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U.S. Debt

Often included with written information is visual information such as timelines, charts, and graphs. You will need to be able to find the main idea of the visual and look for the supporting details.

bar graph

U.S. Debt

Let’s take a look at this timeline. Look at the title first. “U.S. Gross Federal Debt as a Percentage of GDP”. The first thing that you always want to look to when you are looking at a chart, graph, timeline, or even a paragraph is the title.

U.S. Gross Federal Debt as a Percentage of GDP from1940 through 2010

U.S. Debt

What does this graph show? Where can you find the main idea? Well, it is right here in the title! The title is going to tell you what this graph is about. This one is about the U.S. Gross Federal Debt as a Percentage of GDP. You don’t need to know what all of the words mean in the title—if you don’t know GDP, we are still going to be able to get information from this graph.

U.S. Gross Federal Debt as a Percentage of GDP from1940 through 2010

U.S. Debt

You also want to look at the other information in the graph. What other information is here? Look at the dates along the bottom of the graph. This is telling you all the dates that are in the timeline. They start at 1941 and go all the way up to 2009.

U.S. Gross Federal Debt as a Percentage of GDP from1940 through 2010

U.S. Debt

You also see a list of names, which you are hopefully recognizing as a list of our presidents. (and) Each of those presidents goes along with a particular time period. So, look at Roosevelt, the first one on the list. He was president during 1941-1945, and following him we’ve got Truman who was president from 1945-1953, and so on down the list.

U.S. Gross Federal Debt as a Percentage of GDP from1940 through 2010

U.S. Debt

What else haven’t we looked at yet? We’ve got this vertical axis with percentages: 20 percent, 40 percent, 60 percent…Remember back in the title we saw something about percentages too: “U.S. Gross Federal Debt as a Percentage of GDP”.

U.S. Gross Federal Debt as a Percentage of GDP from1940 through 2010

U.S. Debt

On the GED test, you will be asked to pull information out of this timeline. They might ask you a question like:

When was the U.S. debt at the highest percentage of GDP?

  1. 1941
  2. 1945
  3. 1973
  4. 2009

U.S. Gross Federal Debt as a Percentage of GDP from1940 through 2010

U.S. Debt

When was the U.S. debt at the highest percentage of GDP?

  1. 1941
  2. 1945
  3. 1973
  4. 2009

The answer is 1945. The way you find that information is look for the highest peak of the mountain, the tallest point. That will give you your highest percentage. Next you are going to look all the way down that vertical axis to the date. You will see that the highest peak of the mountain matches up with the date 1945.

U.S. Gross Federal Debt as a Percentage of GDP from1940 through 2010

U.S. Debt

When was the U.S. debt at the lowest percentage of GDP?

  1. 1945
  2. 1981
  3. 1993
  4. 2001

U.S. Gross Federal Debt as a Percentage of GDP from1940 through 2010

U.S. Debt

When was the U.S. debt at the lowest percentage of GDP?

  1. 1945
  2. 1981
  3. 1993
  4. 2001

1981 is the lowest point on that graph. (and so) 1981 is the time when that U.S. debt is at the lowest percentage of GDP.

U.S. Gross Federal Debt as a Percentage of GDP from1940 through 2010

U.S. Debt

Remember, every well-written paragraph has a main idea.

Every main idea needs supporting details to give additional information.

Both paragraphs and visuals (charts, graphs, timelines, photos, etc.) have a main idea and supporting details.