In 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 23 million people didn’t have a high school diploma. If you had trouble in high school and didn’t complete your degree, you can take the General Education Diploma test, or GED, to complete this credential. High school graduates have the potential to earn $8,000 more than dropouts per year, have a longer life expectancy and are more likely to get a job.

Tip

Plan on spending two to eight months studying for the GED.

Meet the Minimum Age Requirements

The GED is not an alternative to attending high school. Most states have a minimum age requirement of 16, but you may need to be 18 unless you receive an age waiver. GED testing regulations vary by state. For example, here is the age policy for the state of Alabama:

17 years old:

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  • Alabama resident
  • Attended a public school in the state
  • Student exit interview form notarized by the school
  • Permission letter from parent or guardian

16 years old:

  • Alabama resident
  • Exemption certificate from the school superintendent
  • Permission letter from parent or guardian
  • Proof of a minimum score on TABE or ASE low test

Alabama also allows students who are 16 or 17 and left a private school or church school to provide similar credentials to obtain a waiver to take the GED exam.

GED Testing Process

The four content areas of the GED test include mathematics, reasoning through language arts, social studies and science. You can take all four subjects at once or take them individually. The testing process for each section lasts for 70 to 150 minutes. You’ll be offered breaks for tests that are longer than 115 minutes.

Pricing for the GED is established by each state. An average price is $30 per subject. You’ll have to pay individually for each section.

GED Study Schedule

You’ll need to set up a GED study schedule to successfully pass the exam. Expect to spend two to eight months to prepare for the GED. Since passing the exam will open the door to college and higher-paying jobs, regularly studying for an extended period of time is a must. The GED Testing Service offers study resources, including free subject sample tests.

Take a GED Course

Consider taking a GED course online or in person. You may be able to take a class for free through the community education department or local school district. In addition to reviewing the core concepts included on the exam, you’ll also learn about how the questions are formatted and tips for studying on your own.

Look at Tips for Success

There are a variety of online test preparation tools that will help you prepare for the GED. Watch video lessons, take practice tests and learn more about your academic weaknesses. Once you identify challenging content areas, focus on improving your knowledge base. Create flashcards and study with a friend or family member. Feeling confident about the exam will make a big difference in your ability to be successful.

Retaking the GED

You’ll need to score 145 out of 200 points for each of the four sections of the GED exam. If you fail one of the GED test sections, you can retake it two more times prior to a mandated break. A 60-day waiting period is required if you fail a subject three times in a row. Some states may have additional restrictions. The pricing for retakes varies by state and testing center.

Impact of the GED

Most colleges will accept a GED as a replacement for a high school diploma. You’ll also need to meet other admission requirements like college admission tests, references and leadership or civic engagement. Similarly, most employers that require a high school diploma will accept the GED as a substitute.

About the Author

Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.