By Michael Ormsby
The GED® tests are high school equivalency exams. But what does that mean? How can a test be the equivalent of high school? And what is it, exactly, that we expect high school graduates to know? What do your GED testing scores mean?
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Over 39 million disenfranchised American adults have no high school diploma, and so the doors to higher education and better job opportunities are closed to them. As a group, these Americans make about $350,000 less in their lifetimes than high school graduates. Instead of moving the economy and their lives forward, Americans without high school degrees are held back. The most widely accepted option for adults without a high school degree is a GED diploma, the credential you earn by passing the GED Test. What is this examination? What is it really testing? Can it truly be the equivalent of high school? What does it mean to get a GED diploma?
The skills that the GED exam tests are core skills that all high school students should learn, including communication, mathematics, problem solving, critical thinking, evaluation, and information processing. The GED test designers identify skills that are demanded by employers and by colleges or vocational schools, and the test is created to measure these real-life skills. According to the American Council of Education (ACE) GED Testing Service®, a successful GED candidate must score better than 40 percent of traditional high school graduates.
The GED test is divided into five sections: the GED reading test, GED writing test, GED mathematics test, GED science test, and GED social studies test. It tests competency in understanding important documents and communicating through writing, essential skills in any workplace or learning environment. It also tests fundamental math concepts, which are important in dealing with financial management and business issues which affect all adults.
However, perhaps the most important skills that the GED test measures are thinking skills. Most GED test questions are not focused on knowledge of facts. Instead, many questions on the GED test measure the test-taker’s ability to carefully think through a problem and use reasoning to come to a correct answer. GED test-takers are asked to use critical thinking, problem solving, evaluation, and analysis skills, along with fundamental knowledge of the nature of science, language, math, and social sciences. Because thinking skills can be applied to any discipline or workplace, these are the most crucial skills for any adult to master.
This is good news for the test-taker. It means that studying for, and passing, the GED test doesn’t need to involve memorizing four years’ worth of high school textbooks, or even memorizing a GED guide. Instead, GED test-takers can focus their learning on essential skills. It’s also good news for employers. The ACE states that many employers find that they "get a more educated, more committed workforce" by hiring GED diploma graduates.
GED test prep is the most important component in passing the GED test. Finding the right study program is the key. A wide variety of GED study programs are available, including a GED guide or GED test prep book, a low-cost or free GED class at an adult learning center, a workplace program, and or a local college GED program. The best preparation for students who didn’t pass high school is often online classes for GED preparation. The best online GED programs are easily customized to the student’s needs, address different learning styles in an accessible way, and allow students to learn at their own pace, reviewing as much and as often as needed. Be wary of any program that claims to award a GED diploma or high school diploma through a GED online test, though. An “online GED diploma” doesn’t exist, and even online high school diplomas are usually worthless.
Over 95% of colleges and employers accept a GED test credential, opening closed doors for the millions of adult Americans who never completed high school.