The General Education Development test has five sections covering basic skills and serves as a substitute for a high school diploma. However, a GED certificate is not the same as a diploma; students with GED diplomas may not have class rankings or GPAs and have not benefited from the daily instruction and academic interactions of high school. For most students taking the GED exam, its primary strength is that it assesses basic skills and serves as a pathway to higher education, but passing the test might not mean a student is ready for college.
High School Substitute
The GED test replaces a high school diploma for students who have dropped out or aged out of high school. For many students, the GED program is a powerful second chance that can open doors to employment and higher education. The GED diploma, however, is no substitute for the experiences of high school, and studying for a one-day test won't replace the numerous skills students learn in high school. It also can't measure soft skills such as time management, balancing school and work, communicating with challenging or unfair teachers and similar skills that are necessary for college and may be needed for employment.
The GED diploma is an international certificate, and about 95 percent of colleges accept students with a GED diploma, according to GED Testing Services. Some highly competitive schools and some state schools, however, won't accept a GED certificate, so students should check with school admissions offices of prospective colleges before applying.
The GED test provides a good overall view of the basic skills a student has mastered. Students also receive a percentile rank that allows them to compare themselves to other students, and this ranking can even provide guidance about potential careers to pursue. A student who excels in the social studies section, for example, might be interested in studying civics or history. But a GED test can't measure every skill. Reasoning, critical thinking and argument development are important elements of most college and work environments, and these skills can't be easily measured by a standardized test.
Many students who take the GED test are already working and can't take time off work to go to school, but the GED exam provides an affordable alternative. Some students who have been out of school for extended periods or who dropped out early may need to take prep classes that can cost quite a bit of money. However, the cost of these classes is usually offset by the increase in earnings a GED certificate brings, and classes can save a test-taker time and help her avoid the stress of returning to high school.
Even if you're not planning to pursue higher education, a GED diploma can open up job opportunities. A GED diploma can open up opportunities to jobs in dental assisting, cosmetology, auto work, electrical work, home health care, medical assisting, truck driving and many other careers. For some test-takers, better job opportunities may be the primary reason for taking the GED test.
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.