GED Exam: Get to Know Your High School Equivalency Tests

GED Exam: Get to Know Your High School Equivalency Tests

by Lisa Davis, August 18, 2021

GED stands for General Educational Development and is a four-part test that allows someone to prove their high school academic knowledge. The GED exam and similar high school equivalency tests (HSE tests) are available to American adults 18 and older. In some cases, teens who are 16 and older may be able to sit for the GED. 

The GED is an opportunity for students who never completed high school to earn a certificate that can help in their future endeavors. Prospective students can use their GEDs to apply for colleges, while job-seeking adults can submit their GEDs as proof of education. 

If you were unable to complete your high school degree, the GED exam may be a viable option to help you reach your life goals. Learn more about this test and what it means for your future.

Get to Know the GED

Every year, more than 1.2 million students drop out of high school – or a student every 26 seconds. While the dropout rate has fallen to 7.4% nationally, there are still millions of young adults who don’t have a diploma or degree to help them move forward. High school dropouts earn less in life, have a harder time finding work, and often struggle to advance in their careers as they are passed over for peers with degrees. 

Unfortunately, finishing school isn’t an option for many dropouts. They want to complete their degrees but are forced to run away because of unsafe home environments. Others are kicked out. Still others need to work full-time to support their families once they are old enough. When your main focus is finding a meal, it’s hard to focus on your math lessons. The GED provides opportunities for adults whose education was disrupted earlier in life. It allows them to take control of their futures. 

There are multiple options when looking into high school equivalency tests. Today’s test-takers can choose between the GED, TASC (test assessing secondary completion), and HiSET (high school equivalency test). Different states accept different tests, but most states allow test-takers to choose the best one for their needs.  

The GED Exam By the Numbers 

The fifth rendition of the GED was released in 2014 and scores students on a scale of 100 to 200. There are two score levels that students can achieve: High School Equivalency (which is a passing score of 150 for each of the four sections) and GED with Honors (which is a passing score of 170 for each of the four sections). Students who score above 165 in each of the sections are considered “college-ready” which means they are prepared to seek out advanced degrees.  

On average, more than 300,000 Americans take the GED each year. From 2014-2018, 70.2 percent of test-takers completed the exam, and 85.3 passed or received their GED credentials. While this number has dropped over the years, the GED and similar tests remain an opportunity for people to take steps to grow their careers or education levels without a lack of a high school diploma to hold them back. 

“It’s a stepping stone to some sort of post-secondary credential, which determines your economic mobility in life,” says Tom Hilliard, a senior fellow at the Center for an Urban Future.

The GED’s History: A Leg Up After Serving Abroad

The GED was first used to help men who had been drafted in World War II take steps to restart their careers and potentially attend college. During the war, the draft age was lowered from 21 to 18, which meant many teen boys were pulled out of high school before they could graduate. When they returned a few years later, they had military experience but no high school diploma. There were millions of young men who didn’t know what to do next. 

“You couldn’t send 21-year-olds who had been in Germany, in the trenches, back into a regular high school,” says H.D. Hoover, a retired professor at the University of Iowa. “It just wasn’t going to work.” Not only were these veterans older than their peers, but they had faced trauma and seen hardships that current high school students couldn’t imagine. 

The GED was created so these returning young men could prove that they knew the same amount as the average high school graduate. A completed GED would allow them to take advantage of college credits offered through the GI Bill.   

The first rendition of the test was almost impossible to fail. In some sections, you only needed to get one or two questions right, which almost any test-taker could do by guessing at random. The goal was the make sure everyone had a degree and moved on from high school. Over time, renditions of the GED have become more advanced.

In 1947, New York became the first state to allow adults who weren’t veterans to take the GED for high school credit. By 1974, all 50 states allowed non-veteran adults to take the test and accepted GED credentials in lieu of a high school diploma. Today, the GED is widely accepted across the country as the equivalent of a high school degree.  

Preparing for the GED Exam

One of the most common questions asked about the test is how long does it take to prepare for the GED? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Every person approaches the GED or other equivalency tests with different levels of experience. Someone who left high school during their senior year may require less prep time than someone who left earlier in their education

The first thing to do is to take a GED practice test. This will help you gauge your abilities on each of the four subjects:

  • Mathematical Reasoning
  • Social Studies
  • Science
  • Reasoning through Language Arts

The math and reading sections have been adjusted to focus on critical thinking and logic, which is why the terms “reasoning” are used to describe them. 

Use the practice tests as a jumping-off point to help you study. For example, you may need general test prep if you are re-learning the format after stepping away from school. You may find that one section has lower scores than the rest. In general, most people struggle with the math section. If your scores are lower in this area, you aren’t alone. 

Once you complete the practice tests, create a study plan. It might only take a few months for you to brush up on your high school knowledge to sit for the test. Once you feel ready, you can schedule your test. 

In Florida, the cost to take the GED for the first time is $128 (or $32 per module). You may be able to take the test online because of the COVID-19 pandemic or you can find a local testing center to administer the exam. You will need to pay to take the exam each time, which is why you want to study as much as you need before you register for it. 

GED Resources in Pinellas and Manatee Counties  

There are many options available to adults and teens in Pinellas and Manatee counties who want to study for the GED. Use this list of resources to find test prep locations and opportunities to meet other students with whom you can study.

It’s okay if you aren’t a good test-taker or if you haven’t stepped into a classroom for several years. Everyone is on their own educational path and career track. Don’t focus on what you don’t know – focus on where you want to go. The steps you take to study for the GED can help you take control of your life and create a brighter future for yourself.