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New 2014 GED Test to be Computer Based and Triple in Cost

August 15, 2012
GED Testing at Bevill State

HAMILTON - General Equivalency Degree (GED) tests will soon be taken on computers and will approximately triple in cost under new guidelines to take effect in January 2014, although there is still time to take the current paper test. “Basically, it is becoming a for-profit test. It is entirely computer based,” said Nancy McDonald, Bevill State Community College’s executive director of adult education. McