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Sometimes referred to as the Graduate Equivalency Degree or General Education Diploma, GED actually stands for General Educational Development. This is an exam that, if passed, proves that a high school level education has been achieved. This is typically most relevant to people who are close to finishing high school but are unable to graduate or must drop out.
GEDs are recognized and accepted by approximately 97% of all United States colleges, universities, and employers. States that do not offer the GED include Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
Those who pass the test typically have better employment opportunities and higher pay than those who do not have a GED or high school diploma. There are currently over 20 million GED graduates in the United States who, on average, earn $9,000 more a year than those without high school diplomas or GEDs.
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What is a GED and How Does it Work?
Circumstances sometimes make it impossible to graduate from high school in a traditional manner. In these cases, the GED can make it easier to secure higher paying employment and/or pursue further education.
The GED is comprised of four main areas of testing:
- Mathematical Reasoning
- Reasoning Through Language Arts
- Social Studies
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Each subject is its own separate, hour-long test. Together, all four areas make up the entire GED exam. Candidates must earn a certain score on each test in order to pass. The tests can be taken individually or all at once.
The GED exam is not available to everyone. Individuals currently enrolled in high school are not permitted to test. Candidates must also be at least 16 years old before they are eligible.
There are several ways to prepare for the GED exam. Candidates may take local GED classes, participate in live online lessons, utilize practice tests, review common question types, and/or read through test previews. GED Testing Service, the official GED website, also offers a wide variety of helpful resources.
GED exams are administered in-person at official GED testing centers throughout the nation. As of 2020, online testing also became available in select states, each of which have their own remote guidelines. Vermont, for example, offers the GED exam but does not support remote testing. Pennsylvania, on the other hand, offers online proctoring but candidates must be 18 years old rather than 16 years old to participate. Those who plan to schedule an online test must score “Green” on the GED Ready practice test at least 60 days prior.
After passing the GED exam, access to free electronic certificates and transcripts is granted. Those who pass also receive one printed certificate at the cost of shipping and additional certificates and transcripts can be purchased. These documents can be provided to employers, colleges, and universities when needed.
Is a GED Equal to a Diploma?
The GED is a high school equivalency diploma that can be used to qualify for jobs or to apply to degree programs offered by most colleges and universities. It is used just as a high school diploma would be. As mentioned previously, 97% of schools in the United States permit the use of GEDs. This includes community colleges, large universities, and private institutions. Prospective students should have little trouble being admitted to academic programs at these schools, especially with the GED is paired with strong SAT and/or ACT test scores. Likewise, most employers view the GED as equal to high school diplomas.
There are some institutions and employers, however, who do not accept GEDs. As a result, it’s important to verify their preferences prior to submitting applications. Also, knowing the regulations and standards in your state can help you save a lot of time and frustration. Ultimately, while earning a high school diploma is the ideal option to prepare people for college and/or employment, the GED exam offers a viable alternative for most.
What Score Do You Need to Get into College?
In order to pass the GED exam, candidates must score a 145 on each test subject. Achieving this score is sufficient to earn the GED certificate that can be shared with potential employers and higher education institutions.
While 145 is the minimum passing score, candidates can earn higher marks. Candidates who score between 165 and 174 on each test are put into another category – GED College Ready Score Level. Scores in this range are considered comparable to the skills needed to start college courses. As a result, those in this category may be exempt from placement tests or remedial classes when being admitted by a college or university. This can save candidates time and money.
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GED exam scores of 175 to 200 are designated as College Ready + Credit and demonstrate skills that are currently being taught in college-level courses.
Depending on the program of study chosen, those who achieve this may be eligible to earn the following college credits:
- 3 credits in Math
- 3 credits in Science
- 3 credits in Social Studies
- 1 credit in Humanities
Earning college credits ahead of entering an academic program is highly beneficial. By bypassing certain required classes, students can save quite a bit of time and money. Those in the College Ready + Credit category should send their transcripts and score report to colleges and universities of interest. Institution admissions offices will be able to confirm eligibility for skipping placement test and remedial courses, as well as how many credits have been awarded.
Can You Retake the GED Test to Get a Better Score?
Those who fail one of the GED test subjects receive two additional retests for free within the same 12 month period, although some states and testing centers opt to continue charging their fees. After failing the test three times or more, candidates have to wait at least 60 days before making their next attempt.
Additionally, those who pass GED subject tests can retest in order to achieve higher scores after going through an approval process. In order to request additional tests in one or more exam subjects, candidates must email GED Testing Service at firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief explanation of the situation. Once the request is approved, candidates will receive an email with instruction regarding how to schedule and retake the exam(s). There are no discounts for retesting in this manner.
Is it Harder to Get into College with a GED?
In some cases, it can be more difficult to get into college with a GED than with a high school diploma. This is especially true for highly competitive four-year institutions. The process will really depend on school standards and regulations, especially by the Ivy League universities.
Many community colleges, junior colleges, and technical colleges do not require high school diplomas or GED certificates for enrollment. In fact, most will admit students as long as they are at least 18 years of age. This makes it relatively easy to earn associate degrees, which can demonstrate an ability to handle college-level classes and may lead to additional employment opportunities. Community colleges rarely offer bachelor’s degrees, however. Luckily, those who are having issues entering bachelor’s degrees can complete an associate’s to show that they are capable and then gain entry to a bachelor’s program based on their grades in the associate degree program.
Traditional, four-year institutions typically require candidates have high school diplomas but, as mentioned previously, many also accept GEDs. They may not treat the GED exactly like a high school diploma, however, as there is no grade point average (GPA) associated with it. Every college and university will address this discrepancy differently, with some requesting additional application forms and materials. Additionally, prospective students will need to provide either SAT or ACT test scores.
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While there may be some additional steps required, those with GEDs should find the application process relatively similar to those with high school diplomas. Procedures ultimately depend on school preference, making it imperative to pay close attention to all established standards and regulations.
Does Having a GED Rather Than a Diploma Decrease Your School Options?
While GEDs are considered equivalent to high school diplomas by 97% of colleges, universities, and employers, there are some that do not accept this credential. For this reason, having a GED rather than a diploma can decrease your school options somewhat. Again, the mass majority of companies, organizations, and academic institutions acknowledge GEDs as equal to high school diplomas.
Prospective students should have no trouble earning associate degrees from community colleges, junior colleges, and technical colleges with or without a GED. Those who plan to enroll in bachelor’s degree programs may need to submit additional applications and documentation, but many four-year institutions will accept candidates with GEDs. Even Ivy League schools, such as Harvard, consider applicants with GEDs.
Because some institutions do not accept GEDs, however, it is important to research each school thoroughly prior to submitting applications. Prospective students should also keep in mind that their schools of interest may not accept GEDs awarded by specific states. This can be particularly relevant when considering online degree programs.
If you decide to go to college with a GED, you may want to know what the highest paying jobs are with a bachelor's degree.