What is the GED and How is it Structured?

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The GED is a certificate which proves the recipient has achieved the equivalent of a high school education. This article provides an in-depth description of what the GED is and what it consists of.
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What is the GED?

Introduced in 1942, the General Education Development exam (GED) was designed by the government as an equal replacement for a high school diploma. Over 20 million individuals have earned their high school credential using the GED. At the time it was originated, a GED alone was enough for most industrial age jobs, however, in the current information age, the GED has kept pace with changes in technology and knowledge, and is used by candidates as a gateway to postsecondary education in all fields of employment, including teachers, lawyers, doctors, and elected and appointed state and federal government officials.

How is it Structured?

In 2011, the GED Testing Service was created as a joint venture between the American Council on Education (ACE) and Pearson. The GED exam is now in its fifth major revision. The current revision was implemented January, 2014. Changes in the GED throughout the years have reflected shifts in technology, curricula, and assessment methods. The latest revision is no different. Earlier tests measured information recall, but more recent versions place more value on the ability to evaluate and apply information. With this new revision, all GED tests are now completely computerized. Test-takers will be expected to demonstrate computer and keyboard skills in taking the tests.

Four test areas have been deemed standards for passing the GED:

  • Social studies
  • Science
  • Reasoning through Language Arts
  • Mathematical Reasoning

All sections may include responses such as:

  • Extended response
  • Drag-and-drop
  • Drop-down
  • Fill-in-the-blank
  • Hot spot
  • Multiple choice
  • Short answer

Each section is summarized below.

Reasoning through Language Arts (150 minutes)

This test has three parts:

  • Reading comprehension: Where the test-taker must make conclusions and draw inferences that relate to the text presented, and respond to questions about an excerpt of text involving the main idea, word or phrase meanings, point of view, and other inferences or statements.
  • Writing: The test-taker must use computer and keyboard skills to draft a well-crafted essay that demonstrates accurate analysis and use of evidence, that is supported by the subject matter presented, as well as demonstrates the proper use of the English language. The essay will be scored on analysis and use of arguments, development of ideas and structure, and clarity and command of English.
  • Language conventions and usage: This section covers grammar, usage, capitalization and punctuation.

Social Studies (90 minutes)

This test includes multiple choice, drag-and-drop, hot spot, and fill-in-the-blank responses.

  • There are four domains in this test: Civics and government, United States history, economics, and geography and the world.
  • There is one extended response question where the test-taker must read excerpts and use the presented evidence to analyze arguments and prepare a written response.
  • There are two overarching themes: Development of Modern Liberties, and Democracy and Dynamic Responses in Societal Systems.

Science (90 minutes)

The item types in this test include multiple choice, short answer, drag-and-drop, hot spot, and fill-in-the-blank.

  • This test covers three domains: Life science, physical science, and Earth and space science
  • There are two themes: Human Health and Living Systems and Energy and Related Systems

Mathematical Reasoning (115 minutes)

Questions on this test consist of multiple-choice, drag-and-drop, hot spot, and fill-in-the-blank.

  • This test has two content areas: quantitative problem solving and algebraic problem solving.
  • Test-takers are provided with an on-screen calculator (the Texas Instruments TI-30XS Multiview scientific calculator) to use for most of the items on the test, but there is a section where you will not be permitted to use the calculator.

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