Many test-takers have found that GED essay questions, so-called “extended response questions”, are hard to get a high score on. However, if you take more time to prepare for your GED, you might understand what’s expected in this section of the GED Test, so how to write a good GED essay?

The GED extended response question is one part of the GED Reasoning Through Language Arts (RLA) exam. This question requires you to write a short argumentative essay in response to two passages of text which present two different viewpoints on a topic. 

Now, if you find GED Language Arts writing a bit tricky, please take notes on some key information about how to write a good GED essay. Don’t forget to apply them in your writing to better your performance on the GED test day. Let’s check it out! 


1. About The GED Extended Response (ER) Test


When you sit for your GED exam, you might encounter one essay question, aka extended response (ER) on the Reasoning through Language Arts subtest. 

For this question, you are typically required to read some passages which are non-fiction and between 450-900 words long and write a response within 45 minutes to evaluate what you’ve read. To decide which argument is best supported, you must read both of the passages 

An excellent extended response will include multiple paragraphs with a clear main idea or argument, supporting details, specific evidence from the passages to prove that one of the authors crafts a better argument and explain the connection between the evidence and your main idea. Additionally, your writing will need to be well-organized, with a beginning, middle, and end. 

Bear in mind that your 45 minutes will go quickly, therefore, please focus on these important points to get the best score. Again, these important points are to make a clear statement about which position is better supported and to write clear sentences as well as arrange paragraphs in a logical order. 

Last but not least, in the GED section, you are being asked to write about which passage best supports its claims rather than writing about which opinion is correct or which opinion you believe to be true. 


2. GED essay score criteria


how many points is the ged essay worth
How is the GED essay scored?

Your essay’s grade on the GED test will become part of your Reasoning Through Language Arts test score.

You can get up to 6 points on the GED extended response. More specifically, there are three main categories your essay is scored on, and you can earn up to 2 points for each.

Your GED essay will be assessed across 3 main criteria following: 


2.1. Use of Evidence (Analysis of Arguments and Use of Evidence)


  • Did you apply relevant examples?


2.2. Ways of Expressing Meaning (Development of Ideas and Organizational Structure)


  • Were you clear about the essential idea?
  • Did you have specific details to elaborate on your original concepts or arguments, as opposed to using lists or repeating identical information?
  • Did you present a well-thought strategy for composing your essay?
  • Did you deal with the subject adequately, without shifting from one focal point to another?


2.3. Standard English Conventions and Usage (Grammar & Sentence Structure, Punctuation, Word Choice, Spelling)


  • Did you choose and employ suitable words to indicate your points of view?
  • Did you have decent writing techniques like sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, syntax, and grammar, 
  • Did you shape and edit your essay after you penned the first draft?

Take note: Because you only have 45 minutes to accomplish your GED essay, you must make sure to effectively utilize your time to respond to the given prompt 


3. GED Essay Structure


Every well-written GED essay has a breakdown of introduction, a body, and conclusion.

Remember that you are writing an analysis of two of the author’s positions and explaining which argument is stronger. Since your writing will be an argument or an argumentative essay, you are NOT writing your opinion on the topic. 

Let’s look at the GED Essay simple structure including a beginning, a middle, and an ending.


3.1. Beginning/ Introduction


The introduction states the main idea or position. It begins with a topic sentence/ thesis statement. The beginning restates the question and sets stage to answer the prompt. 


3.2. Middle/ Body Paragraph


  • You have to answer the question first
  • You should provide important information the author stated and meant. This is where you go to the text(s) and provide relevant examples/ evidence and important details to support the answer. 
  • Sample phrases to introduce each text reference include you might use: ….. stated; in the text…..; for example….
  • You’d better include background information as required through the prompt. 
  • This is the longest part of the response and should be at least two paragraphs.
  • Each body paragraph should only focus on one major idea, and the 1–2 selections from the passage that support that idea. 
  • You should keep the paragraphs between 4–6 sentences so that they are succinct, direct, and clear. 
  • You also need to avoid excessive wordiness


3.3. Ending/ Conclusion


You have to write a closing that summarizes the position taken, your main ideas or restates the thesis statement in a different way (why the argument you chose is better-supported) in 2-3 sentences. 


4. Some key notes when writing GED essay


After reading the stimulus providing 2 opposing opinions about a certain subject you are required to explain why one of these arguments is better. Here are some recommendations you should take into account when writing a GED essay: 

  • Don’t write your opinion on the topic. You have to divide and write about which argument is better and stronger than the other and why throughout the text.
  • Don’t need to create any own examples because you must analyze two arguments and evidence presented in the stimulus. 
  • NEVER respond with a personal opinion. Therefore, don’t use the word “I” such as “In my opinion…”, “I think that…” “I agree because…” 
  • Don’t worry about supporting the “wrong” side. It doesn’t matter which side you choose, just be sure that you can support your ideas well!


