The GED (General Educational Development) exam is a high school equivalency (HSE) assessment for individuals who didn’t complete their traditional high school curriculum.
The GED exam offers them the opportunity to demonstrate that they command knowledge and skills at the level of graduating high school students.
The GED exam contains four individual modules (or subtests) that cover the academic subject areas of Math (Mathematical Reasoning), Literacy (Reasoning through Language Arts – reading and writing combined), Social Studies, and Science.
Eligibility rules and regulations vary by state but in general, GED applicants cannot already hold a high school diploma or be signed up for an educational program and they need to meet a number of requirements that may vary by state (such as age and/or residency requirements).
As said, age requirements vary by state but in general, GED test-takers must be at least 18 years of age to qualify (sometimes 18.5 or 19) but in practically all states, underage students, ages 16 and 17, may also be eligible if they meet strict requirements and hold a GED Age Waiver. Check our post about Age Requirements by State.
In general, 17-year-old applicants may qualify if they are not anymore registered for high school and some states require them to partake in a GED prep program. Underage testers need to have written parental permission to be able to sit for the GED exam. There are states that have additional requirements for example that test-takers must have been out of school for a specific time frame in order to qualify.
Most states also allow 16-year-olds to take the GED exam under often even stricter conditions. They must also have been officially withdrawn from high school and hold parental consent. Underage GED testers may also qualify if they are accepted into a college or university program. The school must then provide an acceptance letter and students need to fill out an official “age-waiver” application to be able to sit for the exam.
So Age Waivers for the GED testing program are required, in most states, for applicants 16 and 17 years old. They need to apply for an Age Waiver that’s generally provided by their school districts (and in some states by their state’s GED Office).
Approved Age Waivers need to be presented at one of their state’s official testing centers before they will be allowed to take the exam. As said above, applicants for an Age Waiver cannot be enrolled in high school or signed up for any other educational program.
Most states use (one or more) the following criteria for applicants to qualify for underage GED testing and issuing an Age Waiver:
- Applicants have been officially withdrawn from high school for a specific period of time (e.g. 6 months or one full year).
- Applicants must hold written permission signed by a parent or a guardian.
- Applicants’ high school classes have graduated.
- Prospective employers have officially indicated that an applicant needs to complete the GED exam to qualify for a position.
- A college, university, or official institution has indicated that an applicant needs to complete the GED exam for acceptance qualification.
- A military division had officially indicated that an applicant needs to complete the GED exam for acceptance qualification.
- A correctional institution, social service agency, or a recognized educational organization has indicated that completion of the GED exam is a part of an applicant’s ILP (individual learning plan).
- Some states require underage GED test-takers to attend an official GED prep program and/or take and pass an official GED practice test before they can register for GED testing while this requirement doesn’t count for older applicants. There are states, however, that use this requirement for all GED applicants.
- In some states, applicants with extreme or extenuating personal circumstances may also qualify if they show proper documentation. Circumstances can be the sole support of an applicant’s family, an untenable home situation that requires an applicant to earn a livelihood and leave school, or illness of long duration.
The GED exam is created by the American Council on Education (ACE) in combination with publisher Pearson Vue. It provided individuals who didn’t graduate from high school with the opportunity to earn a diploma that’s equivalent to a common high school diploma. The GED credential is all over North America recognized and accepted by practically all U.S. employers, universities, and colleges.