What’s on the GED?

What’s on the GED?
As G.I. Joe would say, “knowing is half the battle”. In this case, knowing what’s on the GED is just as important as knowing how to take the GED. By understanding what’s on the GED, test takers increase their chances of passing the first time.

Subject Tests on the GED

The GED is a high school equivalency program designed to measure academic skills. Colleges and future employers look to these tests to certify your educational proficiency. Four different subjects are covered on the updated GED: Science, Social Studies, Mathematical Reasoning, and Reasoning Through Language Arts. GED exams are taken online at an official GED testing facility in your area. Tests are about 7.5 hours long, with each subject test individually timed.

What’s on the GED: Science

Time: 90 minutes Questions: around 50, plus 2 untimed short answer questions
Each question on the Science portion of the GED measures concepts by testing scientific knowledge and reasoning/thinking skills related to science. GED Science questions focus on three main categories: Life Science, Physical Science and Earth & Space Science.

GED Science question types include multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank and drag-and-drop. There is also two short answer questions that require typing in your paragraphs. Although untimed, the short answer questions should take you about ten minutes each.

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For a complete list of Science skills that could appear on a GED test, refer to the GED Practice Science Test Companion.

Content Knowledge AreaRepresents how much of testQuestion Topics
Life Science40% of subject test
  • Human body and health

  • Life functions and energy intake

  • Structure and function of life

  • Molecular basis for heredity

  • Evolution
  • Physical Science40% of subject test
  • Conservation, transformation and flow of energy

  • Work, motion and forces

  • Chemical properties and reactions related to living systems
  • Earth & Space Science20% of subject test
  • Interactions between Earth’s systems and living things

  • Earth and its system components

  • Structure and organization of the cosmos
  • What’s on the GED: Social Studies (SS)

    Time: 90 minutes Questions: 35, plus a 25 minute Extended Response Answer
    This portion of the GED measures Social Studies content in two ways. First, each question measures your ability to analyze and solve problems relating to social studies content. Second, each question is based in one of four topics: Civics and Government, U.S. History, Economics and Geography.

    GED Social Studies evaluates skills often found in other subject areas. Math questions test your ability to read tables, interpret charts and compare data sets. An Extended Response essay assesses your ability to apply Social Studies concepts through writing. You will also see multiple choice, drop-down and technology-enhanced questions on this portion of the GED.

    The good news for this section: you will never be asked to provide your own definition of a term or topic. This means in order to answer a question successfully, you only require a “working knowledge” of concepts. Familiarize yourself with as many topics as possible, but don’t worry studying each one in great detail.

    For a complete list of Social Studies skills that could appear on a GED test, refer to the GED Practice Social Studies Test Companion.

    Content Knowledge AreaRepresents how much of testQuestion Topics
    Civics and Government50% of the subject test
  • Types of modern and historical governments

  • Structure and design of US government

  • Individual rights and civic responsibilities

  • Political parties, campaigns, elections in American politics

  • Contemporary public policy
  • U.S. History20% of the subject test
  • Historical documents that have shaped American constitutional government

  • Revolutionary and Early Republic Periods

  • Civil War and Reconstruction

  • Civil Rights

  • World Wars I & II

  • The Cold War

  • American Foreign Policy since 9/11
  • Economics15% of subject test
  • Economic events that have shaped American government and policies

  • Relationship between political and economic freedoms

  • Fundamental economic concepts

  • Micro and macroeconomics

  • Consumer economics

  • Economic causes and impacts of wars

  • Economic drivers of exploration and colonization

  • Scientific and Industrial Revolutions
  • Geography & the World15% of the subject test
  • Development of classical civilizations

  • Relationships between the environment and societal development

  • Borders between peoples and nations

  • Human migration
  • What’s on the GED: Mathematical Reasoning

    Time: 115 minutes, 2 sections with no break

      Section 1: 5 questions, no calculator allowed
      Section 2: 41 questions, calculator allowed
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    Mathematical Reasoning focuses on two main content areas: quantitative problem solving and algebraic problem solving. Many questions are word problems, which measure your mathematical reasoning and problem-solving skills. Questions also test procedural skills and fluency. Make sure you have a good grasp of basic operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Performing these operations quickly and accurately saves time during testing.

