GED Science: Short-Answer Response Questions

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.

In addition to a number of multiple choice questions, the GED Science test will also require you to write two short-answer responses. Read this lesson to learn about the details and structure of these questions, as well as some strategies to effectively answer them.

What are Short-Answer Responses?

The GED Science test will provide the test taker with two short-answer response questions, each of which should be completed (including planning, organization, and writing) in about 10 minutes. These questions will present you with an informational passage that the reader must first read and then respond to. Short-answer responses can be designed to test your comprehension of the material, or to test your understanding of the scientific process itself.

Strategies for Short-Answer Responses

Response to Text or Graphic

One type of short-answer response question will present you with a passage, graphic, or both, and require you to respond to a question that is posed at the end. It's important to realize that, to answer this question, the GED does not expect you to have a lot of background knowledge about the subject. Instead, you should concentrate on citing specific pieces of information from the reading passage to make your argument. Some good habits for these responses include reading the passage carefully, writing a strong opening statement, and focusing on the facts from the text you want to reference.

Design a Science Experiment

Another type of short-answer response question will present you with a reading passage containing information but, instead of asking you to simply answer a question, it will ask you to design a scientific experiment to test a hypothesis. For these short-answer response questions, it is very important to understand the scientific method and how experiments are designed.

Once you're comfortable with this information, the most useful thing you can do to prepare for these short-answer responses is to practice. Particularly, you can benefit from making sure that you practice developing a hypothesis, describing methods for data collection, and describing methods for data evaluation.

Sample Passages

Let's take a look at a sample passage, followed by a short-answer writing prompt based on that passage:

  • Why are so many different animals so many different colors? Animals use coloration for many different reasons. For some animals, coloration is a warning. Look at the skunk, or the poison dart frog. Both of these animals use a distinct pattern or bright coloration to warn potential predators that they are dangerous. This is common in animals that use poison, venom, or similar defense mechanisms. Other animals might also be colorful, but for different reasons. Some animals, like male peacocks, use bright coloration to attract a mate. Brighter colors in some animals can indicate better health, which would be more attractive to a potential mate. Other animals, like tigers and chameleons are typically thought of as colorful, but these animals use their coloration as camouflage. However, they use their camouflage for different reasons. Tigers use their camouflage to stalk their prey, while chameleons use it to avoid becoming prey.

Many species of birds are very brightly colored. Do you think they are using these colors to warn potential predators that they might be dangerous? Using information from the short passage above, provide a hypothesis about colorful birds to answer this question. Use specific information to support your hypothesis.

Two things you should keep in mind when writing this response are: 1) Keep your point as clear and focused as possible, and 2) Cite two specific pieces of information from the passage.

Let's take a look at another passage, followed by another writing prompt:

  • Scientists know that adding salt to icy roads can cause the ice to melt. This is because adding salt to water changes the freezing point, so much colder temperatures are required for the water to freeze. The freezing point depends on the amount of salt added. Scientists suspect that adding salt to water might change the boiling point as well.

Design an experiment that these scientists can perform to test their hypothesis. Include methods for data collection and ways that the scientists will be able to measure their findings.

The criteria to keep in mind when designing a science experiment for a short-answer response includes making sure you are creating a complete hypothesis, a complete method for data collection, and a complete method for assessing the results.

Lesson Summary

Let's review!

The GED Science test will provide you with two 10-minute short answer responses, including a reading passage and a question. These questions can require you to either write an explanation for a hypothesis or design an experiment. When writing an explanation, be sure to keep your points clear and cite evidence from the text. When designing an experiment, make sure to clearly state your hypothesis, describe a method for data collection, and describe a method for assessing the results of the experiment.

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