Page 3 Reasoning Through Language Arts Study Guide for the GED® test

Practice Tips and Tricks

  • Read lots of non-fiction material because 75% of the passages on the test come from informational text and span the topics of science, social studies, and workplace information.
  • Read passages on different levels of difficulty, like those which will be on the test.
  • Concentrate on learning the meaning of words that appear across several disciplines and don’t worry so much about vocabulary that is unique to one field of study.
  • Be familiar with U.S. founding documents and “The Great American Conversation” that followed.
  • Practice reading and understanding passages between 450 and 900 words.
  • Be sure you are reading for more than stated facts. About 80% of the questions in this section will require you to not only recall stated information, but to do something with that information, such as organize, analyze, or apply it to a new situation.
  • Preparing well for this section of the test will also help your performance in the Social Studies and Science sections as there will be similar reading tasks involved in those GED section tests.

If you read a little bit each day and practice these types of strategies as you read, your experience with the 2014 Reading Comprehension questions will be much less intimidating.

Language/Usage Content Questions (RLA Sections 1 and 3)

The second type of question in the two Reasoning Through Language Arts Content question sections has to do with language usage and structure of sentences and paragraphs. Since the basic purpose of writing is to clearly communicate a message, you will be asked to find the answer that contributes to the clearest message possible. Here are some concepts you will need to know and practice.


  • Transitional Words and Conjunctive Adverbs: words that connect one idea to another or one sentence to another. Examples are furthermore, in fact, actually, and rather than. Appropriate use of these can clarify an author’s meaning and inappropriate use can change the meaning of a statement entirely.
  • Sentence Structure: When a sentence is complete, not too long, and clear in structure, the message of the author is likely to be understood by the reader. You will need to know how to correct sentences that have problems in these areas.
  • Verb-subject Agreement: This is as simple as making sure that the form of the verb is the right one to use with the subject. For example, we write They are not They is. It becomes a little more complicated in longer, more involved sentences, such as this one:

    The pack of cotton balls were stored in the closet. (incorrect)

    The pack of cotton balls was stored in the closet. (correct, the subject is “pack”, which is singular)

Note: There are no questions concerning the correct use of verb tenses in these RLA questions. This skill is assessed in Section 2 of the RLA test, the Extended Response (essay) portion.

  • Pronoun Agreement: This means that you have to use the correct pronoun for the subject. For instance, you wouldn’t write, “The man parked their car in the grass,” if you meant that he parked his car there. Sometimes this gets confusing when you are using certain nouns that are singular, but are names for more than one thing.

    The college board stated their claim at the meeting. (incorrect)

    The college board stated its claim at the meeting. (correct, because “board” is singular)

  • Possessive Words: Possessive words are words used to denote possession. The most common ending for a possessive is the addition of an apostrophe and an “s.” Plural words may simply require the addition of an apostrophe. Remember, though, that its is the possessive form of it and that it’s is the contraction of it is.

  • Contractions: Contractions are examples of two words being combined into a single word (again using an apostrophe). Examples include words such as didn’t, don’t, can’t, etc. Keep in mind that the apostrophe is inserted at the spot where a letter or letters were removed.

  • Punctuation: Punctuation includes marks such as periods and exclamation points and ranges to colons and semicolons. Using the proper punctuation marks is absolutely pivotal when working in Language Arts. This means being able to accurately use periods, commas, colons, semicolons, exclamation points, and question marks. Periods are used to close statements. Exclamation points are used to denote excitement, anger, or another strong emotion. Question marks identify a sentence as a question. Commas separate sentences into more manageable sections and are typically inserted where a natural pause would be in speaking. Finally, colons are used to denote lists or a direct correlation to a previous statement, and semicolons are used to tie two similar sentences together.

  • Capitalization: Know when (and when not) to use capital letters. For example, did you know that the seasons of the year (fall, spring, etc.) are not capitalized in standard written English, but the months of the year (January, February, etc.) are?

  • Spelling: Consider spelling when practicing for the test. There are numerous common spelling errors made in the English language, some of which may crop up on the exam. Work on correcting your most commonly misspelled words, as well as studying the many lists of these words available online and elsewhere.

  • Commonly Confused Words: Many spelling errors are made when people confused two or more words that sound alike and use them incorrectly. Study such words as two/too/to and past/passed practice their correct usage. An online search for lists of homonyms will given you a starting point.

  • Other Concepts: There are several usage concepts that affect the clarity of a sentence, such as parallelism, interceding phrases, subordination, and coordination. Various online sources can provide clear explanations and examples of these, as well as opportunities for practice.
    It is highly recommended that all test-takers ask themselves questions as they read, including “Does this sound right?” and “Can something be changed here?”. These questions allow you to more readily determine what the problematic areas of the passage are.

Sentence Structure

Sentences require words to be in a certain order to convey information accurately and effectively. Though you should certainly study the different parts of a sentence, including verbs, nouns, prepositions, phrases, clauses, and conjunctions, you should also consider reading itself an effective exercise because it can help you to familiarize yourself with proper sentence structure and use. Like organization questions, questions on sentence structure require students to rearrange sentences and correctly identify the proper use of various parts of a sentence. To get you started, the parts of a sentence have been identified as follows:

  • Verbs: Verbs are words conveying action within a sentence. Multiple verbs may exist in a single sentence, though in this case, there will always be a main verb, or a verb bearing the majority of the action in a sentence.

  • Nouns: A noun is, put simply, a person, place, or thing. Nouns come in many forms and may be extremely generic (“animals”) or extremely narrow in focus (Amanda).

  • Prepositions: Prepositions are used to identify the location or placement of the noun in a sentence. They include words such as on, in, above, below, etc.

  • Phrases: A phrase is an incomplete thought or sentence. “Miranda’s handbag,” for instance, is a phrase because it is not a complete thought—it does not have both a subject and a verb, but a possessive and a noun.

  • Conjunctions: A conjunction is a word used to connect sentences or phrases. These may include and, but, or, because, and more.

Although these definitions will be extremely helpful when taking the GED test, you must know how to apply them. If you are asked to identify the noun or the verb in a sentence, the definition above will be enough to help you identify that part of the sentence. If you are asked to rearrange a poorly arranged or grammatically incorrect sentence, however, definitions might not be quite enough. To help you in this area, study the placement of subjects, verbs, and punctuation in sentences. Doing so helps to adequately prepare you for language arts questions found in the test.