How the GED Test Works

It's Only Computer-based

The January 2014 test became quite different from past iterations and exclusively offered on a (official testing station) computer. While this may seem like a no-brainer leap into the 21st century, the change has brought a lot of controversy to the test itself, GED Testing Service and the companies behind the organization.

For years, the GED test has been the generic standard to achieve high school equivalency. But with the 2014 series, more and more states have questioned whether it's really the gold standard. That's come up for a couple of reasons: First is the computer issue. Critics point out that getting a GED certificate now entails not just studying for a test, but studying how to take the test. That is, not every GED-seeker will be familiar with computer use off the bat and might suffer for it when taking the test.

Second, the price of the test is being dramatically raised, from about $60 to at least $120. That's right; getting your high school equivalency isn't free. More to the point, many states subsidize part or all of the cost of the test, which means that it's not free to the states. If they can't afford it or don't want to pass the cost along to takers, they might just start sniffing around for an alternative to the GED test.

And just like that, a couple of rivals to GED Testing Service (McGraw-Hill and Educational Testing Service) began to offer cheaper ($50 or so) paper and pen high-school equivalency tests to states. (Remember, the GED is just a branded battery of comprehension tests; a state doesn't have to use the GED brand. They still will accept the validity of the GED, but just won't offer it to residents seeking their equivalency.)

GED Testing Service claims the price for the computer version will actually be cheaper; the states don't have to pay to grade the test, for one, and the organization also claims it offers more services within its base price than competitors do. However, 40 states and the District of Columbia are all looking into alternatives to the GED, and New York, Montana and New Hampshire have already made the switch [source: Hollingsworth].

Author's Note: How the GED Test Works

Because the GED test price is undergoing a dramatic price increase, it's important to remind prospective test takers that a plethora of free study resources can be found online or through community literacy organizations. A good first step? Go to the local library and ask a librarian for GED prep materials and resources.

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  • Cramer, Philissa. "Eschewing Pearson, state goes back to McGraw-Hill for GED." March 7, 2013. (April 17, 2013)
  • GED Testing Service. "Website." American Council on Education and Pearson VUE. 2012. (April 17, 2013)
  • Hilburn, Jessica. Adult Literacy Program Coordinator. Whatcom Literacy Council. Personal correspondence. (April 21, 2013)
  • Hollingsworth, Heather. "Some states dropping GED as test price spikes." Associated Press. April 14, 2013. (April 17, 2013)
  • Orson, Diane. "Educators worry revamped GED will be too pricey." National Public Radio. Nov. 28, 2012. (April 17, 2013)
  • Sanchez, Claudio. "In today's economy, how far can a GED take you?" National Public Radio. Feb. 18, 2012. (April 17, 2013)
  • Vyse, Monty. "Why a privatized GED will fail students." Dec. 11, 2013. (April 17, 2013)