GED Extended Response Essay Guide

The GED Extended Response (ER) can make or break your score. While you can pass the GED exam earning 0 points on the ER section, it’s not a great idea to count on doing well enough on the rest of the exam to make up for it. The essay is worth about 20% of your raw score, and any extra points you gain will help you pass the Language Arts section on the first try.

The ER is rigidly structured, and the GED graders are looking for an essay that follows a particular structure. Though it may seem daunting, the more you practice writing this type of essay, the more you will realize that the essay is very formulaic. Follow the formula every time for a successful essay!

How to Write a Great GED Extended Response Essay

The GED Extended Response Essay is persuasive writing, meaning that you are trying to prove a point in your essay.

Read the prompt carefully (Analyze)

Sample essay prompt:

Analyze the arguments presented in the two speeches.

In your response, develop an argument in which you explain how one position is better

supported than the other. Incorporate relevant and specific evidence from both sources

to support your argument. Remember, the better-argued position is not necessarily the position with which you agree. This task should take approximately 45 minutes to complete.

When you read an essay prompt, take care to note what “action words” are used. In this case, the words “analyze”, “develop”, and “incorporate” are used. Take care in your essay to do each of these tasks just as the prompt tells you. As you read the source material, look out for items that match these tasks.

Organize your thoughts (Analyze/Develop)

After you have read both of the source materials, you should determine which argument is better supported by evidence. There are a few ways to do this, but one of the most common is writing a two-column list that lists out each of the points from each source.

As you read, determine the better supported argument by analyzing the facts presented. Where is the source from? Are the ideas presented based on facts or ideas and speculation? Consider the audience, context, message, purpose, author, the proof, and the style of the writing itself when you evaluate the sources.

After you determine which argument is better supported, list 2-3 pieces of evidence you want to cite in your essay. Assign each piece of evidence 2-3 supporting details explaining your reasoning.

Write Your Essay

An essay usually has three parts: an introduction, body, and a conclusion. If you’ve ever written a basic essay, you’re well on your way to understanding the structure of the GED ER.

Essay Introduction

Your essay should include an introduction and thesis statement. This is one of the most important parts of your essay. It shows the graders that you are organized and know exactly what you want to say.

Open your essay with a general statement that is relevant to the topic and then create your thesis. Your thesis should be a statement that can be debated by anyone (e.g. The second source presents a stronger argument because…). A good thesis will tell your readers exactly what you want to say.

Here’s an example of a thesis statement:

“The second argument is better supported because it presents stronger statistics, better logical reasoning, and comes from a more reliable source.”

This statement explains exactly what the author intends to talk about. This thesis statement gives an outline for the rest of the essay and will help you structure your essay as you write.

Essay Body

The body of your essay is where you support your ideas that you listed in the thesis and answer the prompt.  Each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence. These help the reader understand what you’re going to write about in your paragraph. Each topic sentence should relate back to the thesis and support it by giving details you pull from the source material. You can use quotes, detail your argument, and support your opinion in the body paragraphs.

Be sure your paragraphs always address the subject and put emphasis on analysis. When analyzing an argument, explain why your position is correct. Use supporting details as evidence to describe why the argument is stronger. Contrast the other, weaker argument’s details, then describe why the argument they make is not as strong.


Here are some examples of arguments you can use in your thesis and body paragraphs:

  • Logical argument — what kind of evidence does the author use? Does the logic they use make sense?
  • Reasonable assumptions — what assumptions does the author make? Is the conclusion they make reasonable?
  • Ethics — Does the author talk about the right or “moral” thing to do?
  • Statistics and numbers — What kinds of numbers and statistics are used to prove the author’s point?
  • Emotional appeal — How is the author trying to make you feel with the argument?
  • Appeal to authority — What kinds of people does the author cite as experts? Are they reputable?
  • Historical precedent — Does the author use a historical event or precedent to back up their claim?
  • Language — What kind of language is used? How does the language make you feel? How does the language demonstrate the author’s opinion?

Use words and phrases that help your sentences flow smoothly. Some examples include: “As per the first source…”, “In the text…”, “…stated”, “In addition”, “However”, “In sum…”

Be sure to use different sentence structures as you write, as it shows your excellent writing skills and keeps the reader interested.

You should use a different paragraph for each new point you make, meaning you should have 2-3 body paragraphs. Each paragraph also must be at least 3-7 sentences long. Assemble your paragraphs in a logical order, and be sure to tie your details back to the main point.

Essay Conclusion

After you have written your body paragraphs, write a conclusion paragraph to sum up your thoughts. A very easy way to do this is to restate your thesis statement in a slightly different way. You can then list your main points again. This creates an essay that feels well-rounded and reaffirms your stance.

After you’ve finished writing, be sure to use any extra time you have to fix grammar and usage mistakes, as these contribute to your score.

You should aim to have about 300-500+ words in your essay. Though this may seem like a lot, remember that 300 words is only half a typed page, and that 500 words is a full page. Remember, a well-written essay doesn’t have to be long to get the point across.

Tips to Write a Better Extended Response Essay

  • Practice active reading. Active reading is when you interact with the text as you read it. Underline, highlight, and write yourself notes in the margins or on a separate sheet. Mark the most important parts of the text and the main points. This will not only help you understand what the text actually says, but it will save you a lot of time when planning your writing. You can even use this technique to easily pull quotes into your essay!
  • Time yourself when you practice so you understand how much time you have.
  • One mistake many writers make is picking a side and arguing based on their opinion. This will not earn you any points on the ER!
  •  You must consider that the prompt asks you to determine which argument is better supported by evidence. The argument that is better supported may not be a position you agree with.
  • Better readers are often better writers. Practice your reading skills often.
  • Visualize each body paragraph you write like an upside-down pyramid. Your broadest statements (i.e. topic sentences, introductory sentences) should be at the broadest end of the pyramid. Your most specific, detailed statements should be closer to the middle and bottom parts of the pyramid.