Learning to Read/GED

Do you remember the last time you had to learn something new? Whether it was cooking a new recipe, riding a bike, playing an instrument, or maybe learning a language. All of these things probably took a bit of practice. And the same is true of learning how to read, and even more specifically how to brush up your reading for the GED. The same way that athletes get to the Olympics (by practicing) is the same way that musicians get to Carnegie Hall. And so, if it works for them, it will probably work for you – in order to learn to read. (This isn’t about your Olympic dreams or getting to Carnegie Hall.)

So that’s the first thing you should know: it’s going to take a bit of practice. The next thing you should know is that it isn’t a hopeless effort, and there are tips and tricks to help you along the way. One of these tips is to know what you’re facing. Much like this one time, when I was in a car accident in a neighboring state and needed to have my car towed back home. The fellow on the other end of the phone asked if I wanted to know the rate they would charge me to get my precious car home. On one hand, no, I didn’t want to know because it didn’t matter; on the other hand, yes! I did want to know. Five dollars per mile is different than twenty-five dollars per mile! But the end goal was the same: get my car (and me) home. Your end goal is also the same: you want to learn to read or have better reading skills in order to pass the GED. But whether you’re going to face 1,000 questions (spoiler: you won’t) or 40-50, wouldn’t you rather know? Second spoiler alert: it’s closer to the 40-50 number.

So what are you facing with this GED? Well, let’s break that down:

  • The GED Reading Test of about 80% of the test
  • 35% = reading for meaning
  • 45% = identifying and creating arguments
  • Passages are between 400 and 900 words (for context, so far, you’ve read around 650 words here)
  • There are about 6 to 8 questions about each passage

It may still sound a bit scary. But try not to be intimidated by the numbers. You have done some of this in real life already, maybe just in a different format. Certainly, someone has told you a story, and you had to infer or guess the outcome. Or perhaps you are thinking of the evidence presented in the story that could support an idea. Or perhaps you are thinking about the different perspectives in the story. All of these are similar to the ways in which you will be asked to digest and then process the information in the reading passages.

What are the best ways to study for the GED?

How are we doing so far? Are you still with me? OK, good! Because the good news keeps on coming! Another trick to brushing up your reading skills…You don’t have to do it alone! It’s not exactly the same as the guy with the big muscles who will spot you at the gym so you don’t drop the weights on your toes, but there are definitely resources out there to help you. And the icing on the cake: many of them are free! So here’s where the irony comes into play. Where are these magical resources? In the library. Yep, you got it: in the house of reading.

I get it. But do you know what’s really cool about libraries? A lot. But in this context, the librarians and most of the people inside of that building are there specifically to help you. And here’s the really beautiful part about it: all you have to do is ask. You can walk into any library (or even call if walking into the building isn’t an option), and ask for information about GED prep. And I can almost guarantee the same way that I know the sun is going to rise tomorrow, that you will get an answer, or a recommendation or even a study book to help you on your way. In some cases, there might even be online tutorials available for you to practice and complete at home over the Internet. Are you worried about the judgment that you’re not the world’s greatest reader? Don’t be. Seriously. Think of the folks working in your local library as your own cheering squad, chanting a quiet cheer and wearing your name on their jersey. They want you to succeed.

While it is not a way to test your memorization skills, there are a few words that are handy to commit to memory so they can help you understand what the test is asking you to do. Some of them are, along with a plain-speak definition:

Inference – what conclusion can you make based on the details given in the text?

Hypothesis – if you had to guess, what would be your guess as to what will happen?

Generalizations – what assumptions can you comfortably make about ____? (This could be environment, characters, community, etc.)

How to practice

So if “practice makes perfect” then how do you practice, you ask? Try reading a little each day to stretch that muscle. Don’t know all the words? Don’t worry. That will come with (yep, you guessed it) practice. Don’t let it derail you completely in the moment. Keep reading and see if the meaning of the word becomes obvious as you continue and finish the passage. If not, write it down and look it up in a dictionary, whether physical or online. If you have a list of words that you’ve gathered, you can then start quizzing yourself with tools like Quizlet or flashcards to help commit them to memory, or using them in your everyday speech!

Remember, this is a new (or maybe slightly unused) muscle. The more you work it, the stronger it will get.

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