By Leonard Williams
Without question, the GED® tests are demanding basic skills exams that measure critical thinking and deductive abilities, along with practical knowledge and application. Still, many human resources officers and business managers question whether the GED test credential-the adult learner’s alternative to a high school diploma-is equivalent to a complete high school education. Or, they don’t consider the return on investment of a benefits package that includes workplace GED programs, adult education training, or educational support.
According to research, the GED diploma is an excellent credential, one reflective of high school proficiency and more.
The “GED” is a high school equivalency degree. The GED exam was developed in 1942 to help military war veterans finish their adult basic education and high school study program. The GED tests are standardized and normed using a national random sample of graduating high school seniors. To pass the GED tests, a candidate must demonstrate a level of skill that meets or exceeds that demonstrated by 60% of graduating high school seniors. This means that 40% of graduating high school seniors wouldn’t pass the GED tests.
According to research, data and official test guidelines:
- A GED program for adult basic education develops and reinforces adult literacy and adult learners’ basic and critical thinking skills, including knowledge, application, and evaluation.
- The GED test is a 7.5-hour exam, measuring a variety of skills through five subject tests: the GED science test, GED social studies test, GED mathematics test, GED reading test, and GED writing test.
- GED testing scores reflect the ability to make evaluations and deductions from a variety of literary and analytical materials, including images, data, charts, and graphs.
- The GED writing essay test measures adult literacy in the ability to communicate effectively in an authentic test.
- The GED mathematics test requires knowledge and skills with basic number operations, basic algebra and geometry, probability, and data analysis.
- Rigorous standards define GED tests, based on guidelines of the American Council on Education (ACE), GED testing Service®.
Earning a GED diploma is a solid demonstration of basic skills, application skills, and higher thinking skills, the foundations of workplace literacy. The credential has also proven to be an important milestone for employment and educational opportunities. According to research:
- People without a basic education have difficulty finding or holding jobs in today’s workforce. Most adult learners seek a GED diploma because they want to progress in work or education. “Some 62 percent of all United States test passers indicated that they took the tests for educational reasons. Some 48.8 percent cited employment, including 39.5 percent seeking a better job,” according to ACE data.
- The GED test credential is a viable diploma and enables access to jobs, adult education training in the workplace, and continuing education.
- The GED diploma is accepted as an equivalent to a high school diploma by approximately 97% of colleges and universities in the U.S., and 95% of employers.
- Employers want employees who have, or can acquire, a broad skill set, and passing the GED test is a demonstration of adult literacy and numeracy, as well as skills and knowledge that extend beyond the basic skills of education. It includes technical knowledge and competencies, as well as developing important foundational workplace literacy skills such as communication, problem solving skills, perseverance, flexibility, and work ethics.
- Over a lifetime, a GED graduate will make 40% more than a non high school graduate. This means that people with a GED diploma make an average of $385,000 more in their lifetime than people without the credential or a high school diploma.
GED diploma holders garner other benefits, tangible and intangible, benefiting themselves, their families, employers, and even communities. According to research:
- People without a GED diploma or high school diploma are generally unable to progress beyond low-wage jobs, and research shows the climb from poverty toward economic security is linked to continuing education and includes GED test credentialing.
- According to ACE research, two-thirds of GED diploma candidates are seeking to go beyond adult basic education. Most GED diploma holders—about 60 percent—continue their education with training, technical programs, adult continuing education or higher education programs through community colleges and universities.
- Those with a GED diploma have more full-time work and experience employment stability or continuity for longer time periods.
- Those with a GED diploma report more job satisfaction, better self-esteem and confidence in their work and abilities.
- One study of GED continuing education programs’ graduates shows that they’re more likely to encourage their children to finish school since they’ve had to overcome handicaps resulting from a lack of basic skills credentials.
According to the ACE, GED adult basic education programs impact and improve employers’ “reputation, worker retention, workforce growth [and] productivity.” Meanwhile, employees gain skills and confidence and increase potential and opportunities for job growth.
- “Who Passed the GED? GED 2004 Statistical Report” is published by the GED testing Service® and details the general characteristics and performance of individuals who participated in the testing program and passed the tests. GED Testing Service’s summary is here. Additional Annual Statistical Reports can be found here.
- The GED Academy information for workplace development or adult basic education GED programs.
- For information, research, guides, and case studies about workplace benefits among adult learners and their employers, review information provided by the ACE’s Employers of Choice program. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional Research to Consider
- “The Oregon Department of Education tracked a cohort of students from 1991-1995. At the end of the four-year period, 24.5% of the students had dropped out before graduating. The most frequent reason given by students for deciding to leave school was ‘irrelevant coursework.’ Other reasons were: peer pressure, teaching that didn’t match student learning styles, lack of personal attention.” —US Dept. of Education
- “The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts,” released in March 2006, is one of the most extensive research reports on America’s “dropout epidemic.” Conducted by Civic Enterprises and Peter D. Hart Research Associates and commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the survey reports that currently, an estimated “one million students drop out every year, and nearly half of all African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans fail to graduate. These alarming statistics have far reaching consequences for these individuals and the country’s economic and civic health. Dropouts are more likely than high school graduates to be unemployed, in poor health, living in poverty, in prison or on public assistance, and to have children who also drop out of high school. On average, a high school dropout earns $9,200 less per year than a high school graduate, and about $1 million less over a lifetime than a college graduate.” Download the full PDF report from the Gates Foundation.
Research and Data Sources: The American Council on Education, “Who Passed the GED?” GED 2004 Statistical Report. National Community Partnerships for Adult Learning, “Urgent Need Report.” J.H. Tyler, “Results from a New Approach to Studying the Economic Benefits of the GED.” Focus on Basics, B.L. Brown, “Is the GED a Valuable Credential?” research funded by the US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics: Special Analysis, 2002, US Dept. of Education. Center for Lifelong Learning, G. J. Dean, “The Value of Obtaining a GED in Pennsylvania,” PAACE Journal of Lifelong Learning.