5. 7 Tips to help you get a maximum score on GED essay


Here are a few quick tips to help you score as highly as possible on your GED RLA Extended Response

tips for ged essay
Top tips to help you breeze through the RLA essay


5.1. Make sure you read the stimulus and prompt cautiously


Many test-takers who run over the stimulus and prompt so as to write their essay immediately leading to misunderstanding the prompt score low on the essay 

However, you should check out each question carefully and take a short while to understand the questions completely as well as find out the topic and what kind of answer will be expected in order to respond to them appropriately. You might highlight the key words and phrases in the stimulus in order for you to stick yourself to the topic


5.2. Sketch an outline for the essay (Pro-tip)


You only spend a few minutes to brainstorm and outline your essay to organize your thoughts and follow later as soon as you grasp the questions entirely.

Start with planning an introduction, body, and conclusion. After that, your essay should stick to this outline so as to save a lot of time and help establish a rational development of thoughts.

Outlining your argument is the best way to create a coherent and cogent response. Therefore, until you have every paragraph planned out,  don’t start writing.


5.3. Make a list of evidence


Take notes on the important details you want to remember later when you read the passages.


5.4. Stick to the subject


It should be noted that each paragraph in the body should explain why evidence you choose supports your claim or disapproves of the opposing claim. Remember that your essay should comprise evidence deriving from both passages and explain what strong evidence supports one argument and why faulty evidence weakens the other argument.


5.5. Use formal language


Bear in mind that you should avoid first person point of view “I” such as statements like, “I think” or informal language like slang and abbreviation. 


5.6. Don’t check the clock very often


You only have 45 minutes to write your essay. If you always look at the clock, you might find that time goes faster when you need it to go slow. Furthermore, you cannot focus on your essay completely. Thus, you should check the clock one or two times to keep track of the time. 


5.7. Proofreading and Revision


After you complete your essay, let’s go back to the beginning and read your entire essay over at least once to ensure that you haven’t forgotten a comma or misspelled a word while writing your essay.

Besides, when you review your essay, let’s place more emphasis on whether your essay provides well-targeted points and facts, comes with proper sentence construction, gets well-organized, presents specific information and has no grammar or spelling mistakes.


5.8. Vary your sentence structure and advanced vocabulary words


You will get highly appreciated when using various sentence structures and advanced vocabulary. Additionally, be certain that you use correct spelling and proper grammar. Furthermore, let’s utilize logical transition words or phrases to make your move from one paragraph to another one smoothly. 

Take note:  you can visit GED Testing Service for more tips found in GED video tutorials about extended response questions


6. GED successful plan


Here is our proposed 45-minutes plan for a successful GED essay. Let’s check it out

  • Read directions and topic:  3 minutes
  • Prewriting (freewriting, brainstorming, clustering or mapping, etc.): 5 minutes
  • Organize (write a thesis statement or controlling idea and outline main ideas): 3 minutes
  • Draft (write the essay): 20 minutes
  • Revise (read through the essay and make changes to ideas): 8 minutes
  • Edit (check for correctness in grammar and spelling): 6 minutes


7. The ultimate GED sample essay by Estudyme


GED Essay Directions:

The articles below present arguments from supporters and critics of police militarization. In your essay, analyze both articles to determine which position is best supported. Use relevant and specific evidence from both articles to support your response. You should expect to spend up to 45 minutes planning, drafting, and editing your response.


Passage 1: The Militarization of Police: Harming Civil Liberties, Impacting Children, and Creating War Zones.

(by ACLU)

News reports frequently show police wearing helmets and masks, wielding assault rifles, and riding in mine-resistant armored vehicles. These are not isolated incidents—they represent a nationwide trend of police militarization. Federal programs providing surplus military equipment have equipped police officers with firepower that is far beyond what is needed for their jobs as protectors of their communities. Sending a heavily armed team of officers to perform routine police work can dangerously escalate situations that never needed to involve violence in the first place.

Throughout the United States, heavily armed SWAT teams are raiding people’s homes in the middle of the night, often just to search for drugs. Military-style police raids have increased dramatically in recent years, with one report finding over 80,000 such raids last year. It should enrage us that people have needlessly died during these raids, that pets have been shot, and that homes have been ravaged. Sometimes children are in the crossfire—often with deadly results.

Our neighborhoods are not warzones, and the police should not be treating us like wartime enemies. And yet, every year, billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment flows from the federal government to local police departments. The main beneficiaries of this militarization are military contractors who now have another lucrative market in which to sell their products. Companies like Lockheed Martin and Blackhawk Industries are making record profits by selling their equipment to local police departments that have received Department of Homeland Security grants.

Police departments use these wartime weapons in everyday policing, especially to fight the wasteful and failed drug war, which has unfairly targeted people of color. According to a recent ACLU report, “of all the incidents studied where the number and race of the people impacted were known, 39 percent were Black, 11 percent were Latino, 20 were white.” The majority of raids that targeted blacks and Latinos were related to drugs—another metric exposing how the “war on drugs” is racist to the core.

