The GED exam was developed in 1942 as a general examination to assess test takers' abilities in four academic content areas: English, social studies, science, and mathematics. As the United States' economy transitioned from an industrial to post-industrial job base, the exam underwent several major rounds of revisions—in 1978, 1988, 2002, and 2014—to ensure it retained its focus on the skills and abilities most important for job seekers and individuals applying for higher education.
Several states, however, have been switching to competing high school equivalency examinations due to concerns over the high costs associated with the 2014 revision of the GED exam.
Function of the Test
The GED functions as a test of high school equivalency. This means that successful test takers demonstrate the academic skills and knowledge typically achieved by students of a four-year high school education program. People usually earn the GED in order to qualify for admission to colleges or universities or to become eligible to apply for jobs requiring a high school education.
In 2012, more than 702,000 adults took at least one of the GED subject area tests. Of these individuals, 68.8% passed the examination. Pass rates and exam statistics are not yet available for the new version of the examination which was launched in 2014.
The GED exam is administered by computer at an approved testing center, typically at a local university or community college. About 1,700 testing centers are in operation across the United States. Candidates schedule the examination through the MyGED™ website. Available dates and times for the examination vary according to the schedule of each testing center.
The base cost to take the GED exam is $120, but the actual cost varies by state, because some states pay part of the fee for the applicant.
Test takers who fail to score above 150 points on one or more of the content area tests may retake those individual tests two times with no restrictions between tests. After failing a test three times, however, the test taker must wait 60 days before taking the test again. The GED Testing Service® organization waives its fee for the first and second retest, meaning that those retests are either free (if the test center and state also choose to waive their individual fees) or at least given at a reduced cost.
A variety of accommodations are available to test takers with disabilities. Test takers who require accommodations have the opportunity to request them when registering for the test. After submitting a request, the test taker will receive an e-mail with specific instructions for how to complete the request and receive accommodation.
|Sections of the GED Test|
|GED Test Subject Areas||Time Limit (Minutes)|
|Reasoning Through Language Arts||150|
The GED exam takes place on the computer, but paper exams may be provided for special situations. The seven and a half hour exam includes all four content areas, and scheduled breaks. The use of a calculator is allowed on the Mathematical Reasoning, Science, and Social Studies sections of the GED. There will be an embedded one on the test. There will also be erasable note boards provided to do calculations and take notes. Test-takers may request new ones if it gets too dirty. Scratch paper is not allowed.
The GED test is a computer based exam made out of 200 points worth of items. These items will take the form of drag and drop, drop down, fill in the blank, multiple choice, short answer, hot spot, and extended response. The four content areas that make up this test consist of Reasoning Through Language Arts, Mathematical Reasoning, Science, and Social Studies. In all, the exam period lasts about seven and a half hours.
The following are the topics covered by each of the five GED sections.
- The Reading Comprehension section includes questions on: Poetry, Drama, Prose fiction before 1920, Prose fiction between 1920 and 1960, and Prose fiction after 1960.
- The Language section includes questions on: Organization (15%), Sentence Structure (30%), Usage (30%), and Mechanics (25%).
- The Mathematics section includes questions on: Number operations and number sense (20-30%); Measurement and geometry (20-30%); Data analysis, statistics, and probability (20-30%); and Algebra, functions, and patterns (20-30%).
- The Science section includes questions on: Physical science (physics and chemistry, 35%), Life science (45%), Earth and space science (20%).
- The Social Studies section includes questions on: History (U.S. or Canada, 25%; World, 15%); Geography (15%); Civics and government (25%); and Economics (20%).
Each of the four content area tests of the GED exam is scored separately. Different questions within a section are worth different numbers of points. For example, the Science section has a total of 40 raw score points, but it may have fewer than 40 questions, because some questions are worth more than one point. Guessing is not penalized on the GED exam; test takers' raw scores are based only on the number of points earned by correct answers. These raw scores are converted to a scaled score ranging from 100 to 200 points.
As of the 2014 revision of the GED exam, test takers must pass all four of the individual content area tests in order to receive a high school equivalency credential. The passing score on each content area test is a scaled score of 150 on a scale from 100 to 200. To achieve the level of "GED® with Honors," test takers must achieve a scaled score of 170 for each content area test. A score of 170 in any given subject is the threshold for career and college readiness.
On January 2, 2014, a new version of the GED examination was launched. The new version of the exam is aligned with national college and career readiness standards and is fully computer-based. It is also designed to be "centered on the test-taker, not the testing process" by providing test takers with detailed diagnostic reports to help individuals understand their specific strengths and weaknesses.
Although the GED is the oldest high school equivalency certification in the United States and is almost universally accepted and recognized, many states have switched to new competitors such as the TASC or HiSet, or at least offer multiple types of high school equivalency examinations. The typical reason cited is the high cost of the 2014 revision of the GED exam. Due to this rapidly-changing situation, Individuals interested in achieving high school equivalency should familiarize themselves with which examination(s) are currently supported by their state of residence.
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