms and molecules, measurements like kilometer or joule, and terms like momentum, it will help!
  • Practice with diagrams. A lot of science processes can be shown in diagrams. If you can understand a science diagram, that will help!

A good online prep course or GED science book should help you learn what you need to know. Then, the GED science test can be easy!

What Kind of Science Is on the GED Test?

There are two ways to think about the GED Science Test. One way is to think about areas of science. It’s broken up like this:

  • 40% Life Science. Life science covers things like cells, plants, ecosystems, and diseases. It includes science about any kind of living thing or how living things interact together.
  • 40% Physical Science. Physical science covers things like motion, technology, and energy. You can think of it as physics.
  • 20% Earth and Space Science. Earth and space science includes the planets and stars, galaxies and the universe, and systems on Earth, like the water cycle.

Another way to think about the test is to focus on the skills you need. Because there are so many areas of science, focusing on skills is a good strategy to study. The skills you need are:

  • Read, create, and understand science texts, tables, charts, and graphs.
  • Understand how science experiments and studies are designed.
  • Draw conclusions from data and evaluate other people’s conclusions.
  • Compare and evaluate multiple conclusions, sets of data, or theories.
  • Understand and use scientific theories or processes.

Focusing on these skills will help you learn quickly!

How Many Questions Are on the GED Science Test?

The GED Science Test has around 40 questions, but it might vary depending on what test you get. Expect about 16 life science questions, 16 physical science questions, and 8 Earth and space science questions. 

How Many Questions Can You Get Wrong on the GED Science Test?

The good news is that you don’t need to get every question right on the GED Test! The science test has about 40 questions, and your score will be between 100 and 200. You only need to score 145 to pass (or 150 in New Jersey). That’s about half way through the score range! The exact number of questions is different on different versions of the test, but you might be able to miss up to 20 questions on a 40 question test. It’s a good idea to aim higher, but know that you have a lot of room to make mistakes.

How Long Is the GED Science Test?

The GED Science Test is 90 minutes long with no break. That’s an hour and a half, and just over 2 minutes per question.

How Can I Pass My Science Test?

Passing the GED Science Test depends on a number of skills. You need skills in reading, math, and of course science! It’s a good idea to study reading and math first, and then try the test. That way, you’ll have some starting skills.

You don’t need to focus on understanding everything about science. Focus on learning how to:

  • Read about science and understand tables, charts, and graphs.
  • Read about and understand science experiments and studies, including seeing flaws in how studies are designed.
  • Use data to come to conclusions and compare data and evidence.

If you can do these three things, you should do well on the GED Science test!  Remember, it’s not about memorizing one piece of knowledge that may or may not be on the test. It’s about reading, evaluating, and analyzing.

Where Can I Take the GED Science Practice Test 2019?

A practice test is a great first step to see what’s on the test and what you need to study! Take a free GED Science Practice Test online today!

If you’ve already taken a free test and you think you’re ready to pass the test, it’s a good idea to also take the GED Ready first. The GED Ready is a $6 official practice test from the GED Testing Service. You can find it at GED.com.

What’s a Good GED Science Book to Study?

Here are three recommendations of GED science books to help you pass the test!

  • GED Science for Dummies by Murray Shurkyn and Achim K. Krull. This book is straightforward, easy to understand, and has practice tests to put your skills to work.
  • GED Science by Accepted, Inc. This workbook is for you if you just need a little bit of brushing up to pass the test. It’s a quick book, with less than 100 pages plus a practice test. So if you’re looking for something short and to the point, this is a good choice.
  • McGraw-Hill Education Science Workbook for the GED Test by McGraw-Hill. If you’re looking for a more traditional study guide that’s based on taking practice questions, this is a good choice. It focuses on GED-style practice questions to get you ready for the test.

A lot of the core skills on the science test are reading and math skills, so be sure you have science-based math and reading skills. You can study the reading and math GED Science skills in the Essential Math Skills and Essential Reading Skills workbooks.

Can I Download GED Science Worksheets?

Jump-start your studying with these sample Essential Skills science worksheets!

Is There a GED Science Cheat Sheet to Help Me Understand the Test?

If you want a quick and easy reference for what’s on the GED Science Test, check out our GED Science Cheat Sheet below. It gives you an overview of what you’ll find on the test.

What Are the GED Science Short Answers and Extended Response?

There is a lot of confusion about short answers and extended responses on the GED Science Test. When the newest GED Test came out in 2012, it included an Extended Response essay in social studies and short answer questions in science. The science test never had a full essay, called an extended response. In March 2016, the GED Social Studies test was updated to remove the extended response essay. On the current GED test, there is only one extended response essay, and it’s on the language arts test. 

