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The GED Test: How Hard Is It?

The GED is the General Education Development credential, the adult learnerís alternative to a high school diploma. But many people donít understand the difficulty and value of the GED test, the testing requirements or even the process of taking it.

The first GED tests were developed in 1942 to help military war veterans finish their basic education and high school study program. Today, the GED credential is a worthwhile goal for the 40 million US adults who never graduated from high school. A GED enables adults to complete an educational milestone, to progress at work or in a career, and opens the door to advanced training and higher educational opportunities. People with a GED make an average of 5,000 more in their lifetime than people who do not have a GED or high school diploma.

What does the GED test involve?

The GED is a set of five tests, a cumulative 7.5-hour exam that measures knowledge of math, science, social studies, reading and writing ability.

For the science, social studies and reading tests, questions determine ability to make inferences, evaluations and deductions from material presented in short passages. The multiple-choice math test requires knowledge of basic number operations, basic algebra and geometry and algebra and data analysis. Part of the math test requires use of a calculator to perform number operations.

The writing test has two parts. The first is a multiple-choice test about the mechanics of English usage. The second part of the test is a 45-minute essay, based on a given prompt.

The GED tests are given at official test centers in all major cities across the U.S. and Canada. Even though some companies claim to offer the GED online, itís not possible. The GED is not given online, only at official test centers. International testing is also available.

How does the test compare to high school studies?

The GED test has gleaned the most essential knowledge and skills acquired during a high school education. The emphasis in the GED tests is not on memorization, but on the application of practical knowledge and critical-thinking skills in the context of given information.

Whatís a passing score on the GED test?

The standard scores for the GED tests range from a minimum of 200 to a maximum of 800 on each test. To pass, the test taker must achieve at least 65% correct answers. This translates to a score of at least 410 on each GED test to pass it, and an overall average score of 450 for the five-test battery.

How difficult is the GED test?

In terms of difficulty, consider that an average of only 60% of high school graduates can pass the test. For some people, GED testing can seem more difficult than high school because itís easier to just memorize information than to know how to use it. For people who havenít had much experience in making inferences, analyzing data, and making judgments, the GED test can seem very difficult.

However, a solid GED study program goes a long way toward reducing the difficulty level and increasing scores. Test familiarity - understanding the way test questions are given - helps. So GED practice tests go a long way in preparedness.

What should a GED study program include?

Taking GED preparation classes is a good way to outline a path of study. Some employers offer GED prep programs or basic skills classes as part of a workforce development program. In addition, most communities offer low-cost or even no-cost classes through a local high school, family resource center, community college or university.

But for many adult learners, classes arenít a viable option. Research shows that GED on-site classes often compete with schedules, job and family commitments, and that many students have little or no access to childcare and transportation. For these adult learners, e-learning or distance learning are options, through an online study at home program. Preparation books, study guides and GED practice tests are also readily available.

These materials and online study at home programs enable an adult learner to create a self-guided study course and pre-test to determine the most critical study areas. Other benefits of self-guided study are affordability; flexible scheduling and self-pacing, since many adult learners report a history of negative classroom experiences.

However, lots of companies do business online that promise bogus diplomas and costly learning solutions. When purchasing programs or classes online, it pays to shop, compare and to read the fine print.

©2006 Essential Education Corporation /

About the Author: Leonard Williams, an e-learning instructor with, is also a curriculum specialist who focuses on research and development, implementation and assessment of best-practice learning solutions for adult learners and people with educational challenges. Leonardís email is He invites feedback and questions from GED students and instructors.

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