The lack of a high school diploma doesn't mean that college is out of the question. For millions of U.S. students every year, the GED (General Educational Development, also referred to as General Educational Diploma) makes their college dreams come true. If you're asking the question, "Is the GED as good as a high school diploma?" the statistics speak for themselves. According to the official GED Testing Service website, 97 percent of U.S. colleges and universities accept GED certification as an alternative to a high school diploma. It's also accepted by almost all U.S. employers, which is good news if you wish to enter the world of work instead of going to a college or university. As of 2018, over 20 million Americans are GED graduates.

History of the GED

The GED was started after World War II to let veterans complete their high school education and go to college. It was later opened up to civilians as well. Until the 1970s, the GED was taken mainly by people who wanted to improve their career prospects. The GED has been revised four times, with the most recent going into effect in 2014. The GED is a second chance for the millions of people who were not able to complete their high school education and secure a diploma.

GED Testing Service

The GED Testing Service, which is provided by the American Council on Education and Pearson, an education publishing and assessment service, is designed for those who didn't finish high school. In fact, you can only take the GED tests if you do not have a high school diploma. There are two other eligibility requirements: You must not be currently enrolled in a regular high school, and you must be 16 years of age or older.

The GED is jointly administered by the GED Testing Service of the American Council on Education and each participating state's department of education. It consists of several tests over four subject areas: mathematical reasoning, science, social studies and reasoning through language arts. The tests are available in English, Spanish, French, large print, Braille and audio format.

The GED tests several skills, including communication, problem solving, information processing and critical thinking. In order to pass, the candidate must meet or surpass the performance of the top 60 percent of high school graduates.

When a candidate passes the GED, she is deemed to have the academic skills equal to that of a high school graduate and receives a state high school diploma issued by the state, province or territory in which she resides.

GED Test Subjects

For the mathematical reasoning test, you are asked questions on basic math, geometry, basic algebra and graphs and functions. You have 115 minutes to take the test, which consists of two parts with a short break in between. The test includes multiple choice questions as well as other question types, such as drop-down and fill-in-the-blank questions. You are allowed to use a calculator for the second part of the test.

The reasoning through language arts test covers reading for meaning, identifying and creating arguments and grammar and language. You have 150 minutes to take the test, with a 10-minute break between the second and third parts. You have 45 minutes to complete the written essay.

The science test must be completed in 90 minutes and has no breaks. Tested topics are reading for meaning in science, designing and interpreting science experiments and using numbers and graphics in science. You are allowed to use a calculator for the science test.

At 70 minutes (with no breaks), the shortest test is the social studies test, which covers the topics reading for meaning in social studies, analyzing historical events and arguments in social studies and using numbers and graphs in social studies. The test also permits the use of a calculator.

Getting Your GED

To sit for your GED tests, you must attend an official GED testing center in the U.S., Canada or overseas. As of 2018, there are about 3,500 testing centers around the world. To prepare for the test, your GED schedule might involve enrolling in local GED classes or online classes or studying at your own pace with books or online materials.

You may be wondering how to get your GED online. The answer is that you can't. In fact, the American Council on Education issued a warning stating that it is not possible to take the GED online or by correspondence programs. Any website claiming to offer an online GED is fraudulent and should be avoided.

While you can't take the actual test online, you can schedule the test online and then take it at an official GED testing center. First, you have to create a GED account on the GED Testing Service website. You then choose the test subjects you'll be taking and select a day and time to take the test at a testing center near you. You don’t have to take all four tests at once, meaning you can schedule them however you choose.

At the time of scheduling your GED, you have to pay for it online using a credit or debit card. The cost varies greatly by state. For example, as of 2018 it costs $140 to take all four subject tests in Arizona, while it costs $145 in Texas. In Arkansas, the total cost is only $16, but in Bermuda it is $300. In Connecticut it is free to take the GED provided you are under 21 or a veteran. Every state has its own age requirements and other testing requirements, so check the rules that apply in your state.

Your GED account also gives you access to study materials, classes and tips, and it provides more information about the test subjects.

GED Scoring System

GED students going to college must score 145 to pass each test subject. If your score is between 165 and 174, you are deemed to be college ready, which means you are considered to have the necessary skills to start college-level courses, and you may not have to take certain placement tests or remedial college courses.

If you score between 175 and 200, you are deemed to have skills being taught in college-level courses, and you could receive college credits – specifically, up to three credits in math, three credits in science, three credits in social studies and one credit in humanities. College credit allows you to skip certain required classes, saving you time and money.

Colleges That Accept GED Students

The vast majority of U.S. colleges accept GED students, both traditional campus colleges and online schools.

Traditional campus colleges that accept GED students include University of Florida, University of Texas, University of Illinois, DePaul University, University of Southern California, New York University, Arizona State University, Penn State University, Indiana University and University of Colorado.

Online colleges that accept GED students include Southern New Hampshire University, Kaplan University, Strayer University, Grand Canyon University, University of Phoenix, DeVry University, Ashford University, Walden University and Thomas Edison State College.

When you have decided what college you want to attend, send your GED transcript and score report to its admissions office. If you scored "college ready" (165 to 174), check with the office about whether you are eligible to skip placement tests or remedial courses. If you scored 175 to 200, ask the office if the college accepts credits.

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