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By Leonard Williams

The GED is the General Education Development credential, the learning adult's alternative to a high school diploma. The first GED Tests were developed in 1942 to help war veterans finish their basic education. Today, for the 34 to 38 million adults in the US who never graduated from high school, the GED is the best solution to make educational and career progress.

But many people don't understand the GED and the process of how to get it. As a GED instructor and curriculum developer with PassGED, I've answered hundreds of questions from students. It's likely these questions and answers will be helpful to people who need more information about the GED test and the testing process.

What's on the GED test?

The GED is a set of five tests, which measures knowledge of math, science, social studies, reading and writing. For the science, social studies and reading tests, you need to be able to read a short passage, and then answer some questions that show you understand the information that's given. These tests mostly measure your ability to make evaluations and inferences in the material.

The math test requires knowledge of basic number operations, very basic geometry and algebra and some data analysis. You'll also want to know how to use a calculator, since part of the test allows you to use one.

The writing test has two parts. The first is a multiple-choice test about the mechanics of English usage and the second is a 45-minute essay.

What's a passing score on the GED test?

That's the big question, right? The standard scores for the GED tests range from a minimum of 200 to a maximum of 800 on each test. To pass, you must score about 60% on each test, which translates to a score of at least 410 on each GED test to pass it, and an overall average score of 450 for the five-test battery. This means that your score for any individual GED test cannot be below 410, but if you get some that low, you need other GED tests to be well above 410 so that the scores for all five GED tests average out to at least 450. Here's a simple way to think about this: if you're taking a test with 10 questions, you'll need to get at least six answers correct to pass.

Each question on the GED test equals one point. You can miss one out of three questions, and still pass the GED.

What's the pass/fail rate?

On average, two out of three people who take the GED Tests pass. The better prepared you are for the GED test, the greater your chances of doing well.

Why do some people pass easily, and other people fail?

Some people seem to pass the GED test the first time they take it, without studying. It's likely that they are good test-takers, and they can remember lots of knowledge from high school. But since one out of three people don't pass, this is the exception to the rule. To pass the first time, most people really need to spend some time getting ready for the test.

How do I increase my chances of passing?

The best advice is to study as much as possible for the GED test. The biggest reason people don't pass it the first time is that they don't prepare well enough. What this means is that you'll probably need to spend time relearning some of the skills and knowledge you've forgotten since high school. But don't panic. If you do a little studying in the right areas, you can pass it. It's also a good idea to get familiar with the test, so you know what to expect and to increase your test-taking skills. Taking some GED practice tests is a good idea. It will show you how the test works, give you an idea of a score and help you identify areas where you most need to study.

What's the best way to study?

Taking some classes is a good idea. Most communities have classes through their local high schools, community colleges or universities. But often it's hard to fit them into your schedule with your job and family obligations. And lots of my students have problems with childcare and transportation. If going to a class is a problem, you can find some GED study at home programs and online GED classes that allow you to work at your own pace, on your own schedule. Just make sure it's the real thing - lots of companies are out there that promise bogus diplomas.

You can also get preparation books, study guides and GED practice tests, which will help you get ready for the GED test.

Where do I take the GED test?

The GED tests are given at official test centers in all major cities across the U.S. and Canada. Even though some companies claim you can get your GED online, you can't. The GED is not given online, only at official test centers. International testing is also available.

The American Council on Education website also provides this information, along with other resources. The website for the ACE is http://www.acenet.edu.

Study hard, and good luck on your GED!

Leonard Williams is a curriculum specialist who focuses on research and development, implementation and assessment of best-practice learning solutions for adult learners and people with educational challenges.

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