Online GED® Programs vs. Fake High School Diplomas

For today's students, online test preparation can provide a valuable and affordable way to work toward a high school equivalency (HSE) diploma. But there are a growing number of companies and schools who aren't really in the business of education. Instead, their biggest business is selling a so-called "online GED" or a fake "GED test online," along with worthless so-called "GED transcripts."

To get a high school equivalency diploma, you need to take one of two tests: the GED test or the HiSET exam. Which tests are offered depends on your state through an official test center.

Official state-issued high school equivalency diplomas have value and are meaningful for adults who never completed high school. These diplomas are accepted by almost all U.S. colleges and employers. Not so with a fake "online GED." Diplomas or transcripts from online tests and "life experience" are worthless fakes that colleges and employers will reject.

Unfortunately, students and adult learners are often misled by online diploma factories or diploma mills. Here's a recent letter from a new GED test student, who learned about one education business the hard way:

"I paid $250 and got this paper in the mail, but it didn't help me get a better job. It was a ripoff. It wasn't until my boss told me that I found out it wasn't a real high school. It wasn't even a real high school diploma, just something somebody made on a computer. But it looked like a real school. With a real test."

This student's story is typical and becoming more common every day. Many adult learners fall victim to online "GEDs" or online high school scams, usually paying $200 to $800 in tuition, testing, and transcript or diploma fees. But the non-official documents have no value.

Online schools and programs sometimes claim to be accredited, but it turns out, they're "accredited" by their own fake agency. When it comes to employers, job training programs, tech schools, community colleges, and universities, bogus diplomas are useless. Remember: official high school equivalency diplomas are issued by your state government. The tests aren't offered online.

A real HSE diploma based on a GED test or HiSET exam is very useful. For today's 39 million or more U.S. adults who never graduated from high school, a diploma is a passkey to both career and educational opportunities. Approximately 95 percent of employers and 97 percent of U.S. colleges and universities accept a GED or HiSET diploma because it really is an official credential awarded by your state government. It's meaningful, and it has real value.

When choosing an education program, the best bet is a local class, an online program, or self-guided study for the GED test or HiSET exam. If an online class is the best solution for you, look for a program that includes all study material needed to prepare for the high school equivalency test in your area. The only online programs approved by the GED Testing Service and the Educational Testing Service are GED Academy and HiSET Academy.

Here are some guidelines for finding real online prep programs and avoiding bogus schools or fake online "GED" scams:

  • The GED Testing Service has tight guidelines for the GED test, and the same is true for the HiSET exam. The tests cover science, social studies, reading, writing, and math. Find a program that includes all testing areas; avoid any solution or school that doesn't include all test areas.
  • You can take a practice test online, and it's a good way for a student to choose study material. But taking HiSET or GED online practice tests is not the same thing as earning a diploma for an online "GED" test. You must go through one of the official test locations for your test.
  • Avoid any company that claims to offer the official GED test or a quick online version for a diploma.
  • Read the fine print before you pay. Make sure you understand what the company or school is offering and determine if it's worth the price. Is it a worthwhile learning process or just a fake diploma? Will it help you progress in your career or education? Ask for guidance if you're unsure. Talk to a local instructor or agency you trust about local resources.
  • Look beyond the company or school. Discover what other teachers, students, and adult learners say. Learn from their experiences. Explore study materials, education message boards, online forums, library materials, local newsletters, and news articles or learning communities.
  • Be very cautious in dealing with any company or online high school that offers a diploma or transcript after passing an online test. The GED test and HiSET are difficult. The tests are timed and usually take more than seven hours (though you can take them in parts). You need to prove your identity to take official HSE tests. Basically, just as the old adage says: "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true."

Education is probably the best investment you can make in yourself. Make sure your investment is a good one and gives you a return that's worthwhile. A high school equivalency diploma might be harder to get than a $250 online diploma. Still, you sure can count on it to take you to where you want to go.


Shawn Matheson, Educator


GED Scams & Frauds