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Sarah Bradstreet

GED Study Guide: Social Studies-Focused

Getting ready to take the GED Social Studies subject test? Knowing what to expect on the exam and mastering the skills you’ll need to succeed are the best ways to walk in with confidence on test day. Our GED study guide for the Social Studies test is here to help.

GED Social Studies Test Overview

Here’s a quick guide to the content and structure of the Social Studies test.


There are four main content areas of the GED Social Studies subject test: United States History, Civics and Government, Economics, and Geography and the World.
GED Study Guide Social Studies Topics- Magoosh

More specifically, the major topics for each content area are:

United States History:

  • Key historical documents that have shaped American history
  • European settlement and population of the Americas
  • Revolutionary and Early Republic periods
  • Civil War and Reconstruction
  • World Wars I and II
  • Civil Rights
  • The Cold War
  • American foreign policy since 9/11

Civics and Government:

  • Types of modern and historical governments
  • Principles that have contributed to the development of American constitutional democracy (natural rights, popular sovereignty, constitutionalism, majority rule and minority rights, checks and balances, separation of powers, rule of law, federalism)
  • Structure and design of the U.S. government
  • Individual rights and civic responsibilities
  • Political parties, campaigns, and elections in American politics
  • Contemporary public policy


  • Key economic events that have shaped American government and policies
  • Relationships between political and economic freedoms
  • Fundamental economic concepts (markets, incentives, monopoly, competition, labor and capital, opportunity cost, profit, entrepreneurship, comparative advantage, specialization, productivity, interdependence)
  • Microeconomics and macroeconomics (supply and demand, price, choice, institutions, fiscal and monetary policy, investment, government and market failures, inflation/deflation, GDP, unemployment, tariffs)
  • Consumer economics (credit, savings and banking)
  • Economic causes and impacts of wars
  • Economic drivers of exploration and colonization
  • Scientific and Industrial Revolutions

Geography and the World:

  • Development of classical civilizations
  • Relationships between the environment and societal development
  • Borders between people and nations
  • Human migration



70 minutes


There are 30 available raw points on the GED Social Studies test.

Your raw score out of 30 is converted to a scaled score out of 200 points. You need a scaled score of 145 out of 200 points to pass (this is the same as all the other subject tests). Learn more about GED scoring.

Question Types:

  • Multiple choice
  • Fill in the blank
  • Drop down
  • Hot Spot
  • Drag and drop

Use What You’re Given

The GED Social Studies test is entirely document-based. That means that every question (or set of a few questions) is based on some sort of stimulus. Examples of these documents include:

  • Texts (primary or secondary source)
  • Graphs, charts, or tables
  • Photographs or illustrations
  • Maps
  • Political cartoons

These documents are a gift— use them! Even if you don’t remember anything about a topic at all, the document will give you most (if not all) of the information you need to answer the question. Read thoroughly and carefully to pull out every available bit of information you can.

When taking the test, be sure to read the document first before the question(s). This helps you to focus on really understanding what’s in the document. instead of just skimming through looking for the answer to a question, which makes you more likely to get it wrong.

Focus on Skills

The Social Studies test is more of a skills test than a knowledge test. The test makers are not looking to see if you’ve memorized a bunch of dates. Instead, they’re looking to see if you have key skills that will help you in your academic and career future.

These skills include:

  • Determining the main idea or argument in a text
  • Analyzing an author’s purpose and point of view
  • Placing a document within its proper context
  • Pulling information from a graphic source
  • Analyzing data
  • Drawing logical conclusions
  • Evaluating reasoning and the use of evidence
  • Comparing and contrasting
  • Understanding cause and effect
  • Applying basic math skills to social studies scenarios

Many of these skills are transferable ones from other subject areas, especially English and math. Use what you’ve learned studying for the other GED subject tests to help you on the Social Studies exam.

  • Draw on the reading comprehension skills you need for Reasoning Through Language Arts to read, understand, and analyze text-based sources. Need help brushing up your reading skills? Check out this post for some tips.
  • The writing section of the Reasoning Through Language Arts test also requires skills that will transfer well here. No, there’s NO writing on the Social Studies test, but some of the other skills do apply. On the RLA writing section, you’re asked to read and analyze arguments. You’ll need to do the same thing for the Social Studies test, albeit in a multiple choice format rather than an essay.
  • Important data analysis skills that you use in math will come in handy on the Social Studies test when you’re asked to interpret a graph, chart, or table. Need practice with these skills? Check out this post that is helpful for math, social studies, and science alike.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The best way to improve your skills is to practice. Here are some things to try:

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About Sarah Bradstreet

Sarah is an educator and writer with a Master’s degree in education from Syracuse University who has helped students succeed on standardized tests since 2008. She loves reading, theater, and chasing around her two kids.

2 Responses to “GED Study Guide: Social Studies-Focused”

  1. Anon says:

    Does the 2014 Social studies test have an extended response question?
    Thank you

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