The GED: Myths and Realities

Myth #1: The GED is easy.

Reality: Although many people do manage to obtain a great score on the GED, it is by no means an easy exam. The GED tests all of the skills that you would have acquired during high school, and it requires you to be knowledgeable about a wide range of subject areas, including science and social studies. Considerable background knowledge is required to answer some of the questions; therefore, you cannot hope to ace the test by relying on logic and common sense alone. Preparation is essential.

Myth #2: The number of colleges accepting the lieu of a high school graduation diploma is very small.

Reality: Luckily for the 60% of individuals who take the GED with the intention of going on to further their education, this is a myth. The GED is valued by most colleges just as highly as a high school diploma. In fact, an incredible 98% of colleges accept GED scores, so it's likely your college will accept a GED as well. Bear in mind that individual colleges may set their own minimum scores on the GED. Always check into this potential roadblock before you submit your application to ensure that you meet the admissions criteria. You may also be required to take standardized entrance exams like the SAT or the ACT before you are accepted.

Myth #3: I have to achieve the overall minimum GED score on each one of the various sections of the GED test if I am to succeed..

Reality: Most jurisdictions will set a minimum score you must obtain on each individual section to pass the GED test, but individual section minimums are typically lower than the overall passing score. For example, the overall passing score may be 450. That means your average score on all five sections of the test must be equal to or greater than 450. However, the passing score for each individual section may be 400. Therefore, if you struggle with one section, you can still pass the test by doing well on the other sections, which will raise your overall score. Keep in mind, too, that you are permitted to re-take individual sections of the GED. If you did well on four of the sections, for example, but did not obtain the minimum score on the science section, you can try that section again at a later time.

Myth #4: It's now possible to take the GED online.

Reality: This is absolutely untrue, and you should never believe anybody who tells you this. There are numerous online companies telling unsuspecting individuals that they can obtain their GED by taking a simple online test. After the individual passes the test, they will often receive a piece of paper in the mail that does, in fact, look like a GED certificate. Persons who are victimized by such scams will usually find out the "certificate" is useless after they send in a copy with their college application. By that time, the unfortunate victim of misleading advertising is already out hundreds of dollars. Never take the GED at a location other than an official testing center. Visit the American Council on Education's website to find an official GED testing center in your area.

Myth #5: I've spoken with somebody who took the GED very recently, so I know what will be on the test.

Reality: Since the GED can be taken throughout the year, there are precautions in place to keep people from finding out exactly what will be on the test. In fact, there are dozens of versions of the GED being used at testing centers throughout the United States at any given time. You are much better off spending your time familiarizing yourself with the material you may find on the GED than hoping you will be lucky enough to get the same edition of the test as the person who took the test before you.

The GED: The Five W's

What: GED is short for general educational development; it is a standardized test designed to assess whether an individual possesses the same knowledge and skill set as a high school graduate. The GED is a lengthy test that is composed of five sections: reading, writing, math, social studies, and science.

Who: Only certain people are eligible to take the GED. First, individuals who wish to take the GED cannot currently be enrolled in a traditional high school. Second, only those who do not currently possess a high school diploma are eligible to take the GED. The reason(s) why an individual was unable to complete high school is unimportant. Some people may have left high school out of financial necessity, others may have recently immigrated to Canada or the United States, and others many not have completed or fulfilled their home schooling requirements for graduation. There are age restrictions for those who wish to take the GED. Although 16 and 17-year-olds are permitted to take the test under certain circumstances, individuals must generally be at least 18 years of age to take the GED test,

Where: There are official GED testing centers located throughout the United States. Individuals are generally required to take the test at centers located within specified jurisdictions. Locating a specific test center is very easy. Visit the GED "center locator" page on the American Council on Education's website and enter a zip or postal code. Press the "search" button, and the contact information for testing centers serving that area will be instantly displayed. Tests are typically administered at public schools, local community colleges, and at adult education facilities. The GED can only be taken at authorized testing centers. Traditional paper GED tests are the only certified way of taking the battery of tests required for the high school diploma. Online testing is not authorized. Nonetheless, there are a few unscrupulous companies offering to provide the GED online. The "diplomas" offered by such companies are neither legitimate nor acceptable to accredited educational institutions.

When: Although the American Council on Education is the organization which officially oversees the GED, individual testing locations may set their own exam times. Once you find out who administers the test in your area, you must contact that agency to find out about available scheduled test dates and times. It's best to schedule your GED exam at least a month or two into the future to give yourself time to prepare. Don't be tempted by the availability of immediate near-term test dates. Those who have been out of school for an extended period of time may very likely have forgotten much of the material they learned during their elementary and secondary school years. Therefore, a little extra preparation time may be necessary.

Why: There are many reasons why somebody might wish to take the GED. Most higher level accredited academic institutions require that applicants have completed high school course work and graduated successfully.. Many people who dropped out of high school before graduation have probably already discovered the impossibility of being accepted to most academic programs without the high school diploma. Taking and passing the GED, however, gives many people in that situation a chance of being accepted to many colleges. In fact, almost every U.S. college accepts GED scores. For most people, the desire to obtain a higher education is a primary motivation for taking the GED; more than fifty percent of people taking the GED intend to further their education after successfully passing the high school equivalency test known as the GED. There are also many people who decide to take the GED in the hope that successful completion of it will broaden their employment prospects. In today's competitive job market, it's very nearly impossible to get a high paying job without at least a high school diploma. Since a bona fide GED certificate is the equivalent of a diploma, individuals possessing one will be better able to compete for positions and promotions, and will also be eligible to apply for a wider range of jobs. Finally, some people who did not graduate from high school may simply want to take the GED to gain a sense of personal accomplishment. The desire to make others proud and feel a sense of personal accomplishment is a valid reason for wanting to take this important test.

