The transition in January of this year from the 2002 version of the GED test to the current 2014 version was not an easy one for many adult education programs. Simultaneous with the change in the delivery of the test from a paper-based format to a computer-based one, the introduction of new item types beyond the standard multiple choice and essay, also accompanied the change in the test.
The newly added constructed response items, which include the short answer items in the Science test and the extended response items in the Reasoning Through Language Arts and Social Studies tests, evaluate the student’s ability to compose evidence-based writing on demand. As the writing items are computer graded, the rubric used to evaluate the compositions is formulaic and requires students to conform to a strict set of expectations. Students may be given a limited quotation with a related complex passage, a diagram or chart with a related passage, or a scenario requiring the application of domain-specific formulas (e.g., the scientific method), and they will need to be equipped with specific skills to succeed on these questions. Feedback I gathered from a recent meeting with several GED educators who have had students successfully pass these tests highlighted the following areas on which to focus.
Understand the Rubric – Students need to be clear about what is being asked of them and what should or should not be included in their responses. Straying beyond the goal of the question undermines the points that could be awarded. Citing and using text-based evidence in their responses are critical to success.
Focus on Reading Comprehension and Fluency with Complex Text – A limited time is provided on constructed response items for students to read, reflect, and respond, and they need to be experienced with complex texts, not only in comprehending new vocabulary and ideas but also in reading quickly enough to have sufficient time to write their responses.
Practice, Practice, Practice – Exposure to writing prompts of all types—from the Science, Reasoning Through Language Arts, and Social Studies topics—is essential long before a student plans to take the GED test. Not only should students be practicing with complex reading passages and constructed writing examples, but they also need to be evaluated with the constructed response rubric very early on so that they can see how to best meet the requirements quickly and efficiently. In addition, keyboarding skills are important to the expediency of writing on computers.
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