The General Education Development, or GED, exam tests for basic educational skills such as math, reading comprehension and historical knowledge. A GED diploma is internationally accepted as an alternative to a high school diploma and about 95 percent of colleges accept students who have been awarded a GED diploma. Your GED score is based on your performance in five multiple choice sections, plus an essay.
The GED is divided into five sections -- social studies, science, reading, math and writing. Each section is scored on a scale of 200 to 800 and you'll need a total score of 2250 to pass in most states. You'll have to get a minimum of 410 on each test section, regardless of your overall score. You will also be given a percentile rank for each section, which gives you an idea of where you stand relative to other students, but has no bearing on whether you pass the test. All sections are multiple choice, with the exception of the writing section, which is divided into one multiple choice section covering basic writing skills and one 45-minute essay.
Multiple Choice Sections
You'll answer multiple choice sections on a standardized test sheet that requires you to fill in bubbles for each answer. Questions are graded by a computer that scans these sheets. You will get credit only if you answer a question correctly; there's no partial credit and you're not required to show your work or provide information about how you arrived at your answer. Each test question in a section is weighted the same.
The essay section is the only test section that is graded by two human scorers, whose scores are averaged together. You'll be assessed on a scale of one to four in five different areas. Effective word choice, following basic English writing conventions, your ability to effectively respond to the writing prompt and stay on topic, essay organization, and your ability to competently develop and argue your point are all weighted equally.
A GED preparation class can help you get ready for the test and basic test-taking skills can make a major difference in your score. You're not penalized for incorrect answers on the test, so it's better to guess rather than skip a question if you don't know the answer. Many multiple choice sections only have two answers that are right or close to right, so it can be helpful to cross out obviously wrong answers an then return to a question if you're struggling.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.