GED stands for General Educational Development and is the registered trademark of a testing service that allows people to attain a credential that is the equivalent of a high school diploma. It is is a joint venture of the American Council on Education (ACE) and Pearson and since its inception in 1942, has enabled over 18 million people to gain qualifications that have led to further education and jobs. The GED test is recognised throughout the US and Canada. It tests basic proficiencies in the ability to read and write in English plus knowledge and abilities in social studies, science and mathematics. The original tests have been rewritten four times with the current tests having been introduced in 2002. The test can also be set in Spanish or French.
There are two ways to take the test. It can either be taken on paper or on computer, but both types of tests must be taken at a recognised test center. The computer version requires basic computer skills.
The reading test consists of forty multiple choice questions of which three quarters are about understanding of fictional writings and one quarter about non-fiction. The fictional categories include readings in all of the following categories: poetry, drama, prose fiction prior to 1920, prose fiction between 1920 and 1960 and prose fiction from after 1960. There are two nonfiction readings that are taken from nonfiction prose, visual or performing arts reviews or documents from the workplace or the community. Prior knowledge of the material is not expected. The test presents the material for the student to read and then answer questions which show comprehension of the meaning of the passage; the ability to take concepts from the passage and make a point about them; the ability to analyse the information and the ability to synthesise the information to glean the overall point of view in the passage. The student is given 65 minutes to complete this test.
The second language test focuses on writing. It is divided into two parts. The first part takes 75 minutes and is a 50 question multiple choice test that covers sentence structure, organisation, usage and the mechanics of writing. It tests the student’s ability to revise and edit grammar, spelling, and other writing errors. In the second part, the student is given 45 minutes to write an essay about a common subject. This section is graded on its organisation, the ability of the writer to set out of clear points as well as punctuation, grammar and sentence structure. If the score on the essay is too low, the student is required to sit both parts of the writing test again.
The third test is on mathematics and consists of 80% multiple choice questions and 20% short answers. The student is given 90 minutes to complete the test. The questions cover the following areas: basic number operations; measuring and geometry; statistics and probability; andalgebra, with approximately 25% of the questions focusing on each of these four areas. Calculators are provided by the test centers.
The science test covers basic science topics that would be covered in high school. It consists of 50 multiple choice questions and the student has 80 minutes to answer them. Approximately 35% of the questions are about physics and chemistry, 45% about living things (biology) and the remaining 20% are about earth science and space. The questions involve reading a passage and gleaning the information or analysing the information in a graph, a diagram, chart or table.
The social studies exam tests the student’s knowledge of history, geography, civics and economics. It covers both US and world history and geography. There is also a Canadian version that covers Canadian history and geography. There are 50 multiple choice questions and the test is 70 minutes long. Readings are provided from which the questions are taken so the student is not expected to memorise speeches in order to pass this test. It is about thinking critically about the text in order to answer the questions.
Once the student has successfully completed all of these tests, he or she is provided with a certificate that can be used as the equivalent of a high school diploma. For people who did not finish high school, the GED test is a recognised way to prove their capability to undertake jobs or further education.
There are sample test questions available on the web site links provided above and there is a GED facebook site where students can discuss the tests with other students.