How does GED work?

When people say “a GED”, they refer to the diploma that’s awarded when test-takers have passed the four subtests of the GED test.

There are some misconceptions about the meaning of the acronym GED, such as Graduate Equivalency Degree, General Equivalency Degree, General Educational Degree, General Education Diploma, and the like, but GED stands for General Educational Development.

In America, students who graduate from high school will receive a high school diploma. This document states that the holder completed all required coursework to graduate.

Some students, however, were not in the position to complete their regular high school education. They did not receive a high school diploma.

Those students have the opportunity to complete a series of four independent tests. When they pass those tests, they have demonstrated to command academic subject matter at the level of graduating high school seniors.

This set of tests is known as the GED exam and upon successfully taking the tests, students will receive their GED diploma, often referred to as a GED.

It is worth noting that for a few years, there have been two alternatives to the GED exam available in America, the HiSET and TASC exams. These exams include five subtests as the Language portion contains separate reading and writing tests.

Four independent GED tests

The four GED tests (also named modules) can be taken separately and cover the subject fields of Science, Language Arts, Mathematics, and Social Studies.

The latest edition of the GED exam was introduced a few years back and must be taken entirely on a computer. This didn’t come as a big surprise because most positions in the job market today require some level of computer literacy.

The TASC and HiSET exams, though, are offered both on paper and on a computer in most states and jurisdictions. Only New Jersey requires students to take all options in a computer-based format.

When we say here “GED”, we refer to the diploma that’s awarded after successfully completing one of the three available HSE (high school equivalency) tests.

Improve your options

Earning your GED is definitely worthwhile and will benefit not only your educational and employment options but your further life in general as well.

The GED (an acronym for General Education Development) is respected and accepted just like a regular high school degree by practically every employer and institution of higher education.

The four GED modules are timed tests and each test will take at least 1 hour. The tests are scored on a scale from 100 to 200 and the passing score on each subtest is 145 (more details below).

You have the freedom to schedule one of the GED subtests at a time or more subtests (perhaps all four) at once.

The GED exam contains not only multiple-choice questions. You’ll also find short-form answers, drop-down, fill-in-the-blank, and extended response questions, to mention a few options.

If you pass the GED test, you will earn your state’s high school equivalency (HSE) diploma, a recognition that you master knowledge and skills at the high school completion level.

Who qualifies for GED testing?

The GED program is for individuals without a high school diploma. To qualify for GED testing, you cannot already hold a high school diploma, not be signed up for some other educational program, and (in most states) be at least 16 years of age.

Students that meet these qualifications are eligible to sit for the four GED subtests. It doesn’t matter how old test-takers are. Anyone without a high school degree, even if they are 80 years old, can take the GED exam.

It used to be that the GED tests were administered only in-person at state-certified GED test centers, but now there’s also an option to take the GED exam online from your home.

In all U.S. states, you can find numerous state-designated official GED testing locations. Whether you take the tests online or at a physical site, you’ll have to register and schedule your testing appointments at

You’ll have to create your account on the portal MyGED. This is where you schedule and pay for your tests, and also your results can be viewed here right after you took the tests.

In preparation for the four GED subtests, you can attend a local GED prep class, follow a good online course, and take a number of GED practice tests to learn which subject areas need your attention most.

The GED program started out in 1942 to help veterans returning from WW II get ahead with their lives.

Over the last almost 8 decades, more than 20 million Americans have earned their GED diplomas. In addition to English, the GED exam is available in Spanish, French, Braille, large print, and audio.

GED scores

The GED exam is not graded in the same way as other tests. Every few years, a number of high school students is selected to take the tests.

The passing standard is set in a way that around 40 percent of all high school graduates would not be able to take the four subtests successfully on their first try.

There are four grading ranges on the GED test. On each subtest, the passing score is 145. This score must be reached by test-takers on EACH of the four subtests.

  • 100-144 – Scores in this range mean you have not passed this subtest
  • 145-164 – Scores in this range mean you’ve reached High School Equivalency level
  • 164-174 – Scores in this range mean you’ve reached College-Ready level
  • 175-200 – Scores in this range mean you’ve reached College-Ready level and you’ll additionally get up to ten college credits

The latest edition of the GED exam dates back to 2014 when the entire GED exam was overhauled. The exam was entirely revised and includes now four subject tests, one less than previous GED versions.

The GED exam is now only available in a computer-based format and requires test-takers to command more profound analytical and reasoning skills to deal with the questions.

GED time requirements

The four GED modules are timed tests. Many students that did not pass the tests say they ran out of time to answer all of the questions. This underscores the importance of practicing your time-management skills very well. The allotted time is as follows:

  • Social Studies: 70 minutes – No Breaks
  • Science: 90 minutes – No Breaks
  • Mathematical Reasoning: 115 minutes – Scheduled Breaks
  • Reasoning through Language Arts: 150 minutes (incl. a 45-minute essay) – Scheduled Breaks
    So in total: 425 minutes, or about 7 hours

GED test prep

If you want to maximize your GED score, it is key to get optimally prepared and you should also allocate sufficient prep time prior to taking practice tests.

Practice tests will indicate your weaker and stronger knowledge fields so you can focus on those subject areas that require your study time most.

Studying for the GED, HiSET, or TASC exam is best done by utilizing this website’s free video lessons and practice tests, and using our study guides.

GED vs high school diploma

In high school, students will go through some valuable educational and life experiences outside of their classrooms that GED students will not have.

High school students will gain lots of outside knowledge from extracurricular activities and clubs as well as valuable hands-on study experiences.

Additionally, high school provides numerous opportunities when it comes to social development that will prove to be highly useful although their college years and later in their careers.

Keep in mind that, though passing the four GED subtests requires well-rounded basic academic skills, it will not offer you the advanced educational chances and opportunities that are usually available in high school.

Don’t underestimate to what extent knowledge and skills gained in elective high school courses can help high school graduates to be far better prepared for college and university than four tests ever could.

There are employers who regard the GED diploma differently than a common high school diploma. All branches of the Army, for example, use different enlistment criteria for GED and HS graduates.

In conclusion

The GED exam is designed for adults 16 years of age and older who didn’t complete high school and are currently not enrolled in a school program. For current high school students who consider quitting high school prematurely, the GED exam can provide an alternative to high school graduation.

However, it will make more sense to complete high school and earn a diploma. There are schools and employers that regard and treat GED holders differently that HS graduates. Students should really contact their school counselor before deciding to drop out and go for a GED.

Technically and legally, a high school degree and a GED diploma are equivalent, but to get to the credentials, but the road is totally different.

To earn your GED credential, you’ll have to attain sufficient scores on four subject tests that you can complete in a little over 7 hours. To earn a high school diploma, however, you’ll have to attend school for 3 or 4 years.

So passing the GED exam will result in a diploma that is commonly considered equivalent to a regular high school diploma, but the road to get there and the requirements are entirely different.

Keep in mind, though, that whereas completing the GED exam requires less of a time commitment than earning a high school diploma, it is definitely not easier in an academic way.

The GED exam is graded on a scale equivalent to what current high school seniors are required to know and master upon graduation. To pass the four GED subtests, test-takers need to perform at least on a level that’s comparable to that of 60 percent of high school seniors.

Earning a GED diploma is an ideal solution to receive a secondary education degree for individuals older than high school age. It may also be a great option for young adults who want to finish their secondary education quickly.

Keep in mind, though, that there are some significant advantages to completing your traditional high school curriculum!


Last Updated on August 31, 2020.

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