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The GED Test: What Is It, Why You Need It and How to Ace It

In 2017, 90 percent of the American population age 25 and above have completed high school — a first in U.S. history. This means out of the 217 million people included in the “25 years old and above” age bracket, 194 million have a high school diploma or higher.

On the other hand, 77 million Americans don’t have their high school degree. In a competitive workforce market, more employers are demanding education from their employees As a result, finding a job is more difficult if you didn’t finish high school.

Still, many adults think high school is a thing of the past. They’ve dropped out and they seem to be getting by. Plus, if they did want to earn their diploma, isn’t it too late?

With a GED certificate, it’s not.

A Second Chance? What is a GED?

What is a GED? You may have heard the other meanings of GED, such as General Education Diploma or Graduate Equivalency Degree. Traditionally, however, GED stands for General Education Development Test.

In most cases, once you graduate high school, you will receive a diploma. The diploma states that you’ve completed all the required courses to graduate. However, some high school students are close to finishing but don’t get there. The reasons for dropping out vary from one student to another: financial issues, family concerns, life-altering events or socialization problems.

GED testing and certification give you a second shot at earning a high school diploma. If you’re hoping to score a higher degree or get a better job, the GED is accepted and recognized by nearly all American colleges, universities and businesses. When you pass the GED, you gain more opportunities for work in the future. You won’t be alone in this journey, either. Since its establishment in 1942, the GED has opened doors to college programs and better jobs for more than 20 million graduates.

How Does the GED Testing Work?

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The GED is a 7-hour test designed to test your aptitude in the following areas:

  • Science
  • Social studies
  • Mathematical reasoning
  • Reasoning through Language Arts

An entire GED exam is made up of four separate tests, each of them taking at least an hour. The test measures problem-solving, communication, critical thinking and information-processing in the exam. The tests can be rigorous; each of the four content areas is tested and scored separately. If you fail in one area, you retake that test, not all four.

Students who are over the age of 16 and are not attending high school are free to take the GED. If you’re older than 16 but do not have a high school diploma, you are also eligible to take the exam. This makes the GED a great solution for adults who want to earn their diploma but feel they are too old for school.

What Are the Costs of Getting a GED?

In terms of costs, getting your GED need not be expensive. Testing fees vary from one state to another but the average testing fee for all four tests is $120. Get in touch with your local GED Testing Administrator to determine the exact cost of the GED test in your area.

In terms of study materials, take advantage of your library’s free books. There are also free tutorials and practice tests through the GED Testing Service website. But if you need to hire a tutor or take classes to succeed, a little investment is required on your side. When you earn your GED, however, the results are worth the cost.

Is There a Difference Between a GED and a High School Diploma?

The GED is equivalent to a high school diploma, which you can use to apply to college or for a job. They may seem the same but the requirements set the two apart.

The first difference is the age requirement. A person can undergo GED testing at any time after they are 16 years old. GED test-takers should not be currently attending a high school or have already graduated from high school. On the other hand, eligibility for a high school diploma does not come with a minimum or maximum age requirement. All you have to do is finish the courses required by the school.

Another key difference is the duration of completion. To earn a high school degree, a student needs to invest four years in their education. On the other hand, the GED is just a 7-hour test. Still, GED test takers must do better than 60 percent of the graduating high school seniors who took the test. This means the passing grade for GED may change over time, which makes earning a GED more challenging than earning a high school diploma.

GED Test Prep Tips

GED exams are difficult, especially if you’re unprepared. Knowing what and how to study for the test makes a big difference in passing and failing.

So instead of worrying about failing the exam, prepare for it by following these tips:

  • Study smart. Don’t just study hard; study smart. Understand what is on each of the four exams. Also, focus on the areas that are unfamiliar to you or are hard. To accommodate all of the subject areas, develop a flexible study schedule and study when you are most alert.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions. Some questions require careful analysis. Most of the wrong answers are those that appear right at first glance. Often test writers will place misleading answers to confuse you. Instead of falling into this trap, choose the best answer based on what is the question.
  • Know the tricks. Be aware of trick questions. To increase your score:
    • Valid information. There’s a reason for the information you see in the questions. Don’t ignore anything in the question. You’ll need them to answer correctly.
    • Absolutes are not the correct answers. Any answer with absolutes like “greatest,” “always,” or “never” are often incorrect.
    • Beware the “except.” Questions with “which of the following is NOT true” or “except” are often missed or read too fast. Answer these questions by covering the word “except” or “not” then choose the answer that doesn’t belong.
  • Practice makes perfect. Gain more exam confidence by practicing for the test as much as you can. Make the most out of your free practice exams by:
    • Tackling one section of the exam at a time.
    • Understanding the questions you got wrong by reading the explanations on your score report.
    • Taking exams with time constraints.

You may be part of the 77 million who still don’t have their high school diploma and that’s OK. No matter the reason behind you dropping out, you can still earn a shot at your dream college or job by taking a GED exam. Good luck!

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