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Jonathan Reidenouer

How to Get Your GED

The GED assesses a student’s knowledge of topics covered in a typical high school classroom, from history and government, to life science and algebra.

Only a couple decades ago, students that didn’t graduate high school were called “dropouts,” but let’s face it—that’s an inaccurate, offensive term. Thanks to all the developments in sociological, psychological, and educational research, we now know that kids don’t just suddenly choose to “drop out” of school; they are forced out by the difficulties of home life, the challenges of physical and mental health, or the inequities of the system.

For whatever reason, you didn’t finish high school. Maybe a physical condition prevented you from making it to class, or perhaps your special needs were not appropriately accommodated. Perhaps you chose to go directly into the workforce in order to meet a family need for income. Or maybe you chose a career that didn’t require a high school diploma, but now it does.

Regardless of your reason, it’s important to recognize that you have the right to change direction in life: it’s not that you made any mistake in the past, but that you are currently making the right decision. Now it’s time to learn how to get your GED and move forward in that new direction.

Recognize the value in obtaining your GED

First, let’s answer a basic question: what is the GED? Traditionally referred to as a “high school equivalency” test, it’s a nationwide exam designed to determine whether a person has met the requirements for high school, as well as whether someone is ready for college attendance or career advancement.

The GED includes the reading, writing, thinking, and problem-solving skills needed for postsecondary programs and for the workplace. This means that your high school equivalency diploma is not an end in itself—it’s the springboard to more education, to better-paying jobs, and to more rewarding career paths.

What does GED stand for?

Originally, it was short for the Tests of General Educational Development, but since 2011 the company has just used the term GED.

As the most recognizable of the high school equivalency tests, the GED is used in 40 of the 50 states, although some of those states also accept the TASC (Test Assessing Secondary Completion) and/or the HiSET (High School Equivalency Test). Three states use only the TASC (Indiana, New York, and West Virginia), while seven states use only the HiSET (Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, and Tennessee).

As for who can take the GED exam: basically, anyone at least 18 years old who hasn’t graduated from or isn’t currently enrolled in high school. If you’re 16 or 17 years old and have officially withdrawn from high school, you may also be able to take the GED if you meet special requirements. You will also have to meet all local requirements regarding age, residency, preparation, and the length of time since leaving school, so check out the specific details for your state.

Take the first steps to get ready for the tests

Your first step should be to sign up for MyGED, a personalized online program that will be your entry point to all test activities, including scheduling tests, viewing score reports, ordering transcripts, and obtaining your diploma.

Next, you’ll need some books or online programs to aid in the test prep process. Look for books that have practice tests, as those will offer you the most effective training. Some companies also have personalized GED courses and additional practice material online. As your local area opens up from COVID-19 restrictions, you may be able to find some local GED classes as well.

Obviously, you will want to know what it will cost you to get your GED — not just the money, but the time involved. Securing a tutor can go a long way to getting you fully ready for the test. The guidance of a skilled tutor can help you obtain your desired score in less time - and with fewer headaches - than preparing solely on your own.

The GED test must be taken at a physical test center on a computer, where there is a proctor on site to monitor all test takers and ensure all protocol is followed.”

With the recent explosion of online tutoring, there are now a wide range of GED tutors out there to fit anyone’s schedule or budgetary needs. With a quick search online and a few well-crafted interview questions, you can land the right tutor to guide your personalized GED preparation process.

Of course, you want to know how to take the GED, and you may even be asking about how to get your GED online. Unfortunately, online testing is not currently an option according to the GED Testing Service: “The GED test must be taken at a physical test center on a computer, where there is a proctor on site to monitor all test takers and ensure all protocol is followed.”

Gain a fundamental understanding of what is on the GED

The GED test comprises four subjects: math, science, social studies, and language arts. Each subject test assesses a student’s knowledge of topics covered in a typical high school classroom, from history and government to life science and algebra.

Overall, the GED has a length of more than 7 hours, but you don’t have to take all four subject tests on the same day. In fact, it’s better to prepare for each subject test individually and then take them separately.

It’s good to know what to expect with the four GED tests, as each one has its own format and test time.

Mathematical Reasoning

You should be familiar with basic math topics, like positive and negative whole numbers, decimals and fractions, ratios, proportions, and percents, data and statistics, and geometric measurement. Other questions come from Algebraic Reasoning which deals with expressions, polynomials, equations, inequalities, linear equations, quadratic equations, and patterns and functions.

Each of the four GED tests has its own specific content. By far, the test that most students need significant help preparing for is Mathematical Reasoning. You’ll be glad to know, however, that all but five questions on the test permit the use of a calculator. Only one calculator model is permitted, though: the TI-30XS. While a virtual version will be available on the computer when you take the test, it’s best that you purchase one of your own so you can acquaint yourself with its many functions.

In addition, you will have access to a calculator reference sheet, a math formula sheet, and a hand-held whiteboard and dry-erase marker (instead of scratch paper).

