The need to evaluate a person’s knowledge has led to a variety of tests being developed. One of the oldest is the General Education Development tests instigated in 1942. Their purpose was to help U.S. Military personnel who had not completed their secondary level education demonstrate that they had acquired knowledge equal to that of a high school diploma.
Thanks to this program, people had the opportunity to qualify for jobs or pursue further education after being discharged from military service. The original series of tests which began in 1942 were implemented until 1977. The particular test concentrated on correct and effective expression in the English language while social studies, science and literature assessment depended on reading material. Due to the fact that it was an industrial era, it was focused on knowledge of a secondary education level. While most participants took the test for employment opportunities an ever growing number specified plans for further education.
By the late ‘70s it was realized that the face of the workforce had changed and the needs of the modern-day employee had to vary. Therefore, the tests were reevaluated and in 1978 a new series came out. This time there was a separate reading test from science and social studies and the participant had to apply conceptual knowledge and evaluate presented information. While they continued the emphasis on high school outcomes, they pioneered real-life contexts (in home or work environments) and the reading materials were schedules or newspaper articles pertinent to adults.
By the mid ‘80s, the worldwide society was aware that it was moving away from the industrial age culture of the early 20th century to an information society marching on the 21st. Technology was by now a household term not simply one unique to science. There was global awareness and the changes could not but affect adults and in turn command changes in the GED which had to meet the new needs of employment. As a result, the GED Testing Service decided on a five-year review to keep up with the constant progress that developed changes.
The expertise of professionals from every sector of adult education was sought out. In 1988 the new series of tests were comprised of an essay, emphasis on critical thinking and problem-solving skills, reflection on the diverse roles of adults in modern society, understanding the sources of societal change and finally there was an increase in contexts of real-life settings relevant to adults.
Participants’ reasons for taking the GED test also altered. By then only 30% were taking the test for employment reasons while 65% were taking it for entry into postsecondary education.
The tests are used in all states and in many Canadian provinces. About 80,000 adults take the tests every year. The GED Tests have been a stepping stone of opportunity for millions of adults who for one reason or another could not finish their high school education. The GED does not, however, replace formal high school education. A high school diploma remains the number one qualification necessary for a great range of entry-level jobs. Depending on the vocation, it continues to be a requirement for advancement in employment, occupational training and postsecondary education.
The tests were reevaluated in 2002 and today they accommodate Spanish and French speakers as well. What’s more, since the GED began as an idea to provide opportunity for those who lacked it, it has expanded even further and is also available in Braille, bold print, and on audiocassettes. It will be reevaluated once more in 2014.