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The GED Exam
The GED is an alternative diploma program for people who did not graduate from high school. The GED exam consists of four separate tests that cover language arts, math, science, and social studies. The exam is taken on computer at designated testing centers in either English or Spanish. Although the GED Testing Services develops the exam, states manage testing centers and prep classes.
Eligibility requirements vary by state. In most states, you must be at least 18 years old to take the GED, although some states make exceptions for 16 and 17-year-olds. Some states also require you to pass a practice test before taking the actual exam, but many do not. You should check your state's requirements on the GED website at GED.com.
To pass the GED, you need to score at least a 145 on each of the four sections, with at least a score of 580 on all four parts combined.
Many states have adult education centers which offer classes, tutoring, and study guides to prepare for the GED exam. The hours, location, and cost vary by state, but classes and tutoring are typically free or affordable. A list of adult education study centers is available at GED.com. Because individual preferences and study habits vary, you may want to consider the following pros and cons when signing up for a GED preparation program in a traditional classroom setting:
- Most learning centers provide workbooks and other printed study resources. Some adult education centers will allow students to borrow books for home study.
- Many GED prep classes begin with an assessment test to identify your strengths and the areas you should review to pass the four GED test sections.
- Students receive individual attention and feedback which is especially helpful for individuals who have been out of school for awhile.
- Because adult educational centers usually have current information about the test, they provide accurate study materials.
- GED classes have a set date and time which could be inconvenient for adult students who work or care for families.
- Everyone brings a different level of academic skill and experience to the GED. In a structured class, you may find yourself reviewing material you have already mastered.
- Classes may have large numbers of students, limiting individual attention by instructors and access to classroom resources.
Online GED Classes
Online programs allow adult students to prepare for the GED tests independently. In some states, adult education programs provide free access to online prep programs and courses. Other online classes are available through individual memberships and subscriptions. Before you register for an online GED prep class, you should consider the following factors:
- Online courses offer instructional videos and step-by-step interactive lessons. Students can study 24-hours-a-day anywhere with an Internet connection, and some programs have materials accessible on phones and mobile devices.
- Online programs allow you to study at your own pace, spending more time on subjects you need to review and less time on topics you already know.
- Online prep courses can be a significant resource to people who live in rural areas and would have to travel to attend a traditional GED class.
- Fraudulent GED websites exist and may promise a 'quick and easy' diploma. Beware of any website that says you can take the GED test online. The official GED must be taken in person at an official GED testing center. More information about how to spot a fraud is available on GED.com.
- Online classes may not have live support when you need it. You may have to submit questions through email and wait for a day or longer for a response from a teacher or tutor.
- The costs of online programs vary, depending on the school offering the program. While online programs can be free through an adult education center, generally you pay for access to online videos and materials for a limited time that can be extended by paying additional fees.
- Some online programs require in-person orientation. Others require you to complete a certain number of online study hours or assignments each week.
Why Get Your GED?
A high school diploma opens doors to job opportunities and continuing your education in college. In 2017, workers with high school diplomas earned about $10,550 more per year on average than workers who had not finished high school, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.