Format: Two parts, one break

  • 5 questions with no calculator: 20 mins
  • Short break
  • 35-40 questions with the official GED calculator: 95 mins

Total test time: 1 hour, 55 minutes

Reasoning through Language Arts

In the Reasoning through Language Arts test, you will answer questions on Language Content, as well as complete an Extended Response essay. The language skills required for the test model real-life editing that ensures correct grammar, sentence structure, capitalization, punctuation, and word choice.

The extended response is an evidence-based writing task, meaning that you need to base your position on the information and arguments in the two passages that are provided. Most students find the essay quite challenging, so you’ll want to rely heavily on your tutor to teach you the proper analytical and writing skills.

Format: Three sections, one break

  • About 20 questions in 30 minutes
  • Written essay (extended response comparison of two passages): maximum 45 minutes
  • 10-minute break
  • 30-35 questions in 65 minutes

Total test time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Social Studies

The GED Social Studies test and Science test both center on the skills of analysis, inference, evaluation, and data interpretation. Content covered on the Social Studies test includes material from Civics and Government (50% of the content), U.S. History (20%), Economics (15%), and Geography and the World (15%).

Format: 30-35 questions with no breaks

Total test time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Science

The GED Science test includes content from Life Science (40% of the content), Physical Science (40%), and Earth and Space Science (20%). Because both tests include data and infographics, you will be permitted to use a calculator and given access to the calculator reference sheet.

Format: 30-35 questions with no breaks

  • Includes two short-answer written responses to passages and/or graphics (up to 10 minutes for each)

Total test time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

The number of points you earn is translated into a scaled score ranging from 100-200 for each subject test. Understanding the different tiers of passing GED scores will give you something to shoot for as you go through the test prep process.

What are the requirements for a GED?

The answer to this question depends on what your goal is.

To earn your high school equivalency, you’ll need to score 145 or higher on all four subjects. If you score below 145 on any of the subject tests, you’ll have to retake all four tests regardless of how you performed on the others.

Will a GED work for college?

Yes, although the GED requirements differ based on how many college courses you would like to take.

A score of 165-174 is considered GED College Ready: if you ever choose to enroll in college, you may qualify for waivers from placement testing or developmental education requirements.

A score of 175-200 qualifies as GED College Ready + Credit, meaning you have demonstrated skills that could earn you up to 10 college credit hours.

Work with a GED tutor who can guide your preparation process

Although the GED itself cannot be administered remotely, your tutoring can take place online. Thanks to the development of powerful online learning platforms, tutors can guide your GED sessions just as effectively as they could if they were right next to you. During that preparation process, your tutor can help you become familiar with both the content and the format of the test by recommending study material and reviewing your work on GED practice tests.

While much of the material on the GED, such as certain concepts in Social Studies and Science, is conducive to self-study, having a tutor will give you that extra edge. Some math skills are necessary for both tests, as you will be asked to interpret data and statistics in graphs and charts, find the center (mean, median, and mode) in a statistical data set, and use probabilities and statistics in a science context.

Your tutor can also provide assistance with the two short-answer questions in the Science test, where you will use specific information from provided source materials to write a summary, create an experiment design, or explain how evidence supports a hypothesis or conclusion. An experienced tutor will teach you how to select information to support your argument and organize an effective response that is not based on your opinions or personal experiences.

A skilled tutor is especially beneficial when it comes to teaching test-taking skills and providing insight on how to navigate all the question types in the GED.

  • Multiple-choice: Click to choose from four choices (A through D).
  • Fill-in-the-blank: Type a word, a phrase, or numbers in a box.
  • Drag-and-drop: Move words, numbers, or objects across the computer screen.
  • Drop-down: Select from menus embedded in text on the computer screen.
  • Select-an-area: Click on graphics on the computer screen.
  • Short answer: Write a paragraph or two of explanation in response to passages and/or graphics.
  • Extended response: Compose a well-developed and supported response to two passages.

Take the necessary steps to finally accomplish your goal

As a final step in your preparation, you should take the GED Ready Official Practice Tests, which are available through the MyGED portal. If you get 75% or more questions correct on a GED practice test, you are highly likely to pass the actual GED subject test. Go over those results with your tutor to make the final determination on whether you are ready to take any of the GED tests.

Where are GED testing sites?

To find a test center nearby, you can search directly from your MyGED account. When is the GED? Once you know which GED testing location works best, you can explore the available dates on the website for that particular facility. Registration costs vary from state to state, with the most common GED test costs being $30 per subject test ($120 total). Make sure you check for updates to GED test dates, as certain test centers may not be open due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Get started today

Few people are built for self-guided learning, so it’s natural to feel rudderless as you begin the path toward obtaining your GED.

Fortunately, an experienced GED tutor can provide the stability and direction you need, so take some time to reflect on your learning needs and what you want in a tutor. Reach out to an experienced tutor today to get the GED help you need to complete your journey to greater educational and occupational opportunities.