The General Equivalency Development test, commonly known as the GED, tests high school students who didn't graduate to see if they sufficiently mastered basic high school academic subjects. Most states require students to be at least 16 years old to take the GED, and they must submit legal proof of residency. The test has five multiple-choice sections, including a two-part language arts section that requires one written essay.
Length of Essay
A GED essay must clearly communicate thoughts and ideas and should include an introduction and a conclusion. Even though there aren't any specific essay length requirements, GED Online recommends writing an essay that's approximately 250 words. You might have trouble transitioning from one point to another and incur difficulty creating a cohesive, well-constructed essay if it's much less than 250 words. Depending on your writing style, margins and the size of your letters, one to two handwritten pages is usually enough. Clear communication, word choice, sentence structure and the ability to thoroughly answer the topic question is more important than a lengthy response. Don't break your essay into several smaller essays -- only one meets the requirement.
Each section of the GED is timed, so you must work quickly and efficiently. According to Purdue University's Online Writing Lab, you have 45 minutes to plan, write, edit and proofread your essay. Make sure you have a good pencil eraser in case you need to revise, correct or rearrange some of the content. If you finish your essay in less than 45 minutes, you can go back to Part One of the language arts section and finish or proofread your answers. You aren't allowed to go back to other sections of the test.
GED essay topics don't ask you to recite historical information or quote statistical data, so you don't need to study or memorize content for the test. According to sample GED topics on Purdue OWL's website, you can expect questions such as, "In your opinion, is censorship positive or negative?" or "What are common methods used to combat stress?" You must provide sufficient examples and express your ideas clearly, but the approach you take and the examples you choose won't affect your score. In other words, as long as you communicate effectively, it doesn't matter whether you support censorship or not. You're being tested on your writing skills, not your values or belief system.
Since you only have the opportunity to write one essay, the goal is to make sure you get a minimum score of 2 out of 4 -- two GED graders score your essay, and their scores are averaged. Your essay score is combined with your score on Part One to create a composite score for the entire language arts section. An essay score below 2 means you automatically failed the language arts section even if you got a passing score on the multiple-choice questions. According to Purdue OWL, evaluators analyze your response to the prompt, organizational skills, details and development, sentence structure and word choice. A score of 4 is considered effective, 3 is adequate, 2 is marginal and 1 is inadequate.
- Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images