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Jonathan Reidenouer

A Complete Breakdown of the Reasoning Through Language Arts Section of the GED

Whether you call it the GED English test or Language Arts test, the GED RLA section focuses on the skills associated with reading and writing.

So, you have finally made the big decision - you’re going to get your GED! After careful consideration, you’ve realized that in order to get the job you need, the promotion you want, or the education you desire, you going to need that high school equivalency certificate.

At this point, you have already done some research on how to get your GED. Perhaps you have even signed up for your personalized MyGED online program so you can schedule tests, view score reports, order transcripts, and obtain your diploma. You recognize that preparing for all four GED tests is not something you can handle alone: you know the help and direction of an experienced tutor is critical to your success.

Now you’re ready to begin drilling down on the GED sections one-by-one, but for whatever reason, the Reasoning Through Language Arts (RLA) test looks challenging. Well, this is the time to secure a tutor who can provide you with a complete breakdown of the RLA section and guide you through the entire preparation process for taking and passing the test.

Content and Structure

Whether you call it the GED English test or the GED language arts test, the GED RLA section focuses on the skills associated with reading and writing. Broadly speaking, the RLA test tests your abilities in grammar and language, reading for meaning, and identifying and creating arguments.

In your first session, your GED tutor will walk you through the structure of the RLA test:

  • FIRST section: 30 minutes to answer about 20 questions
  • SECOND section: 45 minutes to write a written essay (extended response comparison of two passages)
  • 10-minute BREAK
  • THIRD section: 60-65 minutes to complete 30-35 questions
  • TOTAL test time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

The GED Reasoning Through Language Arts test consists of questions on English and reading comprehension and an essay testing your rhetorical and composition skills. The language skills required for the test model real-life editing that ensures correct grammar, sentence structure, capitalization, punctuation, and word choice.

Approximately three-fourths of the questions are based on informational texts, which include workplace- and community-based documents, general nonfiction, and nonfiction related to general-interest social studies and science topics; the other fourth of the test is based upon fiction selections. The essay requires that you read two passages and then respond to a writing prompt by developing and supporting your ideas with evidence from the text.

Question Types and the Extended Response Essay

In addition to helping you become familiar with the content, your tutor will also be able teach you the test-taking skills necessary to navigate the RLA section efficiently. As your preparation process continues, you’ll become acquainted with all the question types in the GED RLA test, as well as how to choose the right strategy for each one.

  • Multiple-choice: Click to choose from four choices (A through D).
  • Fill-in-the-blank: Type a word, a phrase, or numbers in a box.
  • Drag-and-drop: Move words, numbers, or objects across the computer screen.
  • Drop-down: Select from menus embedded in text on the computer screen.
  • Select-an-area: Click on graphics on the computer screen.

By this time, though, you know that the RLA is more than just questions. You’re probably thinking, “What about the essay?” Well, the Extended Response requires you to type in a text box in response to a writing prompt based on one or more short passages. It’s categorized as an evidence-based writing task, meaning that you need to base your position on the information and arguments in the reading materials.

If you feel apprehensive about the writing and analysis skills needed to master the essay, rest assured—you are not alone! This is probably the area where having access to an expert GED tutor will be most beneficial. Using extended response examples, your tutor will help you master all the steps in constructing your essay:

  • Unpack the prompt: Establish direction by determining what the essay instructions are specifically asking for.
  • Identify the writer’s argument and assumptions: Concentrate on the most relevant parts to nail down just what the author’s intent is.
  • Develop thesis: Determine your own idea that will driver your essay and craft a strong thesis statement.
  • Collect supporting evidence: Make a list of evidence supporting your thesis from both the text and your own knowledge and experience.
  • Planning: Outline or map out your main points and theme for each paragraph.
  • Drafting: Write the essay based upon your already developed thesis and plan.
  • Revise and edit: Polish the essay by correcting any grammatical, mechanical, or reasoning errors.

Your submitted essay will be assigned a score from 0-2 in three “traits”: Creation of Arguments and use of Evidence; Development of Ideas and Organizational Structure; and Clarity and Command of Standard English Conventions. During each step along the path of preparation, your tutor will be providing guidance and encouragement to help you achieve the best essay score possible.

Taking the Test and Interpreting Scores

Invariably, you’re going to get to a point where you’ll need to know how to take the GED. At this point, there is no way to take the tests online, so you will need register to take the RLA at an official test center. Searching directly from your MyGED account, you can determine which GED testing location works best, and explore the available dates on the website for that particular facility. Registration costs vary from state to state, with the most common GED test costs being $30 per subject test ($120 total). Make sure you check for updates to GED test dates, as certain test centers may not be open due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Of course, that test will produce a score, so you’ll want to know what constitutes a good one. Rest assured—before you even register for the test, your tutor will familiarize you with the GED scoring system. Understanding the different tiers of passing GED scores will give you something to shoot for as you go through the test prep process.

The number of points you earn is translated into a scaled score ranging from 100-200 for each subject test. To earn your high school equivalency, you’ll need to achieve a minimum GED score of 145 on all four subjects. If you score below 145 on the RLA test, you’ll have to retake the GED—all four tests—regardless of how you performed on the other three.

Should you pass the GED, your score can even work toward a college education—although the GED requirements differ based on how many courses you would like to take. A score of 165-174 is considered GED College Ready: if you ever choose to enroll in college, you may qualify for waivers from placement testing or developmental education requirements. A score of 175-200 qualifies as GED College Ready + Credit, meaning you have demonstrated skills that could earn you up to 10 college credit hours.

Tutoring Guidance and the Preparation Process

In addition to the competent help of your own GED tutor, you may want to seek out additional materials to aid in the test preparation process. Look for prep books that have practice tests, as those will offer you the most effective training. Some companies also have personalized GED courses and additional RLA practice material online. As your local area opens up from COVID-19 restrictions, you may be able to find some local GED RLA classes as well. Until then, you and your tutor can meet one-on-one through the Wyzant online tutoring platform.

Unlike the preparation for the other three sections of the GED, your RLA prep doesn’t lend itself to personal study all that much. While you can practice math problems and review science and social studies topics, it’s not so convenient to work on reading comprehension and writing skills. Building up one’s abilities for analysis, synthesis, and evaluation doesn’t come easily for an adult. To bolster those skills, you’ll want to lean heavily on your RLA tutor, who will be able to lay out a plan to improve both your reading and writing.

The final step in your training for the RLA section should be to take the GED Ready Official Practice Tests, which are available through the MyGED portal. If you get 75% or more questions correct on a GED practice test, you are highly likely to pass the RLA test. Go over those results with your tutor to make the final determination on whether you are ready to take it.

Few people are built for self-directed learning, so it’s natural to feel adrift as you begin the path toward passing the Reasoning Through Language Arts test. Fortunately, an experienced GED tutor can provide the stability and direction you need. Take some time to reflect on what you want in a tutor, then reach out to an experienced tutor today to get the GED help you need to complete your journey to greater educational and occupational opportunities.