What about the science test? Some sources say that there are no short answer questions anymore… Well, that might be some confusion because the essay was removed from social studies. The 2018 GED Technical Manual lists the following question types for science:

  • Multiple Choice. Most of the questions are multiple choice questions! If you focus on multiple choice questions in your studying, you should be okay. Multiple choice questions have four answer choices.
  • Drop-Down. Drop-down questions will ask you to choose an item to fill in a blank in a sentence or maybe an equation. This should be the most common type of question after multiple choice.
  • Drag-and-Drop. This type of question will ask you to drag an item to its correct place, maybe in a diagram, an equation, or a matching exercise.
  • Fill-in-the-Blank. These questions might ask you to complete a sentence or an equation.
  • Hot Spot. A hot spot question asks you to click on the correct answer in an image. For example, you might need to click on a part of a diagram.
  • Short Answer. Here’s it is! The short answer is still listed a question type that you might come across. This is not an extended response, so it’s not as big a deal as a full essay question. A short answer question might ask you to summarize what you read, make a hypothesis, draw a conclusion, or cite evidence from what you read. But don’t worry about it too much. If your version of the test has a short answer question, try to write the best response you can. Don’t take more than 10 minutes, but don’t leave it blank. Just answer the question in a paragraph, using full sentences. Don’t write more than you need to answer the question. You don’t need to write an essay. It’s definitely not the biggest part of the test!

Science Topics

The following science subjects are on the GED test.

1. Life Science (40%, about 16 out of 40 questions)

Life science includes:

  • The human body and health
  • Life and energy (such as food and calories, photosynthesis)
  • Energy flows in ecosystems (such as food chains, predators and prey)
  • Organization of life (such as cells, organs, body systems)
  • Molecular basis for heredity (such as DNA and genetics)
  • Evolution

As you can see, life science covers a lot of material! Don’t worry. You don’t need to know all the details. You do need to be able to read information, understand it, and answer questions. 

Practice Question

Skills: Interpret, Draw Conclusions from Data, Charts, and Graphs

A scientist collected the following data about the trees growing in a forest over 10 years. 

Which is the best conclusion the scientist can make about the change in the forest?
  • The number of pine and fir trees doubled in ten years.
  • The forest’s climate is changing to become colder, so that oak trees do not grow as well.
  • The number of evergreen trees increased, while the number of oak trees decreased.
  • The forest is getting more rainfall, which is causing the overall amount of trees to increase.

Answer: The number of evergreen trees increased, while the number of oak trees decreased.
Pine, cedar, and fir are all evergreen trees. The graph doesn’t give enough information to draw a conclusion about why the number of trees changed. There is no information about temperature or rainfall. Also, while the number of pine and fir trees increased, the increase is less than double.

2. Physical Science (40%, about 16 out of 40 questions)

The physical science on the GED test could cover any of these topics:

  • Heat, temperature, and the flow and transfer of heat
  • Chemical reactions and life processes that generate or use heat
  • Types of energy and transformation of energy
  • Sources of energy, such as the sun or fuel
  • Waves and light
  • Speed, velocity, acceleration, momentum, and collisions
  • Force and gravity
  • Work and simple machines
  • The structure of matter, including atoms and molecules
  • Properties of matter, such as states (liquid, gas) and density
  • Chemistry and chemical equations
  • Solutions, such as dissolving salt in water

Most of the time, you’ll need to know big ideas about physics, like that energy is conserved and that two sides of a chemical equation have the same number of atoms. You’ll use big ideas and science skills to answer questions.

Practice Question

Skills: Use Science Symbols; Use Science Theories and Processes

In a chemical equation, there should be the same number of atoms on each side. Choose the correct answer to complete the equation, which shows that combining methane plus oxygen creates carbon dioxide and water.
CH4 + ________O2 → CO2 + 2H2O
Choices:
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Answer: 2
A molecule, such as H20, tells you how many atoms it has in it. Water has two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. The number next to a molecule shows you how many molecules there are. On the right side of the equation, there are 2 water atoms and 1 carbon dioxide atom. The carbon dioxide molecule has 2 oxygen atoms. The water atoms each have 1 oxygen atom. On the right side, there are a total of 4 oxygen atoms. The left side also needs 4 oxygen atoms. Since an oxygen molecule has 2 oxygen atoms (O2), you need 2 oxygen molecules to get 4 atoms.

