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What GED© Test Takers Need to Know about U.S. History

The GED© Test went through a lot of changes last year, but I want to make sure one shift in Social Studies is not overlooked.

U.S. Map

The previous GED© test emphasized both World History and U.S. History. Instead the new test focuses 20% on U.S. History, with no World History. The closest element includes “key historical documents that have shaped American constitutional government,” but I’m not sure how many documents from World History would be included on that list.

In addition to understanding major historical documents, GED© Test Takers should prepare with a general grounding in the following historical periods:

  • European Settlement of the Americas,
  • Revolutionary & Early Republic Period,
  • Civil War and Reconstruction,
  • Civil Rights,
  • World Wars I & II,
  • Cold War, and
  • Post-9/11 Foreign Policy.

Want a little more detail? The following are the subcategories contained in the Assessment Guide for Educators, last updated in July 2014. The notes in parentheses are my own summaries of each point:

Revolutionary and Early Republic Periods

  • Revolutionary War (U.S. independence from Britain)
  • War of 1812 (still fighting the British for territory around the Great Lakes)
  • Articles of Confederation (states agree to work together under one government, later replaced by the U.S. Constitution)
  • Manifest Destiny (belief that God wants the U.S. to expand West, with purchase and treaties that expand territory)
  • U.S. Indian Policy (established relationships with Native Americans as sovereign nations, and signed treaties that removed them from most of their ancestral lands)
  • George Washington (General of the Revolutionary Army, first President, whose biggest legacy was peaceful transition of power)
  • Thomas Jefferson (primary author of the Declaration of Independence and third President whose writings still impact policy)

Civil War and Reconstruction

  • Slavery (ended by the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863)
  • Sectionalism (Northern vs. Southern regional divisions resulted in 11 states trying to secede and form the Confederate States of America)
  • Civil War Amendments (13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Federal Constitution-go read them)
  • Reconstruction policies (federal government trying to rebuild areas torched by the war)

Civil Rights

  • Jim Crow laws (legal segregation by race, mostly in Southern states)
  • Women’s Suffrage (founded in 1848, succeeded in securing women’s right to vote in 19th Amendment ratified in 1920)
  • Civil Rights Movement (protests against Jim Crow laws and economic inequalities, particularly in 1950s-60s)
  • Supreme Court rulings: Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) allowing “separate but equal” racial segregation in schools overturned by Brown v. Board of Education (1954).
  • Warren court decisions (Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren declared legal racial segregation unconstitutional)

World War I

  • Alliance System (by 1914, European nations had organized into two opposing alliances that went to war)
  • Imperialism (idea that superior societies should conquer others to expand their Empire)
  • Nationalism (pride in national identity)
  • Militarism (using military power to conquer land and people)
  • Russian Revolution (two revolutions in 1917 that overturned the Tsar-royal family-and instated the Bolsheviks-communists)
  • Woodrow Wilson (President 1913-1921 who claimed U.S. obligated to promote global democracy)
  • Treaty of Versailles (signed in Paris 1919 to end World War I)
  • League of Nations (first international organization to promote world peace, replaced by the United Nations after World War II)
  • Meagen’s Note: Today UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) promotes quality adult and family literacy programs around the world.

World War II

  • Neutrality Acts and Isolationism (Congress passed laws in 1930s to avoid involvement in international conflicts)
  • Allied Powers (coalition of nations to repel invasion by the Axis powers, eventually led by Britain, U.S., and Soviet Union)
  • Axis Powers (lead by Italy, Japan, and Germany to expand their territories)
  • Fascism, Nazism, and totalitarianism (ideologies of a superior race or nation promoted by the Axis powers leading to invasions)
  • The Holocaust (German genocide including six million Jews)
  • Japanese-American internment (citizens and residents of Japanese descent were interred in camps during the war for fear of spies)
  • Decolonization (post-war independence movements in Asia, Middle East, and Africa)
  • GI Bill (U.S. government gives funds to veterans for college and to purchase homes, creating a robust middle class)
  • Meagen’s Note: The GED Test was created in 1947 to give enlisted veterans without a high school diploma an alternative way to enter the workforce or college and use the GI Bill.

