Even if you decide to leave high school early, your academic life does not need to come to an end. By passing the GED exam, you can earn a state-accredited GED or High School Equivalency diploma, which will enable you to go to college and further your education.
If you’re considering taking the GED exam, here’s what you need to know.
What is a GED?
A GED, or General Educational Development, is a certification that is worth the equivalent of a high school diploma.
In order to earn a GED credential, you must pass the four-part GED exam, which tests students on high school math, science, English language arts, and social studies knowledge.
If you did not complete high school, earning a GED demonstrates to employers and institutions of higher education that you have the same knowledge and abilities of a high school graduate. With a GED, not only will you have the ability to pursue a formal education, but you will also be qualified for a wider variety of jobs.
NOTE: Some U.S. states have alternative tests to the GED, such as the HSE/TASC (offered in New York) or the HiSET. Like the GED, these certifications are high school equivalency degrees. However, this article focuses specifically on the process of taking and passing the GED exam.
How do I register for the GED?
In order to register for the GED exam, you first need to create an account through the official GED website.
With your GED account, you will be able to schedule a GED exam at a nearby official GED test center. There are four subject tests in the GED exam, and you will need to complete all of them before you can receive your certificate. You don’t need to take all four subject tests at once, though, so you may schedule each section for a different date.
How much does the GED exam cost?
For each test that you take, you will have to pay a fee. Each state sets its own price for the GED exam. In most states, the GED costs between $30 and $40 per subject test, for a total cost between $120 and $160. In some states, the GED exam is free (such as in Connecticut) or relatively inexpensive (in the District of Columbia, the total cost of the exam is only $15).
You can pay for the exam online using a debit or credit card.
Does the GED have any requirements?
GEDs are managed and awarded by states, and each sets its own requirements for GED applications. So, you should check your state’s GED requirements ahead of time. You can check the policies in your state here.
The national minimum age requirement to take the GED exam is 16 years, but many states require GED test-takers to be at least 18 years old unless they receive an age waiver. Check the requirements in your state to make sure you are eligible. If you fall under the required age, you will need to undergo an approval process to receive an age waiver.
Many states require GED test-takers to demonstrate their residency in that state. Residency requirements vary from state to state. Some states require GED applicants to prove residency in that state. In California and Pennsylvania, for example, students are required to have a valid driver’s license or another proof of residency, such as a lease agreement or utility bill. Others, such as North Carolina or Arizona, do not require test-takers to be state residents. If your closest testing center is located in a nearby state without a residency requirement, you may take the GED exam in that state.
What is tested on the GED?
The GED exam consists of four subject tests: Reasoning Through Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies. In total, all four sections of the GED exam take about 7.5 hours to complete.
Here is a quick overview of what you can expect to see on each section:
The Reasoning Through Language Arts section of the GED exam is 150 minutes long, with one break. The section is composed of three subsections with a total of 46 questions, each of which are designed to test reading comprehension and writing ability. You will be asked to answer questions based on passages, read and edit text, and write an extended response to a writing prompt based on one or two reading passages.
The GED Mathematical Reasoning section is 115 minutes long and consists of two parts. Test-takers may use a calculator only on the second part. Part 1 consists of only 5 questions, which test basic number sense and arithmetic skills, including multiplication, division, addition, subtraction, exponents, and roots. Part 2 of the exam consists of 41 questions and includes somewhat more advanced content. For this section, students will need to be familiar with high school-level concepts in algebra, geometry, and probability.
The GED Science test consists of one 90-minute long section. The test largely covers three broad topics: life science, physical science, and earth and space science. While it helps to be familiar with a variety of scientific concepts and topics, the exam doesn’t test your memorization and understanding of material so much as your ability to understand scientific questions and utilize skill sets commonly used in the sciences. The GED refers to these skills as “Science Practices,” and they include the ability to interpret scientific passages and graphics, the knowledge of and the ability to utilize the scientific method, the ability to use evidence to evaluate and draw conclusions, the ability to apply concepts and formulas, and the ability to utilize probability and statistics for the purpose of scientific reasoning.
