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General Educational Development (G.E.D.): What Is It?

Many Americans who did not earn a high school diploma take the General Educational Development (GED) test to increase their job opportunities or to continue their education in college or a post-secondary school. The GED test is available in every state, and it is usually administered by the state's adult basic education program. View article »

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  • 0:04 What Is the GED?
  • 1:17 History of the GED
  • 2:17 Where to Take the GED
  • 2:59 How to Take the GED
  • 4:25 Lesson Summary

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Video Transcript

What Is the GED?

The General Educational Development (GED) exam is a group of four tests that assess an individual's knowledge of academic subjects typically taught in high school. Test takers who pass all four sections earn a certificate of completion from the state where the test was held. This certificate is regarded by many employers, colleges, and post-secondary schools as an equivalent of a high school diploma.

The GED test is administered by each state, which designates the location of testing centers, times, and dates. The GED tests cover four content areas: language arts, social studies, science, and math. Each section has a time limit. The GED tests are now taken on a computer, and question formats include multiple choice, fill-in the blank, hot spot, and drag-and drop. There is also a 45-minute required language arts essay, as well as a 25-minute social studies essay.

The GED tests must be taken in person at an official GED testing center. Tests cannot be taken online, and the GED Testing Service warns interested candidates to be wary of the many websites that claim to offer online testing and accredited degrees.

History of the GED

The GED program began in 1942 when the U.S. Department of Defense partnered with American Council on Education to develop a battery of general education tests based on the high school curriculum. The tests were originally for military personnel and veterans who had enlisted prior to finishing their high school education. Passing these tests gave these service members an academic credential that could then be used to help gain entry into college or to obtain a job.

In 1947, the state of New York became the first state that made the GED test available to non-veteran civilians and made it equivalent to the Regent's Diploma, a credential normally given to adults attending night school to obtain their high school diploma. By 1974, at last all 50 states were awarding GED credentials to non-veteran civilians. The American Council on Education has revised the GED test four times, and plans future revisions as individual, employment, and academic needs evolve.

Where to Take the GED

GED testing sites and study centers are located in every state. Study centers are typically part of a state's Adult Education network, while testing centers are usually at colleges, universities, public schools, or community centers. Some states have numerous GED sites, while others may have only a few at centralized locations. The GED Testing Service website, ged.com, has a Test Prep Center locator tool that you can use to find a study center located near you. You will need to create an account to use this tool. The Testing Service website also provides a search tool for GED testing centers, and you can find the location nearest you with an address or zip code.

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How to Take the GED

To take the GED, a student should first prepare for the exam. Many GED programs offer a pre-test meant to gauge readiness. The GED Testing Service offers an official practice test called GED Ready that is taken on computer and is half the length of the actual tests. GED Ready will tell you if you're likely to pass the tests, and if you need more preparation, it will tell you what you need to study. There is a $6 fee for each of the four GED Ready test sections.

There is also a shorter, free practice test available in English and Spanish that can help you understand the scope of the four tests. However, this test is not meant to determine if you are ready for the actual exams.

To take the GED tests, you need to register on the ged.com website. Eligibility requirements for the GED differ by state. Being able to prove residency, age, and lack of a secondary school credential are typically needed to register for the test. You can check eligibility requirements for each state and testing jurisdiction on the GED Testing Service website.

The GED tests are generally available in English and Spanish. Test takers can also apply for accommodations, such as additional time, a reader or scribe, a private room, and all other approved accommodations. The cost of the GED tests varies from state to state, but averages around $120 for the four tests.

Lesson Summary

The General Educational Development (GED) exam is a group of four tests that assess an individual's knowledge of academic subjects typically taught in high school. The test covers four content areas: language arts, social studies, science, and math, and involves two essays in language arts and social studies. Individuals who are interested in taking the GED can prepare at an adult education center and by taking practice tests, and they can take the test at a school or community center. Study centers and testing centers are determined by individual states. The GED test can usually be taken in English or Spanish and typically costs around $120.

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