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GED Testing: What Is the GED Test?

Taking the GED test can benefit individuals who are looking to advance their careers or continue their education. If you're interested in applying for a higher-paying job or pursuing a college education and you haven't completed high school, passing the GED test can provide an alternative for a high school diploma.

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Taking the GED Test

When you pass the General Educational Development (GED) test, you demonstrate you have academic skills comparable to a high school graduate, and your state will award you a high school equivalency certificate.

The GED test is taken on computer and is available in English and Spanish. You cannot take the GED test online, and the fee for the test varies by state. The GED Testing Service website, GED.com, offers a database of testings sites, and you can find the location nearest to you by entering an address or zip code.

Test Format

The GED is a seven-and-a-half hour exam made up of four separate tests that cover four content areas: language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. You can take all four tests at one time, or you can register to take the following tests individually, in whatever order you choose:

  • The Reasoning through Language Arts test is 150 minutes and assesses your reading ability and writing skills. Some questions will ask you to analyze and interpret different types of literary and informational texts. Other questions will require you to revise sentences and passages using clear and effective language. The test includes an essay that you have 45 minutes to draft, write and edit.
  • The Mathematical Reasoning test measures your problem-solving skills. Questions include real-life problems with proportions, percents and averages, operations with rational numbers, factoring polynomials, linear inequalities and geometry problems involving area and volume. You can use a calculator and a formula sheet for most of the questions on the 115-minute test.
  • The 90-minute Science test covers topics in physical science, life sciences and Earth and space science. This section of the GED tests your ability to understand and interpret different types of scientific information. The Science test includes two short essay questions that typically require you to summarize scientific and technical information and support ideas with evidence.
  • The Social Studies test is also 90 minutes long and evaluates your ability to read and understand information on topics from U.S.history, government, economics and geography. The test questions are based on reading passages, charts, graphs, cartoons and tables. The Social Studies test requires a short essay that you will have 25 minutes to write.

Scoring

To pass the GED test, you need to score 150 on each section and have a total score of 600. If you receive 170 or above on any section, you will earn an Honors score.

If you score below 150 on any one test, you can usually retake it twice without any waiting time. However, if you need to take a test a third time, you have to wait 60 days. There is typically no limit on the number of times you can retake a test in any given year. Rules for retesting may vary slightly from state to state, and you should check on your state's rules at GED.com.

Eligibility Requirements

Most states require you to be at least 18 to take the GED tests. However, states also usually allow anyone who is 16 or 17 to take the tests if they provide certain types of documentation such as an official high school withdrawal form from your school district and a letter from a parent or guardian. Some states require underage test takers to be under the supervision of courts or other state programs.

To register for the GED test you can't be currently enrolled at a regular high school. Official testing centers require you to bring government-issued identification to the test. You should check the specific requirements for the state in which you'd like to take the GED test at GED.com.

Preparing for the GED

Multimedia programs are available to help you prepare for the GED test though Kentucky Educational Television. Specialty books have also been created to help you study. You can prepare for the exam by answering sample test questions or by taking a practice test available at GED.com.

If you feel that you would benefit from taking a preparation class, locations for these courses can usually be found through your state's adult education program, or through a database of prep centers on GED.com. Classes are usually held at community centers, colleges, literacy centers, career centers and public schools.

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