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Molly Kiefer

Example GED Language Arts Reading Passages

Anyone taking the GED after 2014 (that’s you!) needs to know about a new section on the GED called Reasoning Through Language Arts, which replaced the old GED Reading Test.

The Reasoning Through Language Arts test is divided into two sections.

  • In the first section you will be asked to read a series of passages and answer several questions about each one.
  • The second section is one extended response question. You will have 45 minutes to write an essay in response to two passages, which offer different points of view on the same topic.

Most of the reading passages on the GED are informational text, for example, something you would see in a workplace, but a few of them will be excerpts from literature. Every passage is between 450 and 900 words.

Because the GED test is designed to be taken on the computer, the questions are more interactive than they would be on a paper test. You’ll see traditional multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions, but you’ll also be asked to select answers from drop-down menus or drag-and-drop information into the correct order.

Now that you have a general idea of what’s on the Reasoning Through Language Arts section of the GED, maybe you’d like to see some specific examples. Well you’re in luck. Keep scrolling!

 

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GED Language Arts Reading Passages

Below are two examples of reading passages from the Reasoning Through Language Arts test, followed by a few practice questions. Read the passages and try to answer each question before checking the answer keys (at the bottom) to see if you were correct!

Example Passage #1

This passage is adapted from Richard Florida, The Great Reset. Copyright 2010 by Richard Florida.

In today’s idea-driven economy, the cost of time is what really matters. With the constant pressure to innovate, it makes little sense to waste countless collective hours commuting. So, the most efficient and productive regions are those in which people are thinking and working—not sitting in traffic.

The auto-dependent transportation system has reached its limit in most major cities and megaregions. Commuting by car is among the least efficient of all our activities—not to mention among the least enjoyable, according to detailed research by the Nobel Prize–winning economist Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues. Though one might think that the economic crisis beginning in 2007 would have reduced traffic (high unemployment means fewer workers traveling to and from work), the opposite has been true. Average commutes have lengthened, and congestion has gotten worse, if anything. The average commute rose in 2008 to 25.5 minutes, “erasing years of decreases to stand at the level of 2000, as people had to leave home earlier in the morning to pick up friends for their ride to work or to catch a bus or subway train,” according to the U. S. Census Bureau, which collects the figures. And those are average figures. Commutes are far longer in the big West Coast cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco and the East Coast cities of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D. C. In many of these cities, gridlock has become the norm, not just at rush hour but all day, every day.

The costs are astounding. In Los Angeles, congestion eats up more than 485 million working hours a year; that’s seventy hours, or nearly two weeks, of full-time work per commuter. In D. C., the time cost of congestion is sixty-two hours per worker per year. In New York it’s forty-four hours. Average it out, and the time cost across America’s thirteen biggest city-regions is fifty-one hours per worker per year. Across the country, commuting wastes 4.2 billion hours of work time annually—nearly a full workweek for every commuter. The overall cost to the U. S. economy is nearly $90 billion when lost productivity and wasted fuel are taken into account. At the Martin Prosperity Institute, we calculate that every minute shaved off America’s commuting time is worth $19.5 billion in value added to the economy. The numbers add up fast: five minutes is worth $97.7 billion; ten minutes, $195 billion; fifteen minutes, $292 billion.

It’s ironic that so many people still believe the main remedy for traffic congestion is to build more roads and highways, which of course only makes the problem worse. New roads generate higher levels of “induced traffic,” that is, new roads just invite drivers to drive more and lure people who take mass transit back to their cars. Eventually, we end up with more clogged roads rather than a long‑term improvement in traffic flow.

The coming decades will likely see more intense clustering of jobs, innovation, and productivity in a smaller number of bigger cities and city‑regions. Some regions could end up bloated beyond the capacity of their infrastructure, while others struggle, their promise stymied by inadequate human or other resources.


Adapted from Adam Werbach, “The American Commuter Spends 38 Hours a Year Stuck in Traffic.” Copyright 2013 by The Atlantic.

Question 1

The passage most strongly suggests that researchers at the Martin Prosperity Institute share which assumption?

A. Employees who work from home are more valuable to their employers than employees who commute.
B. Employees whose commutes are shortened will use the time saved to do additional productive work for their employers.
C. Employees can conduct business activities, such as composing memos or joining conference calls, while commuting.
D. Employees who have lengthy commutes tend to make more money than employees who have shorter commutes.

Question 2

As used in the first sentence of paragraph 5, “intense” most nearly means

A. emotional.
B. concentrated.
C. brilliant.
D. determined.

Question 3

Which claim about traffic congestion is supported by the graph?

A. New York City commuters spend less time annually delayed by traffic congestion than the average for very large cities.
B. Los Angeles commuters are delayed more hours annually by traffic congestion than are commuters in Washington, D. C.
C. Commuters in Washington, D. C., face greater delays annually due to traffic congestion than do commuters in New York City.
D. Commuters in Detroit spend more time delayed annually by traffic congestion than do commuters in Houston, Atlanta, and Chicago.

Answer Key

Question 1: B

Choice B is the best answer because details in the third paragraph strongly suggest that researchers (“we”) at the Martin Prosperity Institute assume that shorter commutes will lead to more productive time for workers. The author notes that “across the country, commuting wastes 4.2 billion hours of work time annually” and that “the overall cost to the U.S. economy is nearly $90 billion when lost productivity and wasted fuel are taken into account. Given also that those at the institute “calculate that every minute shaved off America’s commuting time is worth $19.5 billion in value added to the economy”, it can reasonably be concluded that some of that added value is from heightened worker productivity.

Question 2: B

Choice B is the best answer because the context makes clear that the clustering of jobs, innovation, and productivity will be more concentrated in, or more densely packed into, “a smaller number of bigger cities and city-regions”.

