The GED Academy™ Accelerated Learning Program

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Study Guide

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Can I take the GED Test Online?

No. The GED is administered under the direction of the American Council of Education (ACE). GED tests are only given at designated Official GED Testing Centers™ throughout the U.S., U.S. Territories, and Canada, and in other countries through Prometric. The GED test cannot be taken online. However, you can take online GED courses that help you prepare for the real GED test.

What does “GED” stand for?

The term “GED” is a registered trademark of the American Council on Education (“ACE”), the organization in charge of the GED test. Originally, the initials “GED” stood for “general educational development,” and the term shows that the GED test measures a learner's skills in a variety of important subjects. A GED test credential shows that the recipient has the same general level of academic achievement as a typical high school graduate.

What are the GED tests?

The GED exam is a battery of five tests in Science, Mathematics, Social Studies, Language Arts Writing, and Language Arts Reading. The GED tests take seven or more hours to complete. The GED tests are administered many times a year. Official GED Testing Centers™ are spread across the USA and Canada. Find an Official GED Test Center™.

GED Test Area Number of Questions Time Limit
Science 50 80 minutes
Mathematics 50 90 minutes
Social Studies 50 70 minutes
Language Arts Writing, Part I 50 75 minutes
Language Arts Writing, Part II 1 essay 45 minutes
Language Arts Reading 40 65 minutes
7.08 hours
What makes a GED test credential “equivalent” to a high school diploma?

The GED is accepted as an equivalent to a high school diploma by approximately 98% of colleges and universities in the U.S. and 95% of employers because they recognize the GED test as a rigorous examination equal to or exceeding high school proficiency. In fact, many employers prefer GED diploma graduates because they know they have met a rigorous national high school standard.

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 seniors who are earning a high school diploma. This means that 40% of graduating high school diploma holders would not pass the GED tests.

Who is eligible to take the GED tests?

GED requirements vary from state to state. The GED testing Service suggests the following GED requirements for you to take the test:

  • You are not enrolled in high school, and
  • You have not graduated from high school, and
  • You are at least age 16*, and
  • You meet state, provincial, or territorial requirements regarding age, residency, and the length of time since leaving school.

If you are considering leaving high school, the GED Testing Service recommends that you first meet with your high school counselor to talk seriously about your decision and the level of academic skill needed to pass the GED tests.

*Some states require GED test takers to be at least 18 years of age.

How can I find my state’s local GED test requirements and information?

Click on your state for specific information about GED transcripts, testing fees, GED test eligibility, retesting, GED centers, testing accommodations, and more.

May I take the GED test if I have a high school diploma from another country?

Yes. Persons with a high school diploma from an unaccredited high school or a high school out of the country are eligible to take the GED tests if they meet all other requirements of the ACE and their state.

How many people take the GED each year, and how many pass the GED test?

Over 700,000 people take the GED test each year and over 50% pass.

Do I need a social security number to take the GED?

No. You do not need a social security number to take the GED tests, but you will need identification such as a passport or driver’s license. Many states require you to be a resident of the state.

May I take the GED test if I am not a U.S. citizen?

Yes. You may take the GED test even if you are not a U.S. citizen.

What are the GED requirements for taking and passing the test?

To get a GED certificate you must:

Receive a minimum standard score of 410 or more on each of the five GED tests and an overall average standard score of 450 or more on the GED tests. You must also receive a score of 2 or more on the essay exam.

What if I don’t pass the GED the first time?

The GED Testing Service permits GED test candidates to test up to three times per contract year (January 1 to December 31), based on the number of standard forms available each contract year.

GED test scores are valid for three years from the date of the first GED test taken.

I started my GED testing, but I never have finished. Are my GED test score still good?

The GED Testing Service introduced a new form of the GED test in January 2002. Anyone who had started GED testing but had failed to complete the testing successfully when the new form was released must begin the entire GED test again, including all fees. Some states require the test taker to pass all the tests in the year they are attempted.

The Spanish version of the GED test changed on January 1, 2003, and the same rules apply; any testing done before January 1, 2003 will not be applied to the new form. As with the English version, the entire GED test must be taken again, including all fees.

How are the GED language arts, writing test essays scored?

Since January 2002, GED language arts, writing test (part II) essays have been scored on a 4-point holistic scale.

Two trained GED essay readers read each essay and give a score based on the overall impression. The overall impression of each GED test paper is based on five areas:

  1. Does the paper respond to the assigned prompt—did the candidate use the topic on the test?
  2. Can the reader see or follow an organized plan for development?
  3. Are there specific and relevant details to support the paper's focus?
  4. Are the conventions of language (grammar, usage, and mechanics) generally followed?
  5. Is the word choice precise, varied, and appropriate?

The two GED readers’ scores are then averaged. If the essay receives a score of 2 or higher, the essay score is combined with the multiple-choice score to form a composite. If a GED candidate receives a score of 1 or 1.5 on the essay, there will be no composite score, and the candidate must retake both the essay and multiple-choice portion.

