Problems with the GED

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For generations, the General Education Development or GED test has offered a second chance to earn a diploma to millions of people who were unable to finish high school. Although there are many people who owe their careers to the GED, there have been some problems with the program as it evolved over time.
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History of the Test

The GED Test was developed by the American Council on Education in 1942 to help World War II veterans who left school to serve in the military earn a diploma that would lead to a good job or a college education. The program worked, and the test was soon available to civilians.

Although a GED certificate was touted as an alternative that was regarded as highly as a traditional high school diploma, there were doubts about the claims that passing the test was equivalent to four years of classroom education. There were complaints that the test was not as difficult as it should be, and a sense that employers saw the GED as a shortcut and a lower version of an actual diploma.

Research revealed there was some truth to those suspicions. Data from the 2009 U.S. Census showed that high school graduates earned around $4,700 a month while GED recipients took home $3,100.

As for higher education, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that from 2002-2006, roughly 64 percent of high school graduates went on to college or post-secondary training. In comparison, only 31 percent of GED recipients enrolled in colleges and the majority stayed for only one semester.

Changes to the Test

In response to criticism and the changing workforce needs, the GED has been updated several times. Each new version of the test was more challenging.

In 2012, the ACE teamed up with the British text book and education publisher, Pearson, to develop a new GED test aligned to the Common Core Standards, a new set of rigorous academic requirements adopted by most states to boost the quality of public education. The GED test now uses more difficult content and emphasizes critical and higher-level thinking skills.

Problems with the 2014 GED

Pearson released the new GED test in January, 2014. However, many educators considered the following changes as a new and different set of problems with the GED:

  • With Pearson onboard, the GED test shifted from a non-profit program to a for-profit enterprise. The fees for taking the tests jumped from around $60 to $120
  • The 2014 test is considered much more difficult than previous versions and creates barriers for people who left school and need a diploma in order to find a job
  • The test is now taken only on computer creating problems for older people unfamiliar with new testing technology
  • The number of people earning GEDs has dropped from roughly 560,000 earning the credential in 2013 to approximately 86,000 successfully completing the tests on 2014

Moving Forward

In response to these new problems, more than a dozen states have either dropped the GED and switched to the HiSET or TASC equivalency tests, or added those tests as additional options for those seeking a high school credential. More states are now reviewing programs and policies for high school equivalency in the hope of solving problems with the GED.

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