The question What does GED® stand for is easy to answer but passing the test has become a challenging process.
GED stands for General Education Development. The GED Test includes four individual subtests, also referred to as modules.
In most states that use the GED for high school equivalency testing, must be successfully taken within a time frame of two years.
The GED diploma is regarded as the equivalency of a common high school diploma and accepted as such by practically all employers, institutions of higher education, and government agencies.
GED graduates can continue their education in college or university and holding the diploma will surely lead to better employment options.
Around every ten years or so, a new version of the GED test is rolled out across America to ensure the test will stay in line with industry requirements and university and college expectations, to reflect the ever-changing practices on the work floor, and to relate to technological developments.
Since the new GED came out in January 2014, there have been concerns that the latest edition was more difficult than the previous one. It’s been almost four years so let’s see if that assumption is correct.
- The passing standard of the new test is based on a national sample of high school graduates (class of 2013). Students who have passed all four modules of the test are around the 70th percentile, slightly higher than the 2002 edition of the test.
- This doesn’t mean that the 2002 and 2014 tests are equal in terms of difficulty level. Due to the changes in public education in the last decade, grads in 2013 likely had higher skills than those in 2002. (U.S. students’ international rankings in Math, Reading, and Science have improved significantly). The difficulty level of the new test is based on current high school students.
General Rules for the GED Test
- There are four subjects:
- Reasoning Through Language Arts (English)
- Social Studies
- The minimum passing score in each subject is 145 on a scale of 100 to 200.
- You can’t pass the test if you fail any one subject.
- The test is taken on a computer, so you must be computer literate and competent with a keyboard and mouse.
- Students will need some level of content knowledge at a “definition level.”
- A formula sheet is provided for the Math section.
- An on-screen calculator is provided for certain questions in the Math, Science and Social Studies sections.
- You will write an essay in the English section.
- There is no penalty for a wrong answer.
Reasoning Through Language Arts
Duration: 150 minutes total – including 45 minutes for an essay
- The length of the text included in the reading comprehension questions varies from between 450 to 900 words.
- Seventy-Five Percent (75%) of the texts on the exam are informational.
- Twenty-Five Percent (25%) of the tests on the exam are literature.
- Poetry does not appear on the GED test.
There is one essay for this section that is worth 6 times more than a multiple choice question. Students are presented with two passages describing opposing perspectives on a topic. Test-takers are required to decide which argument has the most support. The essay is graded by three criteria in equal proportions:
- Creation of an argument and the use of evidence.
- Development of ideas and organizational structure.
- Clarity and command of Standard English conventions.
With this grading criteria, even students for whom English is a second language can still score 4 or 5 out of 6 for an otherwise well-written essay. Don’t worry about editing your essay to polish it up. Essays are graded as if they are a first draft. However, it is important that you complete the essay. Start by creating an outline and don’t spend too much time on any one part. Also, keep in mind that short essays tend to receive lower scores, so, if your typing speed is slow, practice with typing programs.
Duration: 115 minutes
Approximately 45% of the content focuses on quantitative problem solving and 55% focuses on algebraic problem-solving. The section is broken down into 4 parts:
- Number operations and number sense. (20-30%)
- Measurement and geometry. (20-30%)
- Data analysis (charts and graphs), statistics, and probability. (20-30%)
- Algebra, functions, and patterns. (20-30%)
The first five questions test your foundation of arithmetic skills and do not allow the use of any calculator. The skills required include the four basic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division), exponents, roots, and basic number sense.
Test-takers are expected to know basic formulas such as the areas (of a square, rectangle, triangle, circles), perimeters, the circumference of a circle, distances, measures of central tendency (mean, median, and mode) and total cost.
Some more specific skills that are now required for the math section are awareness of absolute values, rational numbers, and polynomials (basic algebra). You will NOT be asked about trigonometry or calculus. Some basic arithmetic skills are actually spread throughout the GED test. For example, data interpretation questions are now also seen in the Science and Social Studies portions of the test.
Duration: 90 minutes
The Science section is divided into three parts:
- Physical Science (Chemistry and Physics) – 40%
- Life Science – 40%
- Earth and Space Science – 20%
These cover smaller topics including the system of living organisms, diseases, evolution, heredity, sources of energy, transformations of energy, uses of energy, and Earth’s geochemical systems, to name a few. The science section also includes two short answer questions. Each is worth 3 times as much as a multiple choice question.
The short answers are not timed separately but test makers suggest students spend about 10 minutes on each of them and write a paragraph. The environment, ecosystem, and human activities are important themes in the science section and are often the subject of the short answer questions.
Other frequent topics are the scientific method and experimental design. A clear and complete explanation will receive a high score and grammar is not considered a part of the grade for these answers.
Duration: 70 minutes
The four high-level topics covered in the Social Studies section are:
- Civics and Government – 50%
- U.S History – 20%
- Economics – 15%
- Geography and the World – 15%
The Social Studies section requires similar analysis skills as needed in the “Reading through Language Arts” section. Students should be able to identify bias in a passage, understand tone, point-of-view, and structure. Skills more specific to Social Studies are: an awareness and understanding of chronological order and the historical aspect of a passage. Students should also be able to understand charts and graphs that represent Social Studies data.
There is one essay question in the Social Studies section which is worth 4 times more than a multiple choice question. Similar to the English essay question, students will be given passages to analyze. The differences from the English essay question are the topic areas and the essay question will be about one of these “enduring issues”:
- Citizens’ rights in conflict with some other societal interest
- Separation of powers
- Checks and balances
- States’ rights versus federal power
An enduring issue is an important topic or idea that may be subject to ongoing discussion among American citizens. You will want to make sure that you have a general grasp of these concepts. The same three criteria used for the English essay questions are applied to grade your response in the Social Studies section.
Practice Makes Perfect
Be sure to get used to the computer format, practice writing essays in a timed setting, and take the free practice tests offered at this website before you take the actual test. You can get special accommodations, such as extra test time or breaks, by making a special request and providing documentation of the reason the accommodation before the test day.