The Science section might sound intimidating, but 90% of test-takers pass, so with a little studying, you have a very good chance of passing!
The GED Social Studies test is 70 minutes long and consists of 35 questions. In this section, you will be asked questions pertaining to U.S. history, economics, government, and geography. In order to pass this section, you will need to be familiar with the structure and principles of the U.S. government and constitution and have some familiarity with major themes in world history and global geography. This section features a variety of types of questions. You will need to answer multiple-choice questions based on readings and also be able to interpret graphs, charts, diagrams, maps, photographs, and even political cartoons.
How is the GED scored?
Each test on the GED is scored on a scale of 100-200. Unlike the SAT, the GED exam isn’t graded as a sum total. You must pass each section of the GED exam in order to receive your GED certificate. You can take each section test up to three times per year.
For each section, your grade is represented as a score and also organized into one of the following four tiers:
Below Passing: 100-144
You need to score a 145 in order to pass any of the GED section tests. Below 145 marks a failing grade, and you will need to retake the section in order to pass the exam. As a rule of thumb, in order to achieve a score of 145, you will need to answer about 65% of the questions correctly.
GED Passing Score: 145-164
A score between 145 and 164 is a passing score and indicates high school knowledge and ability. If you receive a score of 145 or higher on each of the GED section tests, you will receive your GED/High School Equivalent certificate.
GED College Ready: 165-174
If you receive a score of 165 or above, you will receive a “GED College Ready” grade. This grade indicates to employers and academic institutions that you exceed basic high school standards, and are well-prepared for college-level coursework. If you plan on applying for college after receiving your GED, you should shoot for a GED College Ready score, to demonstrate to institutions that you are ready for higher-level coursework.
GED College Ready + Credit: 175-200
If you score 175 or higher on your GED, you will receive a “GED College Ready + Credit” grade. This is the highest grade tier, and demonstrates mastery of the material on the exam. This demonstrates to colleges and employers that you not only are prepared for college material, but already have some familiarity with college-level material. At some schools, though, a GED College Ready score will even qualify you for college credit.
How do I obtain my GED records?
After you take your GED, your results will be released within 24 hours, and sometimes as few as three hours. You can request your transcript through the GED website. In many states, transcripts are free, but a duplicate diploma will incur an additional cost.
How do I prepare for the GED?
Before you take the GED, it is advisable to prepare for the exam by enrolling in test prep courses and taking practice GED exams. In some states, you are actually required to take a GED practice test or prep course before taking the exam.
The amount of studying you will need to do depends on your familiarity with the material and your aptitude for each subject. As you study for the exam, take practice tests to gauge your ability in each subject. Most students should plan on spending about three months preparing for the GED. While studying for the GED can be a stressful process, making use of test prep resources can help you feel confident and prepared going into the exam.
Official GED resources, including GED practice test
The official GED website lists a variety of test preparation resources, including live and online prep courses, practice tests, and practice questions. You can take a free online GED sample test or purchase a bundle of official practice questions. They also offer free study guides for each section of the GED.
Khan Academy, a free popular online educational resource, doesn’t have preparation material specifically for the GED. However, they do offer a variety of courses and study materials that cover topics and material that is included on the GED. In particular, their math, science, and social studies resources can help you work through concepts that you are struggling to understand.
Local community college and library
Many community centers, community colleges, and public libraries double as GED prep centers, offering resources for people seeking their GED. See the official GED website for a list of local prep centers.
If you have left high school early, getting your GED can help you take the next step forward in your life, education, and career. Use the information in this article to make the process of passing the GED exam and getting your certificate as painless as possible.
Sam Benezra is a graduate of Ohio University with a B.A. in History from the Honors Tutorial College. He is a native of Brooklyn, New York. Sam enjoys writing on a variety of subjects, including science, music, politics, film. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, playing guitar, and writing songs.