The decision to obtain a General Educational Development ceertficate, or GED, can be one of the most important and life-changing decisions one can make, It can open the doors for new careers, greater pay and even further education.
However, the decision can also be one of the most intimidating ones. The GED is a notoriously difficult exam,with a fail rate of approximately 50% and a notoriously difficult structure, it can be a daunting challenge, especially for those who have been out of school for a long time or struggled when they were there.
Fortunately, there are countless resources available to help you prepare for and pass the GED. Furthermore, by understanding what is on the test, studying the topics the test covers and taking practice tests, you can have a very good idea of what to expect an feel very comfortable in your chances of passing.
But getting to that point will require a great deal of work and, most likely, many weeks of study. But, considering that it is a chance to get the equivalent of a high school diploma, it is time and energy well spent.
The Basics of the GED
The GED is actually not one test, but five separate tests that are either taken at the same time or on two separate days. Each section is graded separately as well as passed/failed individually. A student must pass all five sections of the exam before obtaining GED certification as well as obtain a minimum cumulative score.
1. Language Arts (Writing): The writing portion consists of two parts. The first is a 75-minute portion that has test-takers read short passages and then edit or improve them according to standard rules. There are 50 items in this section. The second part has examinees write a short essay based on an assigned topic. The essay portion has 45 minutes assigned to it but students who complete the first section early can use the extra time on the essay.
2. Social Studies: The social studies portion of the exam contains 50 questions and is allotted 70 minutes. It covers history, economics, civics and geography. Test-takers are given short passages to read on the topics above and are asked to answer multiple-choice questions regarding them.
3. Science: Students, when taking the science test are given 80 minutes to answer 50 multiple-choice questions on life sciences, physical sciences (chemistry and physics) as well space and environmental sciences. The majority of questions on the exam involve looking at some kind of prompt, either a graph or a passage, and answering questions related to it.
4. Language Arts (Reading): The reading test contains 40 questions and is allotted 65 minutes. Test takes are give seven passages, five fiction and two non-fiction, and are asked to answer multiple-choice questions about them. This test is designed to grade how well students can read and pull data from their work.
5. Mathematics: The final test, mathematics, is also the longest with 50 questions and 90 minutes to answer them. This test deals with basic math skills including number operations, data analysis, algebra and geometry.
Each section of the GED is scored on a scale of 200-800. The sections are also averaged together for a composite score.
The exact score required to pass the GED varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but the typical passing score is 410 on each individual section with an average of 450 for all tests. To achieve that average, test-takers must get a total score of 2250 across all five tests while having a score of at least 410 in each individual section.
If an examinee fails to meet the minimum composite score, then they will likely have to retake the entire test. Should they meet the minimum composite score but not pass one of the individual tests, they may be allowed to just take the tests they failed again.
The end result is that a GED certification is not an easy one to obtain and it requires a wide breadth of knowledge and understanding to pass. Even though many think poorly of the GED, the failure rate on the test is much higher than standard high school exit exams.
As such, preparation is key to passing the GED and it is important to start as soon as possible.
Preparing for the GED
Unlike many standardized tests, the GED is a knowledge-oriented test, not one meant to test one’s capacity to learn, but what they actually know. Given the nature of the test and the breadth of the knowledge required, most people who prepare for the test opt to take specialized courses to get ready.
These classes typically last between a few weeks and several months and cover all of the tests that make up the GED exam as well as strategies for taking the test.
As part of these programs, students usually take a practice version of the test. This is both to practice for the full GED and to determine one’s readiness for the test. Some programs, especially those within the prison system, require students to pass a practice test before taking the full exam.
In addition to these practice tests, there are several places on the Web that can provide additional practice material including the following:
TestPrepReview.com: TestPrepReview has an extensive collection of self-assessment modules to help potential test-takers focus on the areas they need the most help on and understand the types of questions that will be asked on the GED.
GEDPractice.com: GEDPractice.com provides a collection of practice tests that can be taken online for free in all of the sections of the GED.
4Tests.com: 4Tests has a GED practice test for each of the five tests that makeup the exam as well as a collection of other preparation material.
In addition to these resources you can also find books and practice tests at your local bookstore.
The bottom line, however, is that the GED is a very broad and very difficult test to study for and most recommend taking courses dedicated to GED preparation before attempting the exam.
Retaking the GED
Since the GED is a pass/fail exam, students who fail the GED or one of the tests within it are required to retake the portions they failed to pass. There is no penalty for retaking the GED.
Though the costs of taking, as well as re-taking, the GED are generally low compared to other tests, typically well under $100, some jurisdictions may require students who fail to take courses or wait a certain amount of time before attempting the exam again.
It is important to understand the policy of your jurisdiction before taking the test, something that will likely be explained in any GED course.
The GED is an intimidating exam. Not only did many of the students who are taking it struggle in school for a variety of reasons, but most have been out of the classroom for some time. As such, many simply do not have the knowledge needed to pass the exam when they first make the decision to take it.
However, with GED prep and adult education courses all over the country helping students pass the exam, more and more have been earning their high school equivalency that way. Currently, one out of every seven high school diplomas is a GED and one out of every twenty college students is a GED recipient.
The GED is both approachable and powerful in how it can change your future. If you are considering taking the GED, it is best to start preparing now so you can be ready when test day comes.