New Beginnings
Creating and Establishing an Adult Literacy Program

The GED Classroom
Instructional Strategies and Curriculum Development

Jeanni Pruitt

GED classrooms come in many shapes and sizes. There are many strategies that can be used to make learning fun and exciting. This information has been compiledin order to provide teachers with a variety of teaching strategies and techniques that will assist them in meeting the diverse needs of their students.

Every GED teacher must first assess the needs of their students, including an understanding of how each student learns best. A large number of GED students are kinesthetic learners, but there are not many hands-on activities for students in the classroom. GED teachers must incorporate a variety of activities to ensure that all students have an opportunity to learn and to be successful as they strive to meet their educational goals.

Technical schools, vocational schools, and other training programs usually require a high school diploma or the equivalent for enrollment. College and universities always require a high school diploma. Many employers will not hire someone who does not have a high school diploma or GED certificate. Future promotions and job changes will also be easier for GED graduates.

What You Need to Know to Pass the GED Test

Language Arts, Writing (Part 1 & 2)
120 minutes
50 questions + Essay
Language Arts, Reading
65 minutes
40 questions
Social Studies
80 minutes
50 questions
80 minutes
50 questions
80 minutes
50 questions

The new test will take the same amount of time as the old test - 7 hours and 45 minutes. There will be fewer questions because of the increase in graphics. There are still five content areas. Communication, reading, and viewing are the skill strands across the tests. We are in the information age, so if you cannot not process information you will not be able to pass the test. The tests also measure critical thinking and problem solving.

Incorporate critical thinking, problem solving, and organizational activities into all of your lessons. Use graphic organizers when teaching writing. There are many websites that offer students opportunities to develop critical thinking skills. Sentence strips like we use in teaching reading are good for building organizational sense. The addition of more graphics represents real life. Newspapers, bills, and advertising now use more graphics, and our students need to know how to read and process the information related to these graphics:

1. Visual Texts

(Graphs, charts, maps, photos, cartoons, figures, diagrams, and timelines)
50% of the Science test is visual
60% of the Social Studies is visual
50% of the Math test is visual

2. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

(Emphasis on higher order thinking skills)

a. Language Arts, Reading
Comprehension 20%
Analysis 30 - 35 %
Synthesis 30 - 35%

b. Social Studies
Comprehension 20%
Application 20%
Analysis 40%
Evaluation 20%

Let's Get Started

Language Arts, Writing, Part 1
75 minutes with 50 questions
Multiple Choice Section

Test Composition

1. Sentence structure (30%) You will be asked to correct sentences.

2. Organization (15%) You will be asked to restructure paragraphs.

3. Usage (30%) Usage includes correct use of nouns, pronouns, and verbs.

4. Mechanics (25%) Standard conventions of American Edited English.

Strategies and Tips

1. Instructors will need to model different types of text for their students. These types of text might include: following "how-to" documents, applying for a job, applying for a social security card, writing a memo, or even organizing a meeting. For more examples, ask students to think of various forms they have completed to request things.

2. Ask students to bring different types of documents to share with the class. Keep all of these items in a three-ring binder to share with future classes. Have your students get involved in making a reality-based folder to use in the classroom. The types of text will be presented differently in the new test. Each paragraph will be labeled with a letter of the alphabet. This emphasizes organization in the paragraph. Most students have a problem with organization when writing.

3. Use graphic organizers when teaching writing. It helps the student mentally prepare for organizing their thoughts before committing them to paper. Graphic organizers help students:

  • focus on what they already know,
  • illustrate ideas and concepts,
  • demonstrate organization,
  • increase organized thinking, and
  • demonstrate step by step procedures.

6. Teach organizational skills. Students will be asked to reorganize the labeled paragraphs on the new test. This requires the use of organizational skills. This will bridge the multiple-choice questions and the essay for the first time. Teaching the skills needed to organize the paragraphs will also help to provide students with the skills that they will need to write the essay.

7. Have students develop their own "how-to" text. This process will help them gain organizational skills that will be useful on both the multiple choice and the essay portion of the test. Try starting with simple examples such as how to make a peanut butter sandwich or how to wash clothes.

Language Arts, Writing, Part II, The Essay
45 minutes

Expository Essay

  • Students need to be able to generate, organize, connect, and express ideas.
  • No required word count - sufficient development to communicate the idea effectively
  • 37-40% of Language Arts, Writing score
  • Score of 1 must retake entire writing test (both Part 1 and Part II)

The essays are now graded on a four-point scale.

4 Effective
3 Adequate
2 Marginal
1 Inadequate

Within each four levels of the scoring matrix, descriptors have been developed for each of the criteria used to evaluate the essay.

New Scoring Rubric
There are five standards.

1. Response to the prompt
2. Organization
3. Development and details
4. Conventions of American Edited English
5. Word choice

Two readers will assign your essay a score between 1 - 4. These two scores are averaged to find your total score. An average score of 1 or 1.5 means that both parts of the GED Language Arts, Writing must be repeated.

Social Studies
70 minutes with 50 questions

Test Composition

1. History. 40% of the social studies test is on history with 12 questions on American History and 8 questions on World History.

Major events in American History include colonization through westward expansion, the U. S. Civil War, industrialization, armed conflict and global economic depression, and postwar and contemporary America.

Major events in World History include early civilizations and the great empires, world religions, feudalism through the expansion era, global age, revolutions, armed conflicts and the 20th century.

