GED Science: Reading Passages

Instructor: Jordan White

Jordan has been a writer, editor and Web researcher for educational publications since 2010. He holds a bachelor's in English from Western Michigan University.

For the GED Science test, test takers will need to know how to effectively read and analyze reading passages in order to answer questions. Read this lesson to get a better sense of strategies for GED reading passages.

GED Science Reading Passage Strategies

This section of the GED may focus on scientific concepts, but there is also plenty of reading to do! In many cases, the GED Science test will present scientific information in lengthy reading passages, which the test taker will need to be able to understand and analyze before moving on to the multiple choice questions. So, how can you effectively approach these GED reading passages?

The Information is Provided

One important thing to keep in mind is that a reading passages will typically cover all the relevant information you need to know in order to answer the question correctly. More often than not, GED science questions are less about your ability to recall specific scientific information, and more about your ability to read and understand the information presented. Let's take a look at a sample reading passage and multiple choice question:

  • 'In recent years, it has been discovered that octopuses are extremely intelligent creatures. It has been demonstrated that these invertebrates are capable of both short-term memory and long-term memory through experiments that test their ability to solve simple problems and navigate mazes. This is of particular note for two reasons. The first is that octopuses are not taught any behavior by their parents, so it is not known how learning plays into an octopus' intelligence. Secondly, octopuses live very short lives, so any intelligence they have is developed very quickly. If they had longer lives, who knows how much smarter they could become!'

Which of the following choices is the best option for the title of this passage?

A) The Lifespan of Octopuses

B) How Octopuses Learn

C) The Intelligence of Octopuses

D) The Parenting Behavior of Octopuses

Here, the correct answer would be C) The Intelligence of Octopuses, because each point of the passage is in reference to this broader concept. As you can see, all the false options are also addressed in the passage, but are used as supporting data rather than the main concept. Also, you'll notice that you don't need to have any prior knowledge of octopuses to answer this question. You simply need to be able to read and understand the information being addressed. So, if a reading passage is about a topic you're unfamiliar with, don't panic! If you carefully read the passage and the answer choices, you should be able to answer the question without prior knowledge of the topic.

Read the Questions First

Another important strategy to keep in mind while completing the GED Science test is that reading passages will commonly present a good deal of information that ends up being unnecessary when it comes time to answer the questions. Part of your job as a test taker will be to sift through the passages to find the meaningful information. For instance, let's take a look at the following passage:

How Stars Form

  • Stars begin their lives within a giant accumulation of gas and dust measuring light years across, which is called a molecular cloud. In some spots these clouds are particularly cold and dense, and we call these areas dark nebula. At a certain level of density, these portions of the molecular cloud will start to collapse in on themselves due to the weight and gravity that the denseness is creating. Over a long enough period of time, these dense areas of the molecular cloud continue to collapse inward, forming a protostar. A protostar is a young star that does not yet have enough heat to complete nuclear fusion. Eventually, the protostar will accumulate more and more mass, which increases its temperature and begins the process of nuclear fusion at the core. This is when we say that the object has become a star.

According to the passage above, which of the following best describes a protostar?

A) It can be light years across

B) It is also called a dark nebula

C) It cannot complete nuclear fusion

D) This is the most massive stage of the star's lifespan

Here, the correct answer is C) It cannot complete nuclear fusion. As you can see, reading the entire passage was not necessary to answer this question, because the test taker could have simply read the question and then returned to the prompt looking only for information about protostars. On the real GED, passages can be much longer than the example above, so narrowing down the information you're looking for in a passage can really help you save some time.

Also, please notice that once again, prior knowledge of the subject of the passage was not necessary to correctly answer the question.

Basic Reading Comprehension Strategies

If you want to learn more about basic reading comprehension, you can also check out this lesson on

Reading Comprehension Strategies

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