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Top Four Test-Taking Tips


1. Use Your Time Wisely

In order to successfully pass the GED® test you must use your time wisely. Each section of the test is timed, and when the time is up, you must hand in your test, regardless of whether or not you are finished. Any questions not answered at the end of the test will automatically be marked as incorrect. The majority of students do not finish at least one of the five sections of the exam because they do not know how to pace themselves correctly. This is unfortunate, because it can severely reduce their overall score, and can easily be prevented.

The chart below will give you an idea of how much time you will have for each section (in the order that the test is given), the number of questions in that particular section, and approximately how much time should be spent on each question in the section.

1. Language Arts/ Writing I 75 min 50 1.5 min
Language Arts/ Writing II 45 min 1 essay 45 min
2. Social Studies 70 min 50 1.4 min
3. Science 80 min 50 1.6 min
4. Language Arts/ Reading 65 min 40 1.6 min
5. Mathmatics 90 min 50 1.8 min

As you can see, the time allotted per question is minimal — generally one to two minutes, not including the single essay question in the Language Arts/ Writing II section. Therefore, it is very important not to dwell too much on questions that you do not know the answers to, or that you know will take a very long time for you to figure out. Simply move on, finish the questions you do know, and return to the remaining ones if you have time leftover at the end.

The following list should serve as a guideline to help you succeed in staying within the exam’s strict time constraints:

  • Wear a watch to the exam. Check your watch when each section begins, and after each passage or group of questions, make sure that you are keeping up with your projected time schedule.
  • If you fall behind, don't panic - you can easily catch up. Do not just start choosing answers at random though. Generally, one or more of the answers are obviously wrong and can be easily eliminated, making it more likely that you will guess correctly. Even if you guess incorrectly, it is better to miss a few difficult questions than to not have enough time to answer questions later that you could have easily answered correctly.
  • If you manage to get ahead of schedule, SLOW DOWN! If you are moving quickly through the questions, it is a good idea to slow down and take your time. You will be more likely to catch careless mistakes. Many students’ mistakes are made in this manner — by rushing ahead and not taking the time to carefully read the question and double-check their work. If you finish ahead of time, absolutely do not hand in your test early! Instead, go back and rework the problems. Very often you will find little mistakes, even on questions that you thought were very easy.
  • Mark answers that you are not sure about Remember to mark any questions that you have left unanswered or are unsure about, so that you know which ones to return to and to try to work through at the end of the test. Otherwise, you will waste time trying to go back through the entire section, hoping to remember which questions you were uncertain about.

2. Never Leave a Question Blank

Because each of the questions on the test gives you five possible multiple choice answers, there is a 20% chance that your answer will be correct, even if you are simply guessing with no background information. If you can first eliminate a few answers that are obviously wrong, your chances of guessing the right answer are even better. However, if you leave a question blank, that question will automatically be marked as incorrect.
If you have skipped ahead of difficult questions, and you don’t have time to go back and rework them, just make a guess. This is always better than leaving the question blank.

3. Learn to Eliminate Options Quickly, and Don’t Be Fooled By “Trick” Answers

The GED® test writers deliberately include answers that “appear” correct, though they are merely decoys planted by the writers of the test to trick you and should be avoided. The decoy answers are often easy to spot - they are frequently overly complex and sometimes will completely contradict another answer that has already been listed. The test-writers do this on purpose to add confusion. When there are two possible answers listed that directly oppose one another, often one of these opposing answers is correct. The two contradicting answers should catch your eye and are a good place to start. You may want to pick the answer that sounds the most likely to be correct to you and to then work backwards — checking to see if it correctly answers the question.

Another technique the test writers use is to include several answer choices that sound very similar or are essentially the same, but with slightly different wording. Be wary of these answers and make sure that you don’t confuse the right answer with another choice that is similar. If there are several answers that sound alike, this is another “red flag” that can indicate that one of these choices is likely to be the right one.

The test writers often include extremely “general” sounding words in their correct answers - such as often, almost, rarely, usually, generally, and sometimes - in order to be all-inclusive and not be too definitive in their correct answers. You may be able to weed out certain incorrect answers because they simply do not allow for any exceptions and are overly specific or definitive. Words such as always, never, exactly, without exception, etc., will often be included in the incorrect answers, simply because they don’t allow any room for exceptions. Keep in mind that by eliminating as many incorrect answers as possible, you are increasing your chances of guessing the right answer dramatically, even if you do not have time to work through each of the problems thoroughly.

4. Have a Positive Outlook Going Into the Exam

It is very important to approach the test with a positive attitude. Feeling optimistic and self-assured about the task ahead of you will decrease your stress level and will help you concentrate and answer questions more efficiently and correctly. If you go into the test feeling negative about the outcome, many of the more difficult questions will just seem overwhelming. Often though, if you are just patient and read through the questions thoroughly, you will realize that what they are asking is not as complex as it may seem at first.

Studying, familiarizing yourself with the test’s layout, and following a few simple guidelines and tips will help build your confidence and allow you to move quickly through the exam. It will also prevent you from panicking when you run into confusing questions. Below are a few more important tips to help you build a positive attitude and approach the GED® exam with confidence.

Preparation is essential to succeeding in these sorts of standardized tests, so it is important to take as many practice GED® tests as possible and to mentally prepare yourself for the exam. Delaying the preparation process is a common problem because the test itself may appear daunting. Therefore, it is a good idea to set obtainable goals for yourself and to work your way up to the practice tests in sections, focusing on one subject area at a time. Your results on the practices tests will help you to determine how much preparation you may still need.
In addition, timing yourself while taking the practice tests will help you become accustomed to the amount of time that is allotted for each section. This will help you learn to pace yourself naturally when it comes time to take the actual test, and will prevent you from becoming nervous or preoccupied about time during the exam.

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