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What is the GED?

The initials GED stand for General Educational Development. You may also have heard the tests referred to as the High School Equivalency Tests. The GED diploma is widely regarded as the equivalent of a high school diploma.

The GED Test is a 7 1/4 hour exam usually taken over two days in the areas of (1) Language Arts: Writing; (2) Language Arts: Reading; (3) Social Studies; (4) Science; and (5) Math. The exam is prepared by the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C. and used by every state government in the country and provicial governments in Canada to determine when someone who never finished high school is at the same level as -- or "equivalent" to -- the level of someone who graduated from a traditional high school. Persons who pass the exam in New York receive a High School Equivalency Diploma from the State Education Department.

The GED Test is a way for millions of adults in the United States and Canada to get diplomas or certificates without returning to high school. Each year about half a million people take advantage of the opportunity to take the GED tests.

What is the Value of the High School Equivalency Diploma?

The High School Equivalency Diploma is recognized by most employers and colleges as equivalent to a regular diploma. GED holders have gone to colleges, joined the military and qualified for jobs that require high school graduation. Many celebrities - like Bill Cosby, Former New Jersey Governor Jim Florio, Tammy Wynette - took the GED Test and used their high school equivalency diploma to enter college. The scores on the various parts of the GED test are regarded by colleges as the same as a high school transcript of grades; thus, the score counts in qualifying for college. Most four-year college would require at least a 275 score out of the possible 400 for admission. City University of New York four-year colleges require 300 points. Two-year colleges generally require between 225 and 250 for admission. Two hundred and twenty-five points is the lowest passing score. Students must, however, obtain a minimum score of 40 on each of the five subtests in adiition to earning the minimum total score of 225.

What is Tested on the GED Exam?

The material found on the GED test is based on the subjects covered in most high schools around the country. Thus you will be learning about the subject areas that you would be most likely to study if you attended four years of high school. However, the focus of the GED test is not on content, but on higher-order thinking skills. You will not have to memorize specific dates, names, and places. For example, whether you recall the date of a battle or the title of a novel is less important than whether you can read and understand a passage on science or technology, social studies, literature, or specimens of practical documents used in the workplace or daily living.

You have already been using many of the thinking skills that will be tested on the GED. For example, many people must do some writing in their lives, and the GED includes a test of writing skills. A lot of people are required to master reading skills in their jobs or for daily living, and reading skills are tested, as well. Many people use basic mathematics for such things as figuring out a budget or doubling a recipe, and the GED includes a test of basic math skills. Instead of testing your memory, the GED tests your ability to get information and apply your thinking to that information, especially for everyday circumstances.

How Is the GED Exam Structured?

The GED exam is actually five separate subtests. With one exception, the test is composed entirely of multiple choice questions. The one exception is the 250-word essay that you will be required to write as part of the Language Arts: Writing Test.

 

SUMMARY OF THE CONTENT AREAS

The following table summarizes the contents of the GED Tests.

THE TEST OF GENERAL EDUCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

 

Test

Number of Items

Time Limit (minutes)

Content Areas

 

Language Arts, Writing
Part I (65%) (Editing)

50

75

Sentence Structure 30%
Usage 30%
Mechanics 25%
Organization 15%

Language Arts, Writing
Part II (35%) (Essay)

1 topic: approximately 250 words

45

 

Social Studies

50

8

World History 15%
U.S. History 25%
Geography 15%
Economics 20%
Civics and Government 25%

Science

50

80

Life Science 45%
Earth and Space Science 20%
Physical Science 35%
 Physics
 Chemistry

Language Arts, Reading

40

65

Literary Text 75%
  Poetry (15%)
  Drama (15%)
  Fiction (45%)
Nonfiction Prose 25%
  Informational Text
  Literary Nonfiction
  Viewing Component
  Business Documents

Mathematics

Booklet One: Calculator

90

 

25

 

Number Operations and 
  Numbers Sense 20-30%
Measurement and Geometry 20-30%
Data Analysis, Statistics, 
  and Probability 20-30%
Algebra, Functions, and Patterns 20-30%

Totals:

240 Questions
+ Essay

7 1/4 hours

 

What's the Standard for Passing the GED Test?

The scores on the various parts of the GED are regarded by colleges as the same as a high school transcript of grades, so the score counts in qualifying for college. Most four-year colleges would require a score of at least 275 out of the possible 400 for admission. City University of New York four-year colleges require 300 points. Two-year colleges generally require scores between 225 and 250 for admission. Two hundred and twenty-five points is the lowest passing score.

How Long Does It Take to Get a High School Equivalency Diploma?

"It Depends" is a quick answer. The ASHS program is individualized so that students can progress at their own pace. When they are able to score 240 points or better on a Practice GED Test, they are recommended to take the next available scheduled exam. Some students study for more than a year in the program, but others are ready to pass within several weeks or months. Every year, 5,000 or more students earn their high school equivalency diplomas through ASHS.

Reading as an Enabling Skill

Of all the skills necessary for success on the GED Tests, reading is clearly the most important. While reading is obviously the most essential skill for Test Four, Language Arts: Reading, it is no less important in the other tests. At a minimum, examinees must be able to comprehend and draw inferences from written and graphic materials. This is true even in the Mathematics test, which contains the least amount of text of any of the tests in the battery but still requires examinees to read very carefully, since almost all of the questions are "word problems."

This characteristic of the GED Tests suggests that reading should be an integral element of the GED preparation curriculum and that the reading competence of students should be established before they are encouraged to take the GED Tests. But just as reading is not tested as a separate content area in the GED Tests, it sould not be taught as such. Rather, reading can most effectively be taught as an enabling skill, offering access to the five content areas in the tests and to the problem-solving process.

 

 


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