(adapted from


Passage 2: The Truth about Police Militarization

(by David Hagner)

Over the last few years the role of police in American society has increasingly drawn harsh criticism. Much is made of the militarization of police, from their acquisition and use of surplus military equipment, their training with and adopting similar tactics to the military, and intrusive search procedures. These criticisms are disproportionate and do not take into account the everyday facts of policing, including:

The nature of the threat has changed: Terrorist attacks on American soil have risen in frequency. Though none have been as destructive as those of 9/11, many more recent attacks have occurred at the local level and have to be confronted by police. When these incidents occur, officers need the best available equipment in order to neutralize heavily armed opponents before they can inflict serious harm on civilians.

There is little evidence that new procedures have increased casualties: Statistics of police killings of civilians do not show any significant increase, while deaths of officers in the line of duty are at an all-time low, indicating the newer procedures have helped save lives.

The vast majority of police-civilian interactions are peaceful: Criticisms about the overuse of SWAT teams and officers decked out in military gear ignore the fact that most officers patrol the streets in standard uniforms and interact peacefully with multiple civilians during a given day. Rates of violent crime are down in most parts of the country. Violent confrontations are the exception, not the rule.

Taking valuable tools away from police officers endangers lives: The stability of police shootings of civilians, the decline in violent crime, and the decline in police officer fatalities all suggest that current procedures are working. If officers lose the tactics and equipment they have come to rely on, these trends could be adversely affected and officers could be put in harm’s way without adequate protection.

Police exist to serve their communities, and while accusations of over-militarization are exaggerated, officers do still need to focus heavily on community outreach and dialogue. The only way misconceptions can be corrected is through transparency, so civilians can see and understand why certain approaches are warranted.


7.1. Outline


This essay is organized into 5 paragraphs and its layout includes the following 5 paragraphs:

  • Paragraph 1 –  Introduction – (Explain why the ACLU position is better-supported)
  • Paragraph 2 –  Reason 1 – Statistics (2 supporting examples given from passage)
  • Paragraph 3 – Reason 2 – Ethics (1 supporting example given from passage)
  • Paragraph 4 – Reason 3 – Diction (2 supporting  examples given from passage)
  • Paragraph 5 – Conclusion  – (Restate which argument is better) 


7.2. GED Sample Essay


These days, the militarization of the police is a contentious issue. While some contend that criticizing police behavior interferes with their capacity to perform their duties, others contend that the police frequently overstep their bounds and do more harm than good. Both sections deal directly with this issue, but the ACLU’s condemnation of police militarization has the strongest foundation and ultimately the strongest case.

The second sentence doesn’t include any exact statistics, but according to the ACLU, there were 80,000 police raids on military installations last year. This is unexpected and reinforces the notion that military-style incursions have permeated society too widely. The author then draws attention to the fundamental flaw in these raids by noting that, “of all the events investigated where the number and ethnicity of the people impacted were known, 39 percent were Black, 11 percent were Latino, and 20 were White.” African-Americans have been disproportionately affected by police militarization, demonstrating the harm it causes to society.

The ACLU’s case is also better substantiated than Hagner’s since, in contrast to Hagner’s piece, it speaks directly to ethical corruption. Companies like Lockheed Martin and Blackhawk Industries are raking in record profits, according to the ACLU, by selling their equipment to local police agencies that have received funding from the Department of Homeland Security. According to the ACLU, the militarization of the police is being done for financial gain; if this is the case, there is no practical necessity for this. Police militarization presents an ethical dilemma because private firms are ultimately created to generate money, not assist the police.

Finally, because the ACLU’s argument employs considerably more powerful language than Hagner’s argument, it is far more convincing. The seriousness of this situation is highlighted by the bluntness with which the drug war is described as “wasteful and failed.” Readers, who are most likely taxpayers, have a stake in the government not wasting their money. Because “heavily armed SWAT teams are entering people’s homes in the middle of the night,” the author continues, “the reader might not be safe.” The tone of this essay is considerably more passionate than the tone of the second, which helps to elicit an emotional response from the reader.

In conclusion, the ACLU’s argument is stronger because it contains more evidence, claims of ethical corruption, and persuasive language that grabs the reader’s attention. Hagner’s argument has some validity because it does an excellent job of organizing arguments with a numbered list, but it ultimately has a too dry tone and lacks evidence to support its claims. The case put forth by the ACLU ultimately succeeds in persuading readers that we should all be concerned about the militarization of the police.


8. GED Language Arts Practice Tests by Estudyme

“Practice makes perfect”, therefore, you should take as many RLA practice questions as possible to be familiar with the question types and know how to answer them appropriately. GED Test Pro is one of the online leading practice platforms where you can find a myriad of GED Language Arts Practice Tests. Now, start your GED journey with us.