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Problems With the GED

by Lori Garrett-Hatfield, studioD

Adults have been taking the General Equivalency Diploma test since the 1940s, when soldiers returning from World War II needed a way to finish high school and either obtain employment or go to college. Although nearly 70 percent of the adults who took the GED passed it in 2012, there are critics of the GED who say the test itself, and the way adults are prepared for it, is flawed.

The GED Test and Subtests

The current GED test has been used since the year 2002, and has five subtests: language arts-reading, language arts-writing (which includes grammar and mechanics), mathematics, science and social studies. The test allows a student to test on paper or on a computer. However, the current test will be discontinued in January 2014, when a new test will be rolled out. The new GED test will have four subtests: reasoning through language arts, mathematical reasoning, social studies and science. The 2014 GED test will only be available on computer.

Problem One: Success Depends on Location

According to an article in the New York Times, success on the GED test depends on where the adult lives in the United States. If the adult lives in Iowa, he takes a pretest, and receives help on the parts of the GED that he has problems with -- which accounts for Iowa's 98 percent GED passage rate. In much of the South, however, adults may take the test without ever getting help for their weak areas -- and only 60 percent of adults who take the GED in some southern states pass.

Problem Two: The Cost

According to the New York Times, the cost to take the GED test varies from state to state. In some states, it costs nothing to take the GED, which means an adult who fails to pass a part of the test can retake the test at no cost. However, in some states the cost to take the test can be as high as $400, which can put a retake out of reach for many adults who barely scraped up the money to take the test the first time. Also, to take the 2014 test, the student will need an email address and a credit card, something that many low-income students do not have.

Problem Three: Too Easy, or Too Hard

There are long-time critics of the GED test who say the test is too easy, and point to the 70 percent passage rate as an example of its ease. Because the test is multiple choice, and not short answer or essay, critics charge the test does not fully measure knowledge that a high school graduate should know. There are also critics who say the 2014 GED test is going to be too difficult because it measures what educators call "higher order thinking skills" in addition to high school basic skills and career skills. Also, because the new GED test is only available on the computer, adult educators must get their students comfortable on the computer before they take the test, according to the Dallas Morning News.

About the Author

Lori Garrett-Hatfield has a B.J. in Journalism from the University of Missouri. She has a Ph.D. in Adult Education from the University of Georgia. She has been working in the Education field since 1994, and has taught every grade level in the K-12 system, specializing in English education, and English as a Second Language education.

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