What Is A GED And Why Do Students Earn A GED Versus A High School Diploma?

Learn about the General Equivalency Degree, more commonly known as a GED.

About the GED

The GED, or general equivalency degree, is an alternative to the high school diploma that is offered in the United States and Canada. Students can earn an equivalency degree by completing the GED exam, consisting of 5 tests that verify their attainment of the skills gained in a traditional high school curriculum. The General Equivalency Degree is universally accepted as a valid substitute for the high school diploma and can be used by recipients to apply for college, vocational school, or a job.

About the 5 GED Tests

Contrary to common belief, the primary focus of the GED is not on the memorization of facts and information that are taught in high school classes. Rather, the exam consists of five separate tests that place an emphasis on problem solving skills that are obtained by the average student while pursuing a high school diploma. The test determines whether the test taker can apply concepts in order to arrive at the correct solution to the test questions.

There are five subject areas in which a student must demonstrate competency in order to earn an equivalency high school diploma: language arts writing, social studies, science, language arts reading, and mathematics. Test takers can earn a score between 200 and 800 on each section of the exam.

The language arts writing test lasts for 75 minutes and is divided into two parts. Part one of the language arts writing test calls upon the test taker to revise texts for correct sentence structure, organization, and mechanics. The second part of the test requires the test taker to write an essay that will be evaluated and scored after the exam.

The social studies test is 70 minutes in duration and consists of 50 questions. The test measures the ability to apply problem-solving skills to questions on American history, world history, civics, economics, and geography. The social studies test contains all of the information that the test taker will need to arrive at the correct answer.

The science segment of the test lasts for 80 minutes and consists of 50 multiple-choice questions. Like in the social studies test, all of the information, charts, and graphs that are needed to answer the questions will be provided within the exam. The science test covers life sciences, earth sciences, and physical sciences.

The final GED test is the mathematics exam. This portion of the test is the longest, lasting for 90 minutes and covering 50 questions. The mathematics test is divided into two parts and tests ability in: number operations, geometry, data analysis and probability, and general algebra. While calculators are allowed on the first part of the mathematics test, they are not allowed during the second portion of the test.

Advantages of the GED Test

There are many reasons that students may choose to pursue a GED over a traditional high school diploma. The exam offers flexibility for students who have other commitments that may interfere with their ability to attend school and receive a regular high school diploma. Many students may need to work to support their families and benefit from the ability to study for the test on their own time. Students who leave high school early may find it difficult to re-enroll in school and may wish to study for the GED instead.

The GED offers advantages to students who wish to pursue educational opportunities outside of the traditional high school. Home school students take the GED exam in order to certify that they have attained proficiency in their studies. Additionally, gifted students may take the GED instead of the high school diploma so they can attend college early.

Where to Take the GED Test

Testing Centers make it easy for students to earn an equivalent to the high school diploma no matter where they live. Across the United States and Canada, there are over 3,000 GED Testing Centers. Generally, tests are administered in a similar manner regardless of where it is taken. The test must be taken in person and is administered in a controlled environment to prevent cheating. Additionally, test takers must register in advance and present a photo ID to be admitted to take the exam. While many states charge a fee for the exam, other states offer the exam free of charge. There are also many tutoring and continuing education services available to help students prepare and register for the test.

For millions of people in America and Canada, the General Equivalency Degree makes it possible to earn a valid alternative to the high school diploma and prepare for the future. The exam certifies that individuals have the competency needed to continue their education and perform basic functions at a job. When earning a traditional high school diploma is inconvenient for a student, the GED is a fitting alternative.