3. Earth and Space Science (20%, about 16 out of 40 questions)

The Earth and Space Science questions could include information about any of the following topics:

  • Interactions between living and non-living things on Earth, such as the carbon cycle, the water cycle, or fossil fuel
  • Natural hazards such as storms or earthquakes
  • Natural resources such as water, fuel, land, and food
  • The atmosphere and the oceans
  • Earth’s systems, such as erosion
  • The structure of the Earth, such as its core, mantle, and crust
  • The universe, galaxies, stars, and solar systems
  • The sun, planets, comets, asteroids, and moons, including the Earth and the movement of the solar system
  • The age of the Earth, including fossils, landforms, and dating Earth’s rocks

If you understand how to read about science and some big ideas about how science works, you’ll be able to answer these questions.

Practice Question

Skills: Understand Science Texts; Use Science Words and Phrases

What Is Mercury Like?
The surface of Mercury looks much like Earth's moon, and it is marked with many impact craters. Mercury has almost no atmosphere. Because it is so close to the sun, it can be extremely hot. For example, on its sunny side, Mercury can reach a scorching 800 degrees Fahrenheit. (However, Mercury is not the hottest planet in the solar system—Venus is the hottest planet.) On its dark side, Mercury gets extremely cold because it has almost no atmosphere to hold in heat and keep the surface warm. The temperature can drop down to minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Sunlight never reaches into the bottoms of some craters near Mercury's poles, which could mean that ice may be inside those craters, where there would be constant freezing temperatures.
How Has NASA Studied Mercury?
Because it is so close to the sun, Mercury is difficult to study from Earth. No humans have ever traveled to Mercury, but the first robotic spacecraft to visit Mercury was Mariner 10. It flew by Mercury in 1974 and 1975. Mariner 10 was able to take pictures of less than half of Mercury's surface. Following Mariner 10, no spacecraft visited Mercury for more than 30 years. Then NASA's MESSENGER flew by Mercury in 2008 and 2009. On March 17, 2011, it began its orbit of Mercury. MESSENGER will map Mercury by taking pictures of the planet's surface, including some areas that have not been seen before. It will also collect data on the composition of the surface rocks, and measure the heights of mountains and depths of craters and valleys. Some data collected by MESSENGER will help scientists to understand what the inside of Mercury is like. MESSENGER will let people learn more about Mercury than they ever have before.
Source: Adapted from “What Is the Planet Mercury?” by David Hitt, March 30, 2011. Available at: https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/5-8/features/nasa-knows/what-is-planet-mercury-58.html
Based on the article, which piece of information do scientists NOT know about Mercury?
  • Whether asteroids or other objects from space have crashed into Mercury’s surface
  • The effects of Mercury’s atmosphere on its temperature
  • The structure of the center of Mercury
  • The temperature range on the surface of Mercury
Answer: The structure of the center of Mercury.
The article says that Mercury has impact craters. That implies that scientists know that asteroids or other objects from space have crashed into the planet. The article also explains that, because of Mercury’s lack of an atmosphere, its temperature rises and falls sharply. The article also tells the temperature range on the surface of the planet. However, the article says that MESSENGER will help scientists understand the inside of the planet. That implies that scientists do not know what the structure of the center of Mercury is like. 

Science Skills

The science test covers the following skills in science.

  • Understand science texts
  • Interpret data, charts, & graphs
  • Evaluate experiments & studies
  • Draw conclusions from data
  • Evaluate the evidence for conclusions in science
  • Compare scientific findings
  • Use science words, phrases, and symbols
  • Understand and use science theories and processes

If you focus on learning these skills, you can pass the GED science test!

10 GED Science Tips and Tricks: How to Study for the Science Test 

The GED Science Test can be tricky if you’re not used to reading about science and looking at data. The best way to study for GED Science is to find a science program that specifically prepares you for the GED skills. Applying science skills is more important than knowing details about life science, physical science, or Earth and space science. Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Study Reading and Math

In science, you apply both reading and math. Getting background in GED reading and math first will help you with many parts of the GED Science Test, including:

  • Reading charts and graphs and interpreting data
  • Using formulas
  • Understanding evidence and logic
  • Reading science texts and understanding new vocabulary

Reading and math are foundational skills for science. It’s best to start with the foundation first!

2. Take the GED Science Practice Test

The best way to start out studying for the GED science test is to take a practice test. First, it gives you experience with the types of questions you’ll come across on the GED test. Second, it tells you what topics and how much you need to study. Next time you take a test, you’ll do better because you’re more prepared. Take a practice test now to get practice with GED science questions and find out if you’re ready for the test.

