How the GED Test Works

From Prepping to Passing: Taking the GED Test

We'll start like any good student: with serious prep. Of course, GED Testing Service offers "official" materials you can study and practice with, but they come at a pretty penny. Want a set of workbooks? It'll set you back about $20. What about an official online practice test? That's a hair under $40. Want a prep book and practice test? Almost $60. In other words, GED Testing Service is making some dough on a test taker's willingness to cram with "official" materials.

You probably have a few other questions that you need answered before you sit down to ace this exam, such as:

  • How old do you have to be?
  • How much does it cost?

Actually, it depends. GED test policy is regulated by state, so while Washington charges $75 for the test, Georgia charges $160. In Texas, you must be at least 18 to take the test, while in Missouri you can take it at 17. So check your state's regulations to make sure you meet requirements [source: GED Testing Service].

When you sit down for the test, you'll be completing five sections, plus an essay. (In some states, you have to complete all five in one sitting; in others you can take one section at a time.) If you do them all at once, you're in for a doozy: The entire battery takes seven hours and five minutes. The sections are:

  • Language arts and writing (75 minutes, 50 questions plus 45 minute essay)
  • Language arts and reading (65 minutes, 40 questions)
  • Science (90 minutes, 50 questions)
  • Mathematics (90 minutes, 50 questions)
  • Social studies (70 minutes, 50 questions)

As with almost all GED "rules," whether you can take it on a computer varies by state, but you can't just take it online at home: You must show up at an official testing station. And while there might be breaks between sections, especially after the essay section, use the restroom beforehand. Also, as long as we're acting like your parents, don't forget to eat a good breakfast that day.

For 2014, the GED Testing Service decided to eliminate all hard copy tests for the new battery and switched entirely to computers. The 2014 version was also designed to further "career and college-readiness skills," according to the GED Testing Service Web site.