How can you get a GED?

What do you need to do to get your GED (General Educational Development) high school equivalency?

The GED credential is an alternative to a high school diploma. Since 1942, there have been more than 19 million GED graduates, and the GED testing service says that nearly 98 percent of US colleges and universities accept GED graduates in the same manner as high school graduates.

The testing to obtain the credential is handled on a state level (and you need to get a certificate valid for your own state), though the tests themselves are developed and delivered by the GED Testing Service, a joint venture of the American Council on Education and Pearson VUE.

How can you get a GED?

Who can test

The GED tests can only be taken by people at least 16 years of age who have not graduated from an accredited high school or received a high school equivalency certificate or diploma, and and are not currently enrolled in a regular high school. (However, if you’re under age 18, there are additional requirements and qualifications that may vary by state.)

In 2014, the program shifted to a computer-based testing format, with paper testing only available as a special accommodation.

The GED topics

The tests cover four main subject areas. Here’s how it breaks down:

Reasoning Through Language Arts (RLA) (150 minutes)

Seventy-five percent of the texts in the exam are informational texts (including nonfiction drawn from the science and the social studies as well as a range of texts from workplace contexts); 25 percent are literature.

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Mathematical Reasoning (115 minutes)

GED test sample questionMath tests measure your understanding of math concepts and your ability to apply them in realistic contexts.

Approximately 45 percent of the content in the test focuses on quantitative problem solving, and approximately 55 percent focuses on algebraic problem solving.

Science (90 minutes)

Science questions are presented in multiple choice format, life sciences (biology) and the physical sciences (earth science, physics, chemistry) – using information from text and from graphs, charts, tables and other graphics.

Approximately 40 percent of the test focuses on life science, roughly 40 percent focuses on physical science, and approximately 20 percent focuses on Earth and space science.

Social Studies (90 minutes)

Approximately 50 percent focuses on civics and government, 20 percent focuses on United States history, 15 percent focuses on economics, and 15 percent focuses on geography and the world.

How long does the GED take? You will be answering questions for about 7 hours, using seven different item types: Extended response, Drag-and-drop, Drop-down, Fill-in-the-blank, Hot spot, Multiple choice, Short answer.

Scoring the GED

The GED test will have a passing score of 150 on each test part. Therefore, you will need to reach a score of at least 150 on each part and a total score of 600 across the four-part battery in order to receive your GED test credential.

What if you fail? You can take a test module, and two subsequent module retests, with no restrictions between retakes. If you fail the second or any subsequent retest, the test taker must wait 60 days for each successive attempt. (Your state may have a specific state policy on how many times a test taker can re-test that is less than three attempts.)

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Watch out for GED scams

Finally, it’s important to note that you can’t currently take GED tests online or via a correspondence course — and any sites or sales materials that suggest otherwise are not legit. Get the lowdown on the real GED testing here.

There are more than 1,500 testing centers worldwide. Find one with the GED lookup tool here.

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