Looming GED Deadline Adds Pressure for Students

By Jonathan Simmons
|  Wednesday, Mar 13, 2013  |  Updated 6:50 AM EDT
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Looming GED Deadline Adds Pressure for Students

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People who don't finish the current test by the end of this year will have to start all over again in 2014.

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Anyone trying to get their General Educational Development (GED) diploma will need to finish and pass the exam this year, or be forced to start all over again.

That puts added pressure on Miriam Diaz of West Chester, Pa.

“I really need to get it done this year,” she said. “I don’t want to start over.” 

The Washington, D.C.-based GED Testing Service will issue a new exam at the start of 2014, which will serve as a reset button for anyone who is in progress with the old test.  If you’ve already passed some sections on the old test, you will not be able to carry those over or get credit for them on the new test.

Diaz, who dropped out of high school at an early age and has since had a daughter, has passed two sections. Now she’s studying to complete the other three.

“If I keep studying and trying, I know I can pass it this year,” she said.

The test was last revised in 2002. Currently, it contains five sections: language arts: reading, language arts: writing, math, social studies, and science. The new exam will contain only four. It will be comprised of math, science, social studies, and literacy, with writing done throughout the social studies and literacy portions.

The change to the exam is meant to reflect the standards that are relevant in high school now, with more of an emphasis on critical thinking. The exam is, “no longer an endpoint for adults, but a springboard for more education, training, and better paying jobs,” according to the GED Testing Service’s website.

“They realized that they need to measure preparedness for college and careers in addition to just high school equivalency,” said Andrea Vaughn, the Chief Examiner of the GED Testing Centers in Chester County.   

Since the test was created in 1942, more than 18 million people have passed. On average, there are more than 700,000 people who take the GED exam yearly.

The threat of having to start the exam over again at the beginning of next year will likely cause an influx of people to take and attempt to finish this year.

Vaughn says that they expect, and hope, to see an increase in the number of students taking the test. The Chester County Testing Centers have already reached out and touched base with over 1,000 students who, since 2002, have started taking the GED, but haven’t finished..

“We’re just trying to get the word out to everyone to take the test,” she said.

Along with the lean toward critical thinking with the new exam, there are other changes. The 2014 GED will be the first all-digital version. The test will have to be completed on a computer at a testing center. Currently, applicants have the choice to either take the test on a computer or with a pen and paper.

“The computer adds additional challenges to it,” Vaughn said, adding that she hopes the new computerized test does not turn people away from attempting the exam.

The cost of the test is also expected to change with the new 2014 version. Right now, testing centers are allowed to set their price for administering the exam. In 2014, the state will set the price at $30 per section. 

Regardless of which version is completed, the GED has been a proven advantage for those who did not complete high school.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an adult with a high school diploma or GED will earn approximately $10,000 more per year than those without. Assuming a 45 year career, that adds up to $450,000 in additional income.

“Without the GED, there is an employment barrier. It is so imperative to get this test scheduled,” Vaughn said.

Diaz has been cramming weekly at The House of Original Dreams, or The HOOD, in West Chester. The organization helps young people, ages 14 - 21, with education and workplace opportunities. Diaz says taking preparation courses here have helped her a great deal and she is really hoping to finish up this year.

“The GED is something that’s really important for me to get,” Diaz said.

And for people who don't pass by the end of the year?

Vaughn says motivation will be the biggest obstacle for students who have to restart, but not for Diaz. 

“I’ll still be motivated to get it next year,” Diaz claimed. “I really want to give my daughter a better future and get a good job.”

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