Tackling a question today from Missy:

Hi Megan and everyone reading this. I teach GED in South Dakota and my learners are currently struggling with Social Studies , particularly the Extended Response. They are asking questions about how this response is weighted in the entire exam. I had to say it, but we want to know where the bottom line is – what is the minimum they can write and still pass, if they do OK on the multiple choice? Do they need a certain number of paragraphs at the very least? what is the minimum score on the 3 traits that a tester needs to pass if the rest of the test is OK? I can’t find anything along these lines on the GED official website – can anyone help? thank you.

Bottom line: Test takers can get 0 out of 8 points on the Extended Response (ER) and still pass the GED Social Studies Test if they do REALLY WELL on everything else.

However, it’s difficult to pass without those 8 points. There are many skills on the ER that will also increase test takers’ scores on other questions.

The way I think about the ER is to look at each Dimension as its own “question,” each worth 2 points. Students will score either fail (0 points) or pass (2 points) on each of Dimensions 2 and 3: Development of Ideas & Organization; Conventions of Standard American English.

  • Organize the response well and fully develop the main idea with multiple examples? 2 points.
  • Write clearly using a formal tone with varied sentence structure? 2 points.

These are really “Writing” skills, but to be done well, a test taker needs to correctly understand and use Social Studies terms and concepts.

Students will either fail (0 points), pass (2 points) or excel (4 points) on Dimension 3: Analysis of Arguments and Use of Evidence.

  • Does the student correctly make and support a claim about a connection between the passages, and analyze that relationship? 2 points. The test taker must take a position and support it using evidence from the passages.
  • The key skill to earn 4 points on this Dimension is correctly identifying the enduring social issue discussed in both the quote and opinion/historical text that is provided. In addition to taking a position on the issue, test takers must explain their stance using accurate historical evidence beyond what is provided.

So the key that unlocks the Social Studies Extended Response is an understanding of enduring social issues throughout history. That is the primary point of the Extended Response: testing whether students understand, take a stand, and explain their reasoning when it comes to social and political issues.

Enduring issues are ongoing social and political debates that don’t have an easy answer, but we still need to make decisions about as a society. Some of the issues can be “ripped from the headlines,” though I find that students prefer to discuss issues that are personally relevant without being the most emotionally charged hot topic.

Some examples of enduring issues are debates about the interpretation and application of:

  • religious liberty,The United States 1783, Louisiana Purchase from France 1803, The Texan Annexation 1845, Oregon Country 1846, Acquired from Mexico 1848, Gadsden Purchase 1853
  • state use of violent force,
  • citizenship requirements,
  • checks and balances,
  • state vs. federal powers,
  • conflict resolution strategies,
  • land rights,
  • the definition of a “person,”
  • personal liberties vs. public safety,
  • and….what topics would you add to this list?

Being able to take a stand, and then to support your point with accurate and relevant evidence, is critical for a student’s lifelong civic participation. It happens to also be central to the GED Social Studies Extended Response, and I’m happy about that because it gives me an excuse to empower my students to be better citizens.

The best resource I have found from GED Testing Service is the “Extended Response Resource Guide for Adult Educators – Social Studies” available on their website <a href=”http://www.gedtestingservice.com/educators/constructedresponse&#8221; title=”GED Testing Service Constructed Response” target=”_blank”>Constructed Response Resource Guides and Scoring Tools</a>. It provides sample prompts, real responses from their field testing, and then the scores given by GED Testing Service with explanations. Some educators are even using this resource with their students so they can see what a high scoring Extended Response looks like.

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  1. Thanks for the explanation. It makes sense and the guiding questions will help with revising to make a better response.

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