3. Study More Quickly and Effectively, Here Is How

For the science test, you need to understand some science! A lot of the test is reading and math (especially data!), but how do you get the science knowledge you need? Here’s how to learn science better:

  • Focus on science theories, formulas, how studies are designed, and how experiments are done. You want the “big idea” that will give you background to read about science topics or science texts.
  • Make and organize your own notes. The more your organize and revise your notes in your own words, the better you’ll understand. Make your own diagrams of scientific processes. Make your own outlines of the texts that you read.
  • Make sure you know the vocabulary. Science has a lot of unfamiliar words and phrases. Learning about prefixes, suffixes, and roots can help you with vocabulary. So can making flash cards or a vocabulary list of your own, in your own words.
  • Study every day, preferably before bed. If you study a little bit every day, you’ll learn quicker than studying for a large chunk once a week. If you study before you go to sleep, you’ll remember the ideas better.

4. Learn Some GED Science Formulas

Here are some useful formulas and equations to be familiar with for the GED science test. You’ll need to know how to work with data, like finding the mean, median, or range. You won’t need to memorize physics formulas, but it helps to be familiar with the physics concepts. You should also know how to use formulas to find unknown values.

  • Mean: You probably think of mean as the “average” of a group of numbers. To find the mean, add all the numbers together and divide by the quantity of numbers: Mean of 6, 4, 8, 2: (6 + 4 + 8 + 2) ÷ 4 = 5
  • Median: The median is the center or middle number when you put a set of numbers in order. If there is an even quantity of numbers, find the mean of the two center numbers. Mean of 6, 4, 8, 8, 2: {2, 4, 6, 8, 8}, the median is 6.
  • Range: The range of a set of numbers is the distance from the smallest number to the largest number. Range of 6, 1, 4, 3, 8, 3: The largest number is 8. The smallest number is 1. The range is 8 ‒ 1 = 7.
  • Distance Travelled distance = rate × time
  • Velocity (Speed) velocity = change in distance ÷ change in time
  • Acceleration acceleration = change in velocity ÷ change in time
  • Momentum momentum = mass × velocity
  • Weight weight = mass × gravity

5. Learn about Science Studies and Experiments

Get familiar with the ideas in scientific studies and experiments. Here are some vocabulary words to help you get started:

  • Theory: A science theory is an idea about how something works based on a large amount of evidence from multiple studies, such as the theory of gravity.
  • Hypothesis: A hypothesis is an idea about why something may be true. A hypothesis is not proven yet, and scientists design studies and experiments to test a hypothesis.
  • Sample: A sample is a smaller group of something that is examined to find information about the whole. A random sample that is large enough should give you good information about the whole group.
  • Variable: A variable is something in the experiment that changes. For example, a scientist tries growing two crops of corn in different soil. Because the soil is what is different between the two groups, it is called the independent variable. When the scientist tests for changes, like how high the corn grows between the two groups, that’s a dependent variable. It’s what changes depending on the experimental conditions.
  • Placebo: A placebo is a fake medicine that is given to one group in a study to see if the real medicine is effective.
  • Control Group: A control group is one group in a study that is used to compare against the experimental group. For example, a scientist might give a placebo to a control group and a new headache medicine to an experimental group. Then the scientist can compare how much headaches improved in the two groups.

6. Read the Text, Examine the Graphics

The science text is about applying your skills to the text and graphics on the text. Most of the time, the key to the answer is in the text and graphics. Try this strategy:

  • Read the question first. It will tell you what you need to look for.
  • Read the text or examine the graphic carefully. Look for the relevant information to answer the questions.
  • Read through the answer choices. Find the one that best reflects what you read about in the text or data.
  • If you’re not sure, go back to the text to check.

7. Use Good Test-Taking Skills

Test-taking is a stumbling block for some students. Here are some good habits for taking the test:

  • Stop studying! Don’t study the night before or the day of the test.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Go to bed early and wake up refreshed.
  • Eat a good breakfast, including protein and water. Make sure you’re well fed before the test.
  • Arrive early. Make sure you know where and when the test is, and arrive early so you’re not too stressed.
  • Don’t focus on worry. Focus on positive thoughts instead of worries.
  • Don’t focus on what you don’t know. Come across a question that seems totally foreign? Don’t worry! You don’t need to get all the questions right. You don’t need to get three-quarters right. There’s a lot of room for error, so just pick an answer and move on.
  • Don’t focus on other students. It’s just you and the test! Try to get in the zone.
  • Nervous? Try breathing exercises. Taking a few deep breaths and focusing on your breathing can help you get calm and get back to the test.
  • Eliminate wrong answers. If you’re not sure of an answer, eliminate all the wrong answers first.
  • Have a system for guessing. It’s important to choose an answer for every question. Have a system for when you need to guess, such as always choosing the first answer that you can’t eliminate. Having a system will give you better results than your intuition.
  • Answer every question. If there is a short answer question, do your best to write an answer. If there is a fill-in-the-blank, write something, even if it is a guess. Answer every multiple choice question. You will never lose points for guessing. It can only help!