2. Civics and Government. 25% of the social studies test is on Civics and Government. This equals 13 questions.

Civics and Government might include politics and government, the American political system, constitutional democracy, relationship of U.S. to other nations, and the role of citizens.

3. Economics. 20% of the social studies test is on economics. This equals 10 questions.

Economics may cover comparison of modern economic systems, production and consumers, financial institutions, government's role in the economy, labor and global markets.

4. Geography. 15% of the social studies test is on Geography. This equals 7 questions.

Strategies and Tips

1. A large part of the Social Studies test is visual. Visual Text includes cartoons, photos, timelines, graphs, and charts. Students need to work with maps and be able to analyze and evaluate information provided by maps.

2. Use newspapers as teaching tools. USA Today would be an excellent choice to use in the classroom for a variety of reasons. It is inexpensive, has lesson plans on the Internet, incorporates political cartoons, economic issues, current events, and many maps and charts. and students need to feel comfortable with maps, charts, tables, and graphs.

3. Encourage students to create their own materials. Students should have the opportunity to construct their own graphs, tables, or charts. Students may create graphs to mark temperatures around the world, timelines for their goals and objectives, and tables or pie charts for student opinion surveys.

4. The GED defines written text broadly. Written Text includespractical documents such as advertisements, voters guides, insurance forms, tax forms, and key documents such as the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and landmark Supreme Court cases.

5. Use historical documents as teaching tools. Have students become familiar with the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. On the web there are several sites with beautiful, printable copies of many historical documents. Have each student present a landmark Supreme Court case and discuss it with the class.

Science Test
70 minutes with 50 questions

Test Composition

1. Life Science is 45% of the test. Life Science includes a fundamental understanding of the cell, themolecular basis of heredity, interdependence of organisms, and matter, energy, and organization of living systems.

2. Earth and Space Science is 20% of the test. Earth and Space Scienceincludes a fundamental understanding of energy and the earth system, origin and evolutions of the earth, and the origin and evolution of the universe.

3. Physical Science is 35% of the test. Physical Scienceincludes a fundamental understanding of the structure of the atom, the structure and properties of matters, chemical reactions, motions and forces, and interactions of energy and matter.

Strategies and Tips

1. Encourage students to apply science to life. The new focus is on applying scientific information to daily living, such as interpreting health labels on food packages.

2. Have students make a list of how science has effected their lives since they woke up this morning. After making their list have them share their list with the class, and make a master list on the board. Add to the list anything that you feel has been left out. This sets the tone for a lesson and helps get the class motivated toward other tasks.

3. Have students bring food labels to class and include them in a reality folder. Discuss what the information on label means. Discuss which foods are better and why. Have students then select healthy and less healthy foods and explain why. Discuss everyday health issues, nutrition, daily hygiene, and prenatal care. This is an excellent opportunity to introduce community and personal health.

4. Be careful of some chemical reactions. There is danger in mixing various household cleaners. You can contact the Poison Control Center, and they will send you a wealth of information for your students and stickers to label dangerous products in your home. There is no charge for this educational information.

Mathematics Test
90 minutes and 25 questions

Test Composition

The math test has the most significant changes of all the new GED tests. The GED math test has both formal mathematical problems and real world situations.

  • Numbers, Numbers Sense, and Operations (20 - 30% of the test)
  • Data, Statistics, and Probability (20 - 30% of the test)
  • Geometry and Measurement (20 - 30% of the test)
  • Algebra, Functions, and Patterns (20 - 30% of the test)

Fifty percent of the test involves drawings, diagrams, graphs and charts.

The math test will measure higher-order thinking skills and consist of two separate booklets and a single answer sheet and test score. Twenty percent of the math test will be scored objectively and involves entering your answer on either a standard grid or a coordinate plane grid. The test will include directions on how to use these alternative formats. An updated formula page will be provided at the testing center. If one is not provided you may ask for one.

Part I, Booklet I, allows the student to use a calculator. The Casio fx-260 solar scientific calculator is what will be used at the testing site and for teaching purposes. The Casio calculator allows more complex calculations than a four-function calculator. The testing service will provide scientific calculators to each testing center. The testing centers will provide instruction on using the calculator prior to the test. Students will watch a short video on operating the calculator prior to testing. Students should be taught the order of operations and be comfortable using it before introducing the calculator into the math classroom. The Casio fx-260 will put the problem into the correct order of operations regardless of how the problem is entered.

Part II, Booklet II, does not allow the use of the calculator. If the student learns only how to use the calculator rather than the order of operations, the candidate will not be able to pass Part II, Booklet II, of the math test.

Be sure to teach calculator operations prior to sending your students to test, 30 minutes of instruction prior to the test may not be enough.

Curriculum and Curriculum Development Suggestions

GED-related Websites

Language Websites

Social Studies Websites

Science Websites

Mathematics Websites


  • Complete GED Preparation (2002). Steck-Vaughn Company, Austin, TX ISBN # 0-7398-2873-1
  • Scheraga, M. (1999)Practical English Writing Skills. Contemporary Books,. ISBN# 0-8092-0453-3
  • We The People, The Citizen and the Constitution, (1995). Center for Civic Education. ISBN# 0-89818-177-1
  • Diglio, K. S. (1989). Critical Thinking With Math. Contemporary Books. ISBN# 0-8092-4455-1

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