The Cold War

  • Communism (markets controlled by central government)
  • Capitalism (decentralized power in markets by corporations and consumers)
  • NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization protects the interests of countries around the N. Atlantic Ocean, still in existence)
  • The Warsaw Pact (countries of central & eastern Europe to protect communist interests against NATO)
  • U.S. maturation as an international power (’nuff said)
  • Division of Germany, Berlin Blockade and Airlift (Germany divided into capitalist West and communist East, including Berlin wall)
  • Truman doctrine (In 1947 President Truman offered assistance to all nations under threat from external forces)
  • Marshall Plan (U.S. support of $17 billion to rebuild European economies)
  • Lyndon B Johnson and The Great Society (Policies to end domestic poverty and discrimination, but funding later diverted to Vietnam)
  • Meagen’s Note: This set of policies has the most direct impact on literacy programs in the U.S. today, including the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act, VISTA, Head Start, and more.
  • Richard Nixon and the Watergate Scandal (President Nixon resigned after investigation of abuses of power by his administration)
  • Collapse of U.S.S.R. and the democratization of Eastern Europe (end of communist Warsaw Pact, East Germany, etc)

American Foreign Policy since 9/11

The GED Testing Service has no subcategories here, so I guess this is still up for debate. I would create the following categories (there’s a lot one could say here, so I will try to focus on highlights):

  • Taliban’s attacks on September 11th, 2001
  • Al-Qaida’s international network and leader Osama Bin Laden
  • U.S. support of Israel and international disputes over Israeli blockade of Palestinian territories
  • U.S. and NATO Invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq under George W. Bush
  • Arab Spring: grassroots protest and military movements for democracy from Tunisia to Syria
  • Nation-building strategies: promoting education and economic development to reduce influence of terrorist groups
  • Meagen’s Note: Adult education is definitely a nation-building strategy!
  • Guantanamo Bay and enhanced interrogation techniques
  • Unmanned drones and air strikes under Barack Obama

9 responses to “What GED© Test Takers Need to Know about U.S. History”

  1. Mary Grace DeStefanis Avatar
    Mary Grace DeStefanis

    Thanks for pulling that together. Any way we can “cluster” and/or focus the scope of the GED test is helpful. I also would be interested in feedback students are giving as they come back from the test

  2. Hi Mary Grace! The biggest thing I am hearing lately is about the Extended Response. Test takers can pass Reading without any points on the ER, but some are getting no points who their teachers thought were good writers. Solid grammar and a 5 paragraph essay isn’t cutting it.

  3. Hi My Name Is Quadarius & I’m Currently Studying For My GED Test (Social Studies) And I Don’t Mean To Ask A Crazy Question But Those 7 Subject Pertaining To The Test Are Those The Ones That Are Mandatory To Study Over .?

  4. Good question, Quadarius. It’s better to think of this list like everything that is possible to be on the GED Test about U.S. History. You don’t have to memorize any of this but the more you know, the better you’ll understand History questions on the test. There are also questions about Economics, Geography, and Civics & Government.

  5. My God Thank You So Much For This & Also I Didn’t See European Settlement of the Americas Section Up Here .

  6. Also Are There Anything On Economics , Geography , Civics & Government .?

  7. Here’s another post with some materials to study for Civics & Government:

  8. Magnificent! Thank you so much. I find it useful and detailed. l am taking my test next week for my Social Studies. l can see that l have a lot to study this whole week after going through the topics. l passed my RLA that was my first subject. l am not taking classes and studying at home. Wish me good luck! Will definately come back with my score. I am taking one subject at a time until l get my Diploma.

    l just moved to USA from Africa and l want to have the education background of US. Once again thank you.

  9. Good luck on your Social Studies test! Please let me know how you score.

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