The GED: Official Test Format

The GED is a comprehensive test designed to measure your knowledge of all the major subject areas you would have mastered during high school. The GED has five sections. Each one contains a specific number of questions that must be completed within a set timeframe. Read the information below to learn more about what you can expect when you arrive at your testing location to take your GED.

Time Allotted: 80 minutes
Number of Questions: 50 questions
All of the questions in the Science section are multiple choice, and they cover a number of scientific disciplines, including physics, chemistry, life science, and earth and space science. In this section, most of the information you need to answer the questions will be provided to you, although some questions will require you to draw upon knowledge acquired through your own education. Information may be presented in paragraph form, or you may be given a chart, graph, or other type of graphic which requires analysis and interpretation. In order to successfully answer the questions on the Science section of the test, you will have to read, analyze, and interpret a variety of scientific data and concepts.

Time Allotted: 90 minutes
Number of Questions: 50 questions
There are a variety of question types that may be found on this section of the GED, including algebra, probability, and geometry problems. The math section of the GED is divided into two parts, each containing 25 questions. One part may be completed using a calculator, and the other part must be completed through manual mathematical calculations. The only calculator model that may be used during the test is a Casio fx-260; these are usually provided to you at the testing center to ensure uniformity. Most questions require you to choose the correct answer within a multiple choice format, but other problems require you to shade in your response on an answer grid.

Language Arts - Writing
Time Allotted: 2 hours
Number of Questions: 50 questions and 1 essay
The writing section of the GED consists of two parts. In the first, there are 50 multiple choice questions that require you to correct, revise, and change the construction of sentences. These questions are designed to assess your organizational skills, your ability to choose suitable words and phrases to express an idea, and your familiarity with the basic mechanics of the English language. You will also be required to compose an essay. The topic will be a familiar one, and you will have 45 minutes to complete it. Trained evaluators will read your essay and assign a score based on language arts skills such as organization, supporting statements, vocabulary usage, correct grammar usage, and your ability to convey your ideas.

Language Arts - Reading
Time Allotted: 65 minutes
Number of Questions: 40 questions
In this section, you will be presented with poetry, prose fiction, non-fiction passages, reviews of artistic pieces or performances, and/or documents. Most of the passages (75% of them) will be literary pieces of poetry, drama, and fiction. In addition to being able to comprehend the information presented in these passages, you will also be asked to analyze the information to form conclusions and expose themes that may not be directly stated in the work.

Social Studies
Time Allotted: 70 minutes
Number of Questions: 50 questions
The questions included in this section of the GED will cover a number of different areas, including history, geography, government, and economics. In most cases, the information that you must use to answer the test questions is provided in the form of articles, photographs, maps, cartoons, or other types of documents and figures. Therefore, it is not necessary to memorize a great deal of information to do well on this section. It is more important to be able to interpret and analyze the information provided.

The GED: Preparing, Writing, and Understanding your Scores

The standardized high school equivalency test known as the GED has been around for a while - since 1942, in fact. The test was originally introduced to help World War II veterans. Many who were called away to serve in the armed forces didn't have the chance to complete high school, so they were given the opportunity to take the GED instead. Passing this test helped many veterans find good jobs after the war. More than 60 years later, people still take the GED in the hopes of obtaining a better job or furthering their education. If you are taking the GED, it's important to know how to prepare, what to expect on test day, and what your scores mean.

How to Prepare

The GED is designed to assess the skills you would have acquired during high school. Getting outside help is particularly helpful to those who have been away from the secondary school system for a long time and for those who may never have attended high school. If you have an adult education center in your community, that is probably the best place to start. Many adult education centers offer GED preparation classes which will acquaint you with the topics and information you need to acquire for successful passage of the GED. Some adult education centers also have counsellors or instructors you can meet with individually. Counselors and instructors can help you recognize your own particular areas of academic weakness and help you focus on specific content areas which will help you to do well on the test. Although the help you receive from your local adult education center is critical, it's important to study on your own as well. Search for GED sample questions online, or buy a book that contains sample questions with answers and explanations.

Taking the GED

There are two important things you should know about taking the GED. The first is that you do not have to take all of the sections in a single day. Each of the five sections takes over an hour to take; the writing section can take two hours. For most people, taking all of the sections in a single day would just be too much. Even if you knew the material extremely well, it would be very difficult to maintain focus for that length of time, and your scores would likely suffer. Consider spreading the test over several days to ensure you'll be alert and focused for all of your testing sessions. Another important tip to keep in mind is that there is no penalty for responding with an incorrect answer. The number of correct answers is the only factor that counts on the individual test sections. You won't receive any points for answers where you guessed incorrectly, but no points will be deducted from you either. This means you should answer every question on the GED, even if you don't know the answer and can only make an educated guess on some questions.

Understanding GED Scores

When you receive your GED score report, you will be given a standard score and a percentile rank. A standard score can range from 200 to 800, and it is the average score of all five test sections. In most jurisdictions, the average overall score obtained through the results of all five sections must be 450 or greater in order to pass the test. In addition, the test taker must score at least 410 on each individual test section. These are the standards set by the American Council of Education, the organization which oversees the GED. However, individual jurisdictions sometimes set higher passing scores, so be sure to check with your local testing center to find out if this is the case. The percentile rank on your score report indicates how your score compares with high school seniors who took the test. If you manage to obtain a strong score and to attain a high percentile rank, it's very likely your GED will be an effective tool in helping you get into the college of your choice.

Sample GED Math Questions
Sample GED Language Arts: Reading Questions
Sample GED Science Questions
Sample GED Social Studies Questions
Sample GED Language Arts: Writing Questions
Sample GED Language Arts: Reading Questions

Last Updated: 04/24/2014


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