The General Educational Development (GED) tests will be updated for only the fifth time in their 70-year history, starting January 1st, 2014. Each year, 770,000 people take the high school equivalency exam. The test will be modernized to better prepare adults for today’s workplace and colleges and give the test more credibility. The computer-based test’s cost will also increase from $70 to $120.
Many experts believe that thousands, especially older Americans, will have a difficult time passing the new test. There are two alternatives to the new GED test that have been created by competitors. New Jersey has decided to permit all three tests, while Pennsylvania allows the new GED and is reviewing the other two, writes Michael Vitez of The Inquirer.
The old test will be eliminated, creating an issue for many people who are trying to pass all five parts of the exam before it expires. If a person has passed four parts, they must begin anew after January 1st, 2014.
In Philadelphia, testing centers at area colleges are closed for the year. A few sites have added dates to meet demand.
Robert Allen, who runs a GED training and testing site at the Harambee charter school in West Philadelphia, said he was thinking of continuing to offer tests through December 31st, but would stop on the 30th for safety. Burlington County College gives 20 to 30 tests in December, and this month, it gave more than 300.
The GED exam, which was created in 1942 to help veterans continue their education, was last updated in 2002. The new test will consist of four parts instead of five, through the combination of two language arts sections. The standard essay – topic paragraph, three supporting paragraphs, concluding paragraph – will be eliminated. Students will write on all parts.
Some fear offering the test only on computer will be a liability, especially for older people. Nicole Chestang, executive vice president of the GED Testing Service in Washington, said evidence shows otherwise, that people make fewer mistakes. The GED started being available on computer this year, she said, and “we delivered 7,000 tests on computer so far in Pennsylvania. Of those folks, we’ve moved from a 70 percent pass rate on paper to a 91 pass rate on computer.”
In Philadelphia, 14,000 high school students drop out annually, while only 1,600 adults pass the GED. According to Judith Renyi, executive director at the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy, the new test will demand “a much more sophisticated ability to read complex text and respond to it.”
McGraw-Hill and the Educational Testing Service have developed versions of a high school equivalency exam in response to the computer-only and more-expensive GED. New York State decided to drop the GED and select McGraw-Hill’s Tasc exam.
In December, New Jersey’s Board of Education approved all three vendors, so students can choose among three tests. Each center decides which test to offer or all three.
Laura Elston, supervisor for adult education at Cape May County Technical School, said that the school has decided to go with McGraw-Hill’s test. The school will allow paper exams, which will cost $92.