8. Make Diagrams

Science includes a lot of processes and physical structures. Try making your own diagrams to understand some important areas of science. You can make diagrams to show or explain:

  • Photosynthesis
  • Cell Structure
  • DNA
  • The Water Cycle
  • The Carbon Cycle
  • The Structure of Planet Earth
  • The Solar System
  • Ecosystems (Energy Pyramid, Food Web, Food Chain)
  • The Nitrogen Cycle
  • The Oxygen Cycle
  • Erosion

9. Learn Your Elements!

Science symbols can be unfamiliar. You’ll almost certainly come across symbols for elements or molecules on the text, like H2O for water. Learn what the symbols for common elements and molecules are and what those symbols mean. For example, H2O means that a water molecule has two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule. 2H2O means two water molecules.

10. Focus on Evidence and Data

Evidence and data is an important part of the GED Science Test. Does the data from an experiment support the hypothesis or not? What would you conclude? You should be able to:

  • Read, interpret, and draw conclusions from charts, graphs, and tables of data
  • Compare ideas or sets of data and understand how they’re related
  • Check whether the data supports an idea or hypothesis
  • Look for trends and relationships in data in charts, graphs, and tables

Checklist: What You Need to Know to Pass the GED Science Test

To pass the GED Science test, you need to understand science topics and science skills. Here’s what you need:

Science Topics

  • Life Science
    • You need to know the basics about the human body and health, including body systems, food, disease, and medicine.
    • You need to know how to read about and understand relationships between life and energy, such as photosynthesis and fermentation.
    • You need to know how to interpret information about energy in ecosystems, including food chains and webs, symbiosis, and energy pyramids.
    • You need to be able to understand information about the organization of life, such as cells, cell division, and metabolism.
    • You need to know about heredity, including how traits are inherited and how environment contributes to traits.
    • You need to be able to read about and understand evolution, including adaptation and natural selection.
  • Physical Science
    • You need to understand energy, including heat, temperature, chemical reactions, types of energy, sources of energy, and waves and light.
    • You need to know about work, motion, and forces, including speed, velocity, acceleration, force, gravity, work, and simple machines.
    • You need to know about chemistry and living systems, such as the structure of matter (atoms and molecules), states of matter, density, balancing chemical equations, and solutions.
  • Earth and Space Science
    • You need to know about Earth’s systems and how they interact with living things, such as the carbon cycle, the water cycle, natural disasters like earthquakes, and natural resources.
    • You need to understand the Earth and its components, including the atmosphere, the oceans, processes such as erosion, and the structure of the earth (mantle, core, crust).
    • You need to know how to read and understand about the structure and organization of the cosmos, including galaxies, stars, solar systems, the sun, planets, moons, comets, asteroids, and the Earth’s history.

Science Skills

  • You need to know how to interpret and use science texts, charts, diagrams, and data, including symbols commonly used in science.
  • You need to know how to understand and evaluate science experiments and studies.
  • You need to know how to reason from data, including citing support for conclusions and drawing conclusions or making predictions.
  • You need to know how to evaluate a conclusion or theory based on data.
  • You need to know how to compare scientific findings, conclusions, or theories and interpret how they relate to each other.
  • You need to know how to use words, phrases, and symbols to express scientific information.
  • You need to know how to understand and apply scientific models, theories, processes, and formulas.

Online GED Science Classes

GED Academy provides complete preparation for the GED Test. Everyone starts at a different level, but many students can get ready in a few weeks. With about 20 or 30 hours of study, you could be ready for your GED Science Test.

You won’t just get a science course. You’ll also get complete reading and math courses that include skills you’ll need to understand science data and science texts. The science learning plan will get you ready quickly and easily, including lessons in science reading and science math. 

Here’s how it works. When you start GED Academy Science, you’ll take a GED practice test or a self assessment to see what you need to study. Based on the results, GED Academy will create a personalized learning plan just for you. The easy-to-use program will give you each online science lesson you need, right when you need it. As you move through the lessons, GED Academy will recommend the review that you need. It’s like having a personal tutor checking your work and telling you what you need to study. 

With GED Academy, you can take practice tests, track your scores, see what you’ve mastered, and track your study time. It’s a complete study system in one place, with everything you need to know.

Are you ready to get started? Take a look at how GED Academy works. 

Science Study Guide by Leonard Williams 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.

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