Beginning with the Learners’ Lives: Creating GED-Type Questions
Donna Curry

When you teach with real-life activities, learners find the classroom environment much more exciting and are able to see how the skills and content they are learning can be applied in everyday life. Using activities and projects rather than GED practice books also helps learners see that critical thinking skills are as important as knowledge about a particular subject.

The GED tests have been developed to assess several levels of thinking skills (from Test of General Educational Development: Teacher’s Manual for the Official Practice Tests):

  • Comprehension (Very few GED questions ask only for comprehension.)
  • Application (All 5 tests have questions that ask learners to apply their knowledge.)
  • Analysis (The Social Studies, Science, and Literature and the Arts ask many analysis type questions, such as cause and effect relationships and distinguishing conclusions from supporting details.)
  • Synthesis (Synthesis requires a learner to “produce”
  • Evaluation (Especially in the Science and Social Studies tests, learners are asked to make judgments about the information presented.)

These same thinking skills apply across all high school content areas and our instruction and assessment should address these skills, especially if we are interested in having our learners do more than simply regurgitate information.

In this issue of the Classroom Clippings, I've given some examples of how teachers can design GED-type questions based on classroom exploration of real-life topics. Teachers can develop and use these as a bridge between lessons that are purposeful for learners and the GED tests. Learners can also do problems from the GED workbooks at home for further practice.

GED Writing Questions

Here's an example of how to create a GED-type question. From the learners’ own writing, choose a piece to work with. For example, let’s say a learner has written a story about the seasons. Here’s an example of how to create a GED-type question: Sentences 1 and 2: My favorite month is March. I love to see new life sprout from the earth and in the air.

The most effective combination of sentences 1 and 2 would begin with which of the following groups of words?

(1.) Because March is my favorite month
(2.) Although March is my favorite month
(3.) Because I love to see new life
(4.) Although I love to see new life
(5.) When March is my favorite month
This question requires that learners understand the differences in meaning among the three connectors: because, although, and when as well as the relationship between the two sentences. Notice that the two original sentences did not contain errors.

Part of your instruction with learners would be to show them how to combine their own sentences using connectors and appropriate punctuation. As they become more proficient revising their own work, the challenge of the GED Writing Test (both parts!) becomes less daunting.

GED Math Question

After an activity where learners may have been designing their own backyard garden, use one of the learner’s drawings to create a GED-type question:
Which of the following expressions would give the amount of fencing needed to surround the garden in the picture below?

(1) 5(12)
(2) 2(5) ÷12
(3) (5)(12)/2
(4) 5 ÷ 2(12)
(5) 2(5+12)
Notice that the learner has to distinguish between the area (option 1) and the perimeter formula (option 5). The other options are similar to the area and perimeter formulas. Notice also that the same numbers are used. The GED test is not about computation, but rather concepts such as area, perimeter, formula usage. Also, notice that the work "perimeter" was not used in the question. The learner has to decide which formula to use.

Notice that the diagram involves the use of “friendly” numbers (whole numbers vs. fractions or decimals), as do most of the GED questions. Many math problems on the GED Test require that the learner understand how to set up a problem rather than solve it. Learners that they often can already solve this type of problem but they think they can’t because it looks “different.” Your challenge as teacher is to help them make the leap from what they can already do to how problems are presented on the GED Tests.

GED Social Studies Questions

As a project, you may already be having learners gather information so that they can organize and analyze the data collected. For example. you may have them collect date on the age and number of smokers in the adult education program. Then you would have them create a chart to represent the data. [Allow learners to create various charts: line, bar, pie charts, then ask them how different charts communicate different information. In having them create pie charts, you have an opportunity to teach learners how to create fractions, then change them to percents in order to create a pie chart. Learners can then see how their math skills are applied in something other than just a math workbook.]

Based on the chart at the right, what conclusions can you draw about smokers in the adult education program?

(1) Almost half of the smokers are 30 or younger.
(2) Most smokers quit before they reached the age of 60.
(3) Almost 40 learners between the ages of 16 and 20 smoke.
(4) The majority of smokers began smoking before the age of 21.

These questions require much critical thinking on the part of the learner (as well as the teacher.) In this example, the learner must be able to understand the meaning of percent and how it is different from total amount (options 3.) In options 2 and 4, there are assumptions made that are NOT based on the data from the chart.

The collecting of data and creation of charts helps learners see how information is used to communicate. Learners need to be able to look critically at the chart and evaluate whether it is representative of the entire town, state, nation. They need to understand how incorrect assumptions are drawn from data. Lead them to discover what other information they would need in order to answer other questions they may have about the smokers in the program. Learners should become skilled in asking questions about the charts and graphs they see. Questions such as: What is the total number in the sample? Is it a representative sample? How was the data collected? These are questions that will prepare them well for both the GED and the tasks of life.