The GED: What is it?
General Education Development (GED) tests certify that the test-taker has acquired high school-level academic skills and knowledge. The tests are an internationally recognized certification. By taking the GED, individuals are able to earn high school credentials so that they can pursue post-secondary education, qualify for jobs or promotions, and achieve their personal goals. The GED was developed by the American Council on Education (ACE) in 1942 to provide returning members of the military the certification required to ease back into the civilian workforce. After having undergone numerous revisions, the GED now consists of a set of five tests in core high school curriculum topics. The tests measure the main academic skills and knowledge that are typically acquired within a four year high school education. Subjects covered on the test are Language Arts, Reading, Language Arts, Writing, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies. Most employers accept GED certification as equivalent to a high school diploma.
Your performance on the GED tests is reported in “standard scores”, which range from 200 to 800, and “percentile ranks,” ranging from 1 to 99. Your results are compared to scores earned by a national sample of high school seniors. Your scoring data is accompanied by a box indicating a “Pass” or “Non-pass” result, and if you have not yet taken all five tests, the box will be marked with INC (incomplete). If you do not pass the GED Tests, you are able to retake portions of the exam to raise your scores.
Who can take the test?
If you are an adult who left high school without receiving a diploma, you may be eligible to write the GED test. Taking the test will prove that you have high school equivalent knowledge and that you are able to demonstrate those skills. As of May 1, 2017, a GED test will be offered internationally, outside the U.S. and Canada.
You must be 18 years old or older
You cannot have graduated from high school
You must have been out of school for at least one year
Exceptions are sometimes provided for underage individuals.
GED tests may be taken in person on a computer. The test is available in various languages, including English and Spanish in the U.S. and English and French in Canada. If you have special needs and/or physical or learning disabilities, you can apply for accommodations to help you take the test. Accommodations have been developed to ensure that those with physical disabilities (blindness, deafness, mobility impairments), learning disabilities (dyslexia, dyscalculia, receptive aphasia, written language disorder), attention-deficit disorder, psychological disabilities (bipolar disorder, Tourette’s syndrome) or chronic health issues, are able to have a fair chance at passing the test.
How to prepare for the GED
Many people find that GED preparatory courses help them to thoroughly prepare for the exam. To prepare for the GED it is important to study a variety of subjects. The GED test battery evaluates whether you have skills equivalent to a four year high school education. The test includes sections on science, mathematics, language arts (both reading and writing) and social studies. The exam is comprehensive and takes up to seven-and-a-half hours to complete. Some U.S. states require candidates to have taken a prep course before they are even able to attempt the tests.
You will want to focus your studies on the four main test subjects:
Reasoning Through Language Arts
The Language Arts test section assesses your reading and writing skills. Questions involve reading comprehension and analysis in a variety of texts. The questions are designed to assess your ability to read closely, ability to write clearly, and your ability to edit and understand written language in context. Text samples are provided from academic as well as workplace contexts and range in complexity. The writing tasks section requires you to edit selections of text and eliminate grammatical, punctuation, capitalization and spelling errors.
The writing tasks test includes a written section in which you will be given 45 minutes to draft and write a complete essay. The topic is provided and you are evaluated on your ability to organize, develop, and argue your ideas using proper grammatical structures and style. The essay portion will be administered on a computer, given the importance of technology in today’s workforce and academic worlds.
The science portion of the test is 90-minutes and uses text, graphs, tables, and diagrams to test your knowledge in Earth and space science, life sciences, and physical science. This section consists of 50 multiple-choice questions that require you to understand, interpret, or apply information that is provided on the test or learned from real-life experience.
The mathematics test consists of two equally weighted parts of 25 questions each. For the first part, you may use your calculator to answer questions. The second part of the mathematics test will require you to use estimation and mental math to answer the questions (a calculator is not permitted in this section). There is a formulas page provided for your reference. Your understanding of concepts and your application of those concepts will be assessed through real-world situations. Questions are multiple-choice as well as short answer, you will be required to record your answers on grids in some questions as well. Four major areas of mathematics are tested in this portion:
- number operations and number sense,
- measurement and geometry,
- data analysis, statistics, and probability,
- algebra, functions and patterns.
The Social Studies Test is made up of 50 multiple-choice questions from subjects of History, Geography, Civics and Government, and Economics. Most of the questions are based on texts from a variety of sources. You will be required to understand, apply, analyze, or evaluate information provided to effectively respond to the questions in this portion.
GED preparation books may be purchased at most bookstores or borrowed from most libraries. However, GED classes are a great way of making sure you are knowledgeable in all areas of the exam, and that you understand of the exam format as well. The better you know what to expect, the more you set yourself up for success. Preparation courses to make sure you are well-acquainted with test subjects and testing format are widely available. Many adult education centres offer self-paced classes so that you can learn when it is convenient to you.
Take a GED practice test
There are Official GED Practice Tests available as a tool to best prepare yourself for writing the tests. The questions found on preparatory tests are similar to the questions on the real exam in content, difficulty, and format. Based on your results from the GED practice tests, you can decide whether you need to study some more, or whether you are ready to take the official tests. The Official GED Practice Test costs $6 per subject and must be taken on a computer—mobile testing is not yet offered. It is about half the length of the official GED test. Taking a practice test gives you a clear idea of what to expect on your testing day as questions are delivered in the same format as they will appear on the test.
There are many resources online to aid you in your GED preparation. There are personalized programs entirely online to guide you through the entire process. Tools available online help you find study help, prepare for test day, make a personalized study plan, and learn about colleges and jobs. Some of these services are completely free but there are also paid services. You will find all kinds of online study materials and books, information about local adult education centers, and The Official Practice Test which offers you a Score Report so you can make note of any feedback to improve your scores.
You can schedule a GED test in your location online. If you are eligible according to state/provincial procedures, you can start scheduling right away. Test costs vary depending on location.
Scores are available online the same day you test through an online portal.
Things to know about the test
There is no eating or drinking permitted in the test room. You will not be allowed to use your cell phone or leave the premises for smoking breaks for the duration of the exam. No family or friends will be allowed to stay with you in the testing room. If you have scheduled more than one subject in the same day, you will be given a ten minute break between tests. If you leave the room for an unscheduled break, your test will not be marked. If you experience any issues during the exam, have questions, or need to leave the room, raise your hand and the test administrator will guide you to next steps.
You will be given three erasable note boards and a marker to take in with you. You are allowed to use a handheld calculator on some portions of the exam but need to bring it with you on test day.