Note that individual essay scores are not reported. On the composite score, the multiple-choice score results represent 65 percent of the composite, and the essay score represents 35 percent.

GED essay readers may not be more than one point apart in their scoring. In those cases where the readers are more than one point apart, the Chief Reader for the GED scoring site will set the score by agreeing with the reader whose score follows the GED Testing Service scale.

What is the passing score for the essay in the GED?

A GED testing candidate must earn a score of 2 or higher on the Language Arts, Writing Test, Part II essay in order to receive a composite score and obtain a passing score.

A candidate needs a score of 2 or higher to earn a passing score. States may set a composite GED passing score (multiple-choice and essay) that is higher than the current minimum GED passing score of 410. The composite GED passing score cannot be set lower than the GED Testing Service standard score.

When I receive my GED language arts, writing test score, how can I tell if I earned a score of 2 or higher on my essay?

If you received a score on your transcript in the range of 200 to 800 points, you earned at least a score of 2 (minimum passing score on the 4-point scale) on your essay.

If you received a double (**) asterisk on your transcript, then you did not earn a 2 on your essay.

Note: A single asterisk (*) indicates that you did not write on the assigned topic, and your response was recorded as “off topic”.

How do GED essay readers score papers? What do the GED essay readers consider the most important elements of good writing?

Good writing needs a focus, organization, and development with specific and relevant examples, details, and explanations. You’ll see these elements at the top of our scoring grid. The GED essay readers are especially concerned with the development that supports a focus. They do not, however, look for specific errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics. They don’t score with the same elements in mind that a classroom teacher might.

Errors in grammar or spelling would affect a score only if they are numerous enough to hinder the reader from understanding and following the writer’s ideas. Consequently, it’s a good idea to take a GED preparation course to minimize errors, so these mistakes don’t distract the readers from the ideas in the paper.

What will the GED essay topic ask me to do? Can I find out what past topics have been on the GED writing test? Do I need any prior GED preparation for the essay?

GED testing candidates will be asked to write on a topic of general interest. The topics are brief and generally ask candidates to state their views and support them with examples from their own observation, knowledge, or experience. A great way to prepare and get used to writing GED essays is to write practice samples in your online GED courses. GED testing topics are not released in advance, but you can get ready by learning how to read a GED essay prompt and prepare and organize your essay. By thinking about the GED essay ahead of time and the types of topics you might see, it’s much easier to write a high-scoring essay.

Preparation for the essay should include practice writing one- to two-page essays in the allotted 45 minute time period.

The older form of the GED writing skills test provided a recommended word count for the essay. How long does my essay have to be now for the GED language arts, writing test?

Your GED essay score is not based on a word count. You will not necessarily fail if you have fewer than 200 words. The only requirement for the essay’s length is that it must be written on the two sides of the answer sheet. Essay readers will not read additional pages.

Writing textbooks will not always agree on the same point. For example, one book will tell writers to use a comma after each item in a series (e.g. coffee, eggs, juice, and toast), but another book might tell writers to omit the last comma before the conjunction (e.g. coffee, eggs, juice and toast). Which is correct for the GED tests? Will the GED essay readers give me a lower score?

Both of the comma-use instances that you cite are correct. Most English teachers will agree that the comma before the "and" is optional; however, the writer must be consistent. If the writer omits the comma before "and," he must omit it every time there are three or more items in a series. Likewise, if the comma is used, the writer must use it in all cases. Consistency is the key.

When the trained GED readers are reading the essays for a score, they are looking for an overall impression, not individual errors. Grammar, usage, and mechanics errors will affect a reader’s score if there are a sufficient number of errors that collectively make it difficult for the reader to understand or follow the writer’s ideas. Therefore, the two applications of the comma for the last item in a series would not affect the reader’s score.

As a side note, multiple-choice items on Language Arts, Writing, Part I will not test the comma use between the next to last item and the last item. However, the comma between items one and two (in a series of three or more items) will be tested.

The GED Testing Service essay scoring guide refers to “the conventions of EAE.” What is EAE?

Edited American English (EAE) is fundamentally the same as Standard Written English (SWE), i.e., those conventions of grammar, usage, and mechanics that writers and speakers adhere to in order to communicate effectively. In planning ahead for the 2002 Series GED Tests in 1997, the Writing Test Specifications Committee aligned itself with the National Council of Teachers of English, who use EAE as the norm for the variety of English that is most used by educated speakers of the language.

For writers, the significance is that they must still employ a style, grammar, and usage that allows a mutual level of comprehension and understanding among educated speakers and writers. For example, EAE still governs when to use who or whom, is or are, pronoun forms, verb form and verb tense, adjective or adverb forms, parallel constructions, and sentence structure. Basically, only the name has changed.

One reason for the change is perception. (Any writing that is not standard is, therefore, perceived by many as substandard.) The Writing Test Specifications Committee wanted to remove any impediment that may have a negative impact on a candidate’s performance. The changeover to the term EAE offsets any negative impact that a candidate might feel if his or her writing were interpreted as substandard.

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