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A GED-prep class in Washington, D.C.
Associated Press/Photo by Carolyn Kaster
A GED-prep class in Washington, D.C.

Students scramble to pass GED before changes take effect

Education

Americans are rushing to finish the GED test before a new version rolls out in January and their previous scores are wiped out. About 1 million people could be affected.

“We don't want anyone to be caught off-guard and come in and test in January or February thinking they have their old scores, and they have to start over,” said Pam Blundell, who oversees adult education for the Oklahoma State Department of Education. She said Oklahoma test sites have added additional test days and referred students to other sites.

The high school equivalency test is broken into five sections that can be taken independently. Students who fail one or more sections can retake just the parts they failed. Normally they retain their scores for the sections they passed, but in January those scores will become invalid unless students pass all the failed sections before the end of the year.

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Nicole Chestang, executive vice president at GED Testing Service, said the rush was expected. In 2001, the year before the last upgrade, there was a 30 percent increase in test takers, most toward the end of the year, she said.

Passing the GED exam can open doors of opportunity for students like Natnael Gebremariam, 32, from Eritrea. He goes to class in the mornings, works about 50 hours a week in at a fast-food restaurant, then spends his nights doing homework past midnight. The former teacher wants to work in information technology in the United States. He’s eager to pass the exam so he can start taking college classes.

“All I know is I have to be ready by the end of this year,” Gebremariam said in an interview between classes.

In addition to college eligibility, receiving a GED diploma can be a requirement for employment or promotion. The GED program also fills a vital gap for students who fail to thrive in a traditional high school environment.

With the new version, test takers must use a computer instead of paper and pencil. The test itself will be more rigorous and cost $120, an increase from previous versions. Some states may subsidize all or part of the cost.

GED exam officials have said the changes will modernize the test and align it with new college and career standards in a majority of states. They say basic computer skills are needed in a modern workplace, even to apply for jobs at retail stores and fast-food chains. The test also will allow people to receive their scores the same day rather than having to wait a month or more.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Laura Edghill
Laura Edghill

Laura Edghill is a freelance writer, church communications director, and public school board member living in Clinton Township, Mich., with her engineer husband and three sons. Follow Laura on Twitter @LTEdghill.

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