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General Test Preparation Strategies

This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Terms You Need to Understand:

  • Test planning

  • Test preparation

  • Standardized test format

  • Procrastination

Techniques You Need to Master:

  • Developing your personal study habits

  • Becoming familiar with the GED format

I've mentioned already in this book that you can't prepare for the GED in the same way you would prepare for a typical exam in school. That is, the GED is not asking you memorize a bunch of facts and then be able to recall them but is testing your ability to read and comprehend questions of various formats and subject matter so you can answer them using the information provided.

Maybe you are still asking yourself—based on what you just read—why you should study for the GED. After all, if the information required to answer the questions is provided within the exam itself, why worry?

As I've also already said in this book, you shouldn't worry about the GED. But you should most definitely take it very seriously, and doing so may cause you to be a bit nervous heading into test day. Don't confuse that nervous feeling with worry. Actually, being a little nervous can be a good (great) thing because it can keep you focused on the task at hand.

Another thing you should keep in mind is that studying for the GED involves more than just working through the content of the questions. Studying will also familiarize you with the format of the test (number of questions, how the questions are worded, time you have to complete each section of the exam, and so forth). Becoming familiar with the test format is critical to your success because you'll know what to expect from each section of the exam.

So, this chapter isn't going to give you a list of books to read to prepare for the GED. Actually, you've got the only book you really need—you are reading it right now! Rather, this chapter presents general test preparation strategies and study tips in an effort to ensure that your study and prep time is used as efficiently as possible.

Discovering Your Personal Study Habits

When I was in college, I had a friend who absolutely could not study unless music was blaring at ear-splitting levels. In fact, he had specific CDs he liked to listen to, depending on what he was studying. If he was studying for his biology class, it was the Rolling Stones, but if he was studying math he preferred more contemporary pop music. I can still see him, sitting at the kitchen counter of his apartment, with the music so loud the walls were shaking. I’d walk in (sometimes annoyed, because I could hear the music from across the hall, blaring into my own apartment!) and ask him, "Studying hard for the big exam?" After having to repeat myself a few times (remember: loud music involved here) he’d smile and say, "Oh yeah!"

Maybe you also prefer to have music blasting from the speakers when you want to concentrate. Or, maybe you are like the majority (?) of us who prefer a happy medium—not absolute quiet, but a little soft music or the television turned down low serving to wash out otherwise distracting noises.

Finding your personal study habits takes time, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve studied. Then again, if you like to read, maybe you can relate your preferred reading environment to the one for studying. Again, the main point here is that there is no right or wrong way to study—it all depends on what works best for you. That said, you need to be realistic in what you expect from your study environment.

What do I mean? Let me give you an example. I do a lot of writing, both for profit and for fun. My favorite time to write is early in the morning, usually between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. I also like to write between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Now, in a perfect world, I could get a tremendous amount of writing done if I could write every day for these two 3-hour time periods.

However, let’s just say I don’t live in a perfect world, at least not in the context of being able to do exactly what I want, when I want. Little things like a job, a family (especially little kids), and the unexpected twists and turns that life can throw you often get in the way of an otherwise perfectly planned schedule.

What I’m getting at here is that you need to be flexible and realistic (there’s that word again) in how, when, or where you study. I’m guessing there’s a good chance that you have other obligations (job, family, and so forth) that will prevent you from studying for the GED 24 hours a day. Consider the following tips for how to adjust and find study time in the real world we all live in:

  • You know those little studies that are always coming out? They tell us how much time every year the average person spends sitting at a stop light, taking a shower, and so forth? I know when I read those, my first reaction is always, "No, that can’t possible be true!" But then when I think about my typical day and the time I spend in these activities, I usually find that those studies are fairly accurate. The fact is that we all waste a lot of valuable time doing, well, nothing. Of course, everyone needs a few minutes each day to just unwind and "veg out." On the other hand, you can use otherwise wasted time to your advantage. Maybe you take a bus to your job, and the bus ride is 20 minutes long. There’s 20 minutes you could be preparing for the GED. Or, maybe there is a television show you really like to watch at 7:00, and then another you like to watch at 8:00, but you don’t care for the program that comes on between those two (and you usually end up watching it, anyway). Why not turn off the tube for that half-hour and spend it studying? You’d be amazed how much time you can reclaim in a typical day just by taking a more critical look at your schedule.

  • Be true to your internal time clock, and don’t force yourself into studying when you are tired or agitated. Admittedly, you are probably going to have make some sacrifices and spend time studying when you’d otherwise prefer to be doing something else (like, oh, sleeping!). Then again, if you are so tired that you end up reading the same sentence over and over, you might as well put the book down and hit the sack. When thinking about the best time to study, keep the Tip you just read in mind and look for time during the day when you are at your best—time when you might be able to sneak in 10 or 20 minutes of quality study. This kind of time is going to be far more productive than if you force yourself into a schedule that your body and mind just can’t handle.

  • Avoid the dreaded, "I’ll study later" procrastination trap at all costs! It is so easy to put things off, and sometimes (most of the time?) you have a legitimately good reason for doing so (deadline at work, sick kids, an overflowing toilet, you name it). But, once the crisis has passed, you need to focus back in and pick up where you left off in your GED preparation. In study after study, it has been shown that cramming for an exam or otherwise waiting until the last minute to prepare for it works for only a very few, select people. You’ve made a courageous decision to take the GED, so stick to your plan and be just as courageous in finding time in your otherwise busy schedule to prepare for the exam.

  • Finding ways to engage your family and friends in your study preparation is a great way to both bolster your self-confidence and prepare for the exam. It’s also a great way to find time in your schedule that you might not otherwise think you had. For example, when your kids sit down after dinner to do their homework, grab a seat at the kitchen table and study with them. Maybe make popcorn and have a study party. Not only when you will be spending time with your kids, but you’ll also be studying for the GED! And oh yeah, you’ll be setting a great example to your kids about the value of dedication and hard work. It’s a win-win combination!

  • Somewhat related to the last point, as well as the others in this list, declare yourself an "Official GED Test-Taker" and let it be known to your family and friends that you are taking the exam and your study time very seriously. You’d be surprised at how much encouragement and support they will give you, and how (if you’re lucky!) they will try to accommodate your need for study time. I have little kids, and they always amaze me by somehow instinctively knowing when I have lots of work to do, and thus play quietly or otherwise not disturb me. Now, I won’t kid you (sorry, no pun intended): This doesn’t work all the time, and sometimes when I really have to get serious work done it’s like World War III in my house. But I have great kids, and usually I can bargain with them in order to find quiet time. ("Give me half an hour to work, and then we’ll go out for ice cream" always seems to work.)

  • Finally, develop a mental picture of yourself succeeding on the GED, and never lose focus of that picture! Just like the "little engine that could," self-confidence can be a key motivating factor in how you prepare for and ultimately perform on the exam. Think (and remain) positive—you can do it!

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