    A Formula Reference sheet is provided during your test. Preview the formulas before testing day so that you are comfortable using each one in the context of a problem. This strategy saves you both time and mental energy the day of the test!

    The questions in this section of the GED test represent real-life situations. If your answers don’t make logical sense — you built a 65’ tall fence or paid a babysitter $523 an hour — take another look at the problem. Many of the most commonly missed questions are mathematical word problems.

    Use the Translation Chart from the GED testing service to reference common terms that come up in many math word problems. The chart supplies keywords found in math passages and “translates” those into the math equations used to solve the problem.

    For a complete list of math skills that could appear on a GED test, refer to the GED Practice Mathematical Reasoning Test Companion.

    Content Knowledge AreaRepresents how much of testQuestion Topics
    Quantitative problem solving45% of subject test
  • Fractions

  • Decimals

  • Numerical expressions

  • Rational numbers

  • Squares, square roots, cubes, cube roots

  • Scale factors

  • Ratios, proportions, percents

  • Area and perimeter

  • Circumference and diameter

  • Volume and surface area

  • Represent, display and interpret data

  • Probability
  • Algebraic problem solving55% of subject test
  • Linear, polynomial and rational expressions

  • Quadratic equations

  • Factor polynomials

  • Algebraic equations

  • Inequalities

  • Locate and graph on coordinate plane

  • Slope

  • Graphs and tables

  • Equation of a line
  • What’s on the GED: Reasoning Through Language Arts (RLA)

    Time: 150 minutes, broken into 3 sections

      Section 1: 35 minutes long, tests all content
      Section 2: 45 minutes long, Extended Response portion
      10 minute break
      Section 3: 60 minutes long, tests all content

    This section is by far the most complex. The test focuses on three essential skills: reading closely, writing clearly and using English language conventions. The RLA measures your ability to understand, interpret and answer questions based on text. It also tests basic English skills needed for success in college or future employment.

    Reading questions gauge your ability to read, comprehend and analyze 450-900 word passages. 75% of the exam texts used are informational (nonfiction) and 25% are literature based. Questions are multiple choice, short answer or drop-down. Some use a variety of technology-enhanced items.

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    The writing portion of the RLA consists of sentence correction, text editing and essay response. Text editing questions may appear the same way, but look for multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank or drag-and-drop items as well.

    During the Extended Response essay, the GED tests your ability to write an essay in response to a reading passage. You present the most persuasive side of an argument based on evidence found in the text. Find more information (and helpful tips) in the Extended Response guidelines from the GED Testing Service.

    Content Knowledge AreaCareer and College Ready StandardsQuestion Topics
    Reading ComprehensionAnchor Reading Standards #1 and #10
  • Determine main idea

  • Determine point of view

  • Meaning of words and phrases

  • Making inferences and claims
  • WritingAnchor Reading Standards #9 and #6
  • Analysis of arguments

  • Use of evidence

  • Development of ideas

  • Development of structure

  • Clarity of standard English

  • Command of standard English
  • Language Conventionsnone listed
  • Grammar

  • Word usage

  • Capitalization

  • Punctuation

    Feeling a little overwhelmed? All this information can be daunting at first, but we have you covered! Visit any of our Magoosh blogs for great tips, study guides and resources.

    As you continue your GED quest, here are a few more 80s slogans to keep you inspired: The more you know the more you grow. Knowledge is power. And now you know. Go, Joe!


    • Beth Gonzales

      Beth is an educator and freelance creative designer who devises innovative and fun-loving solutions for clients. She works with families, students, teachers and small businesses to create and implement programs, campaigns and experiences that help support and maximize efforts to grow communities who critically think, engage and continue to learn.