GED Test Subject Specifications

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Content Area: Reasoning Through Language Arts (RLA) 

In alignment with college and career readiness standards, the GED® RLA assessment focuses on three essential groupings of skills: 

  • The ability to read closely.
  • The ability to write clearly.
  • The ability to edit and understand the use of standard written English in context.

Because the strongest predictor of career and college readiness is the ability to read and comprehend complex texts, especially nonfiction, the RLA Test includes texts from both academic and workplace contexts. These texts reflect a range of complexity levels in terms of ideas, syntax and style. The writing tasks, or Extended Response (ER) items, require test-takers to analyze given source texts and use evidence drawn from the text(s) to support their answers.

Given these priorities, the GED® RLA Test adheres to the following parameters:

  • Seventy-five percent of the texts in the exam are informational texts (including nonfiction drawn from the science and the social studies as well as a range of texts from workplace contexts); 25 percent are literature. 
  • The texts included in the test cover a range of text complexity, including texts at the career- and college-readiness level. 
  • For texts in which comprehension hinges on vocabulary, the focus is on understanding words that appear frequently in texts from a wide variety of disciplines and, by their definition, are not unique to a particular discipline. 
  • U.S. founding documents and the “the Great American Conversation” that followed are required texts for study and assessment. 
  • The length of the texts included in the reading comprehension component of the test vary between 450 and 900 words. 
  • Roughly 80 percent of the items are written to a Depth of Knowledge cognitive complexity level 2 or higher. 
  • Reading and writing standards, such as those found in the Common Core State Standards, will also be measured in the GED® Social Studies Test, and the reading standards will be measured in the GED® Science Test.

Reading Comprehension 

The reading comprehension component of the GED® RLA Test is intended to measure two Common Core State Standards: 

Determine the details of what is explicitly stated and make logical inferences or valid claims that square with textual evidence; and

Read and respond to questions from a range of texts that are from the upper levels of complexity, including texts at the college and career ready level of text complexity.

Candidates are asked to determine the main idea, the point of view, the meaning of words and phrases and other inferences and claims. They are asked to do so based on texts that span a range of complexity, including texts at the college and career readiness level.


The writing component integrates reading and writing into meaningful tasks that require candidates to support their written analysis with evidence drawn from a given source text(s) of appropriate complexity provided in the test. The writing component of the GED® RLA Test is intended to measure two Common Core State Standards:

  1. Draw relevant and sufficient evidence from a literary or information text to support analysis and reflection; and
  2. Use technology to produce writing, demonstrating sufficient command of keyboarding skills.

Candidate responses are scored by a multi-trait rubric that focuses on three elements:

  • Trait 1: Analysis of Arguments and Use of Evidence
  • Trait 2: Development of Ideas and Structure
  • Trait 3: Clarity and Command of Standard English 

Language Conventions And Usage

The language component measures a candidate’s ability to demonstrate command of a foundational set of conventions of standard English that have been identified as most important for college and career readiness by higher education instructors.   This core set of skills includes essential components of grammar, usage, capitalization and punctuation. The GED® RLA Test includes editing items in an authentic context in which highlighted words or phrases appear in dropdown menus offering alternatives, which include a clear best choice alongside common errors or misconceptions.  

Content Area: Mathematical Reasoning 

The GED® Mathematical Reasoning Test focuses on two major content areas: quantitative problem solving and algebraic problem solving.  It focuses on the fundamentals of mathematics in these two areas, balancing procedural skill and fluency and the ability to apply these fundamentals in realistic situations. A variety of item types are used in the test, including multiple-choice, drag-and-drop, hot spot and fill-in-the-blank. 

Approximately 45 percent of the content in the test focuses on quantitative problem solving, and approximately 55 percent focuses on algebraic problem solving.

Candidates are provided with an on-screen calculator, the Texas Instruments TI-30XS Multiview scientific calculator, for use on most of the items on the 2014 GED® Mathematics Test.

Content Area: Science

The GED® Science Test focuses on the fundamentals of science reasoning, striking a balance of deeper conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency and the ability to apply these fundamentals in realistic situations. Each item on the Science Test is aligned to one science practice and one content topic.
The Science Test also focuses on three major content domains:
  • Life science 40%
  • Physical science 40%
  • Earth and space science 20%
Several different item types are used in the test, including multiple choice, short answer, drag-and-drop, hot spot and fill-in-the-blank. 

Content Topics

The science content topics describe key concepts that are widely taught in a variety of high school-level courses and are relevant to the lives of GED® test-takers. The content topics are designed to provide context for measuring the skills defined in the science practices. The science practices maintain a close relationship with the science content topics. 

Focusing Themes

These themes have been selected to ensure that the test covers a wide range of important scientific topics, but they are also intended to draw focus to a distinct subset of ideas within each content topic. Items from any of the three content domains of life science, physical science, and Earth and space science can pertain to one of these two themes. 

  1. Human Health and Living Systems pertains to material that is vital for the health and safety of all living things on the planet. Topics explored in this area of focus include the physical body and characteristics of humans and other living things. System of living organisms and related topics (e.g. diseases, evolution, and heredity) are also covered. This crosscutting concept also examines the mechanisms for how the human body works on chemical and physical levels. Within the domain of Earth and space science, topics are focused on how the environment affects living things and human society, as well as on how humans and other organisms affect the environment.
  2. Energy and Related Systems deals with a fundamental part of the universe. Topics in this area of focus cover sources of energy, transformations of energy and uses of energy. Within the domain of life science, this theme is reflected in content exploring how energy flows through organisms and ecosystems. Similarly, the Earth’s geochemical systems are touched upon in Earth and space science. Topics related to how humans gain energy in their bodies and the results of the use of that energy are also relevant. 

Content Area: Social Studies

The GED® Social Studies Test focuses on the fundamentals of social studies reasoning, striking a balance of deeper conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and the ability to apply these fundamentals in realistic situations. Each item on the Social Studies Test is aligned to one social studies practice and one content topic. 
The Social Studies Test will also focus on four major content domains:
  • Civics and government 50%
  • United States history 20%
  • Economics 15%
  • Geography and the world 15%
Several different item types are used in the test, including multiple choice, drag-and-drop, hot spot and fill-in-the-blank. Additionally, the Social Studies Test features one extended response task that requires test-takers to analyze arguments and use evidence found within brief excerpts from primary and secondary source texts.

Content Topics

The social studies content topics describe key concepts focusing on American civics and government. The content topics for the Social Studies Test focus on two main themes, each applied across the four domains in the social studies arena (i.e. civics and government, U.S. history, economics and geography and the world). 

  1. Development of Modern Liberties and Democracy, the first theme, explores the development of current ideas about democracy as well as human and civil rights from ancient civilizations to the present. It examines contemporary thinking, policies and structures, major events that have shaped our democratic values and major thinkers who contributed to American ideas of democratic government.
  2. Dynamic Responses in Societal Systems, the second theme, explores how the systems, structures and policies that people have created respond to each other, conditions and events. For example, societies and civilizations have developed and changed in response to particular geographic features and natural events. National economies respond to both governmental policies and natural laws of economics—such as supply and demand—around which policies are built. Similarly, countries respond to both internal and external changes and challenges in ways that are beyond the ability of any one person to control.