Question 3: C

Choice C is the best answer. Higher bars on the graph represent longer annual commute delays than do lower bars; moreover, the number of hours of annual commute delay generally decreases as one moves from left to right on the graph. The bar for Washington, D. C., is higher than and to the left of that for New York City, meaning that D. C. automobile commuters experience greater amounts of delay each year.

Example Passage #2

This passage is adapted from a speech delivered by Congresswoman Barbara Jordan of Texas on July 25, 1974, as a member of the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives. In the passage, Jordan discusses how and when a United States president may be impeached, or charged with serious offenses, while in office. Jordan’s speech was delivered in the context of impeachment hearings against then president Richard M. Nixon.

Today, I am an inquisitor. An hyperbole would not be fictional and would not overstate the solemnness that I feel right now. My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total. And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution.

“Who can so properly be the inquisitors for the nation as the representatives of the nation themselves?” “The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men.”* (Follow link to endnote.) And that’s what we’re talking about. In other words, [the jurisdiction comes] from the abuse or violation of some public trust.

It is wrong, I suggest, it is a misreading of the Constitution for any member here to assert that for a member to vote for an article of impeachment means that that member must be convinced that the President should be removed from office. The Constitution doesn’t say that. The powers relating to impeachment are an essential check in the hands of the body of the legislature against and upon the encroachments of the executive. The division between the two branches of the legislature, the House and the Senate, assigning to the one the right to accuse and to the other the right to judge—the framers of this Constitution were very astute. They did not make the accusers and the judges . . . the same person.

We know the nature of impeachment. We’ve been talking about it a while now. It is chiefly designed for the President and his high ministers to somehow be called into account. It is designed to “bridle” the executive if he engages in excesses. “It is designed as a method of national inquest into the conduct of public men.”* (Follow link to endnote.) The framers confided in the Congress the power, if need be, to remove the President in order to strike a delicate balance between a President swollen with power and grown tyrannical, and preservation of the independence of the executive.

The nature of impeachment: a narrowly channeled exception to the separation of powers maxim. The Federal Convention of 1787 said that. It limited impeachment to high crimes and misdemeanors, and discounted and opposed the term “maladministration.” “It is to be used only for great misdemeanors,” so it was said in the North Carolina ratification convention. And in the Virginia ratification convention: “We do not trust our liberty to a particular branch. We need one branch to check the other.”

The North Carolina ratification convention: “No one need be afraid that officers who commit oppression will pass with immunity.” “Prosecutions of impeachments will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community,” said Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, number 65. “We divide into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused.”* (Follow link to endnote.) I do not mean political parties in that sense.

The drawing of political lines goes to the motivation behind impeachment; but impeachment must proceed within the confines of the constitutional term “high crime[s] and misdemeanors.” Of the impeachment process, it was Woodrow Wilson who said that “Nothing short of the grossest offenses against the plain law of the land will suffice to give them speed and effectiveness. Indignation so great as to overgrow party interest may secure a conviction; but nothing else can.”

Common sense would be revolted if we engaged upon this process for petty reasons. Congress has a lot to do: appropriations, tax reform, health insurance, campaign finance reform, housing, environmental protection, energy sufficiency, mass transportation. Pettiness cannot be allowed to stand in the face of such overwhelming problems. So today we’re not being petty. We’re trying to be big, because the task we have before us is a big one.

Question 1

The stance Jordan takes in the passage is best described as that of

A. an idealist setting forth principles.
B. an advocate seeking a compromise position.
C. an observer striving for neutrality.
D. a scholar researching a historical controversy.

Question 2

The main rhetorical effect of the series of three phrases in the fourth sentence of paragraph 1 (follow link to: “the diminution, the subversion, the destruction”) is to

A. convey with increasing intensity the seriousness of the threat Jordan sees to the Constitution.
B. clarify that Jordan believes the Constitution was first weakened, then sabotaged, then broken.
C. indicate that Jordan thinks the Constitution is prone to failure in three distinct ways.
D. propose a three-part agenda for rescuing the Constitution from the current crisis.

Question 3

As used in the first sentence of paragraph 5 (follow link), “channeled” most nearly means

A. worn
B. sent
C. constrained
D. siphoned

Answer Key

Questions 1: A

Choice A is the best answer. Jordan helps establish her idealism by declaring that she is an “inquisitor” and that her “faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total”. At numerous points in the passage, Jordan sets forth principles (for example, “The powers relating to impeachment are an essential check in the hands of the body of the legislature against and upon the encroachments of the executive,” which is the third sentence of paragraph 3) and makes reference to important documents that do the same, including the U.S. Constitution and Federalist Number 65.

Question 2: A

Choice A is the best answer because the quoted phrases — building from “diminution” to “subversion” to “destruction” — suggest the increasing seriousness of the threat Jordan sees to the Constitution.

Question 3: C

Choice C is the best answer because the context makes clear that the kind of “exception” Jordan describes should be narrowly constrained, or limited. As the second and third sentences of paragraph 5 indicate, the Federal Convention of 1787 “limited impeachment to high crimes and misdemeanors, and discounted and opposed the term ‘maladministration,’” presumably because the term implied too broad a scope for the exception.

Want More Example GED Language Arts Reading Passages?

Take a look at another one here at Magoosh, or, if you’d like to to try out the interactive computer format, check out this official practice test from the GED!

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About Molly Kiefer

Molly completed her undergraduate degree in Philosophy at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She has been tutoring the SAT, GRE, and LSAT since 2014, and loves supporting her students as they work towards their academic goals. When she’s not tutoring or blogging, Molly takes long walks, makes art, and studies ethics. Molly currently lives in Northern California with her cat, who is more popular on Instagram than she is.


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