Traditional schooling isn't for everyone, but passing the General Educational Development (GED) exam shows that you understand the material covered in high school despite not earning a diploma. Community colleges often offer preparation programs, so you can get some help studying to pass the test. Many people find it helpful to go into the exam with a full understanding of what to expect.


The GED exam covers reading comprehension, writing skills, mathematics, science and social studies. It's offered in French and Spanish, as well as English, but those taking the French or Spanish versions must take an additional English as a second language section. The test takes more than seven hours to complete, and those with special learning disabilities may request more time if necessary. The test is usually offered several times a year.


Most people wanting to take the exam should prepare. The GED Testing Service, which creates the GED exam, offers a practice examination for sale. This will let you know where you need to focus your studies. You can usually take GED preparation classes through a community college, and sometimes, these classes are broadcast through a PBS station. Alternatively, you might purchase a study guide or borrow one from the library.

Registration and Test-Taking

You must register for the exam before you take it, and pay the fee, which varies depending on your state and whether you're taking the whole exam or just a few parts. You can take the test on a computer if there is an approved testing center located near you, or you can take a paper-and-pencil exam, which might be offered at a high school or community college. Expect to have short breaks between sections, with a longer break for lunch. Bring food to eat because there might not be anything available for purchase nearby.

Passing and Retaking the Test

Scores on each section range from 0 to 800, as of publication. To pass the exam, you need to receive at least a 410 on each section, along with a 450 average of all sections. You can retake only the sections you didn't pass, averaging those scores with the previous passing scores. However, in 2014 the format of the GED is set to change. The scoring system will be based on a scale, and you will not be able to combine the new scores with scores from previous years.

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About the Author

Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.