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Hints for GED Essay Writers

From The University of Texas at Austin Scoring Center

These hints were prepared by the actual readers who score the GED essay for Texas and other states. These hints are designed to help GED candidates prepare for the essay portion of the Writing Skills test.

GED readers read holistically for an overall impression of your essay. Do you have a clear focus on the idea about which you are writing? Have you organized your thoughts about this idea? Have you provided some specific details about this idea? Readers do not expect your essay to be perfect because 45 minutes is simply not enough time to produce an error-free piece of writing. As long as the reader can understand what you are saying, an occasional error in spelling or grammar will not lower your score.

At The Test

Make sure you:

DO use a ballpoint pen.

DO listen to all instructions from the person who administers the test. Carefully read the topic in your test booklet.

DO take time to brainstorm the topic before you begin writing. Jot down notes or a web diagram to help you focus and organize your thoughts. Consider specific details you might add to extend your ideas and create a more complete picture for the reader.

DO you have personal experiences that you could use? If not, always remember that you can use your imagination to create a connection to this topic.

DO plan your essay. You should take time to organize your ideas. This will help you keep your ideas organized in paragraphs and should help remind you to provide enough examples, illustrations, explanations, etc.

DO develop your ideas fully. If you can only think of one or two ideas, provide specific examples and explanation. It is better to illustrate one or two points fully than to give a sketchy list of reasons with little support.

DO think of the essay as a conversation with your reader. Think of what you would say to someone if you were talking about the topic. Try to think about any questions your “conversation partner” might like answered. In a conversation you talk freely and supply plenty of details; you should do that in writing too.

DO use paragraphs. Paragraphs signal the reader that you are moving to another point and helps the reader see your organizational plan.

DO use transitions, e.g. first, another time, finally, words that link one sentence to another or one paragraph to another. This helps the reader easily follow and understand your ideas. DO make your handwriting as neat as possible.

DO leave time to go back over your essay. Use your editing skills and neatly correct any errors in spelling or punctuation that you notice. Feel free to cross out any unnecessary words or phrases or add to the content. Remember, we don’t expect the writing to look perfect.

Things to Avoid:

DON’T waste time and words with phrases like, “Well, I don’t know much about this topic but here goes,” or “I don’t really know how to do this but I hope you like what I write.” Just start writing!

DON’T stop writing too soon. Sometimes essays receive low scores simply because they are not fully developed. While an extremely short essay may be error-free, it usually lacks the development (explanations, illustrations, examples) necessary to receive a passing score or better. You should use the full 45 minutes to organize, write, and edit your essay.

DON’T sign your name. We like to get to know you from your writing, but we don’t need to know your name because scoring should be done anonymously.

*** Remember that holistic scoring rewards what is good about an essay. We do not use red pens. Relax, remember what you have learned about good writing, and write with confidence and lots of detail!***

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