The History of the GED

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This article contains historical information regarding the GED exam, including when and why the test was developed and subsequent additions to the test.
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The Beginning

The General Education Development (GED) Test is an option offered by most U.S. states and Canadian provinces for adults who were either unwilling or unable to complete high school in the traditional matter. It may also be offered to 16- and 17-year-olds under certain circumstances.

The GED was originally developed in 1942 as a helpful and viable alternative for military men who were sent overseas to fight in the war before they could complete their high school education. It has since grown to serve as a path to high school equivalency for civilians as well, and more than 18 million people have passed the test over the 70+ years it has been in existence. The GED is usually offered in conjunction with a state's department of education, but the GED Testing Service itself is a joint venture between a private computer-based testing company, Pearson, and a higher education association, the American Council on Education (ACE).

The Revisions

The original GED exam remained unchanged until 1972, when a new series of the test was released that required a broader understanding of academic subjects and higher level critical thinking. The new test was designed for a work force that required more academic and technical knowledge than previous generations.

The test was revised again in 1988 to include a writing sample, something that had never before been required. A greater emphasis was placed on socially relevant topics and problem-solving. At this time, 65 percent of students taking the GED were hoping to use the test to enter a university rather than enter the job market.

The next major revision of the GED occurred in 2002 when questions were added and more business-related topics were covered. The 2002 version also used written passages that were more relevant to adults.

Most recently, a substantial revision was made in 2014 which brought the previous five subject tests down to four: Reasoning through Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies. The test is now taken on a computer (at an official testing site), allowing for fill-in-the-blank, drag-and-drop, pull-down menus and other question types and tools to be used. Short answer and essay questions are still included. Scores are typically available in 24 hours.

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