Social Studies Study Guide for the GED Test

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Specific Concepts and Terms to Study

Within the four topic areas, you should become familiar with some specific concepts. Reading about the following topics will give you the necessary background for understanding the questions on the GED test. It is not necessary for you to memorize all the data concerning the following topics, but just know what they are and have general background knowledge about them. The test will provide you with enough information to enable you to tell the definitions of terms.

U.S. History

  • Historical documents and their significance in history: Magna Carta, Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, Martin Luther King’s letter from the Birmingham Jail, Supreme Court landmark decisions, etc.

  • Revolutionary War and the new republic formation: including the War of 1812, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Articles of Confederation, Manifest Destiny, and U.S. Indian Policy.

  • Civil War and Reconstruction: including the topics of slavery, sectionalism, Civil War Amendments, and reconstruction policies.

  • Civil Rights movement through the ages: Jim Crow laws, women’s suffrage, Plessy vs. Ferguson and Brown vs. Board of Education decisions.

  • European immigration to the Americas

  • World Wars I and II: the alliance system, imperialism, nationalism, militarism, Russian Revolution, Woodrow Wilson, Treaty of Versailles, League of Nations, Neutrality Acts, Isolationism, Allied and Axis Powers, Fascism, Nazism, totalitarianism, the Holocaust, Japanese-American internment, Decolonization, and the GI Bill.

  • The Cold War: Communism, Capitalism, NATO, the Warsaw Pact, emergence of the U.S. as an international power, division of Germany, Berlin Blockade and Airlift, Truman Doctrine, Marshall Plan, Lyndon B. Johnson, The Great Society, Richard Nixon and Watergate, collapse of the U.S.S.R., and democratization of Eastern Europe.

  • 9/11 and how it has shaped American foreign policy

Geography and the World

  • Classical civilizations: such as those of the Greeks and Romans.

  • Environment and developing society: nationhood, statehood, sustainability.

  • Technology, natural resources, and changes to the environment by humans

  • Border concerns between people and nations: region, place, cultural and natural diversity, and tools and skills for geographic study.

  • Human migration: including immigration, emigration, diaspora, cultural differences, diffusion, and assimilation, current trends and issues, and settlement in rural and urban areas.

Civics and Government

  • Types of governments today and in history: direct democracy, representative democracy, parliamentary democracy, presidential democracy, monarchy, and others.

  • The basis for our constitutional democracy: natural rights, popular sovereignty and consent of the governed, constitutionalism, majority rule, and minority rights, checks and balances, separation of powers, rule of law, individual rights, Federalism.

  • The U.S. Government, design and structure: authority of three branches, individual positions (president, speaker of the House, cabinet members, etc.), federal and state powers, amendment process, departments and agencies of the U.S. Government.

  • Rights and responsibilities of the individual: Bill of Rights, personal and civil liberties.

  • Politics and the parties, campaigns, and elections in America: interest groups and the electoral process.

  • Public policy today


  • Major economic events that have shaped our nation

  • Freedoms of politics and economy.

  • Basic economic concepts: markets, incentives, monopoly and competition, labor and capital, opportunity cost, profit, entrepreneurship, comparative advantage, specialization, productivity, and interdependence.

  • Micro- and Macroeconomics: supply and demand, price, individual choice, institutions, fiscal and monetary policy, regulation and costs of government policies, investing, failures of market and government, inflation, deflation, GDP, unemployment, and tariffs.

  • Economics of the consumer: savings, banking, types of credit, and consumer credit laws.

  • How war impacts, and is impacted by, economics.

  • Economics as it relates to exploration and colonization

  • The Scientific and Industrial Revolutions

Practice your skills by taking our Social Studies Practice Test. It contains loads of social studies questions similar to those you will encounter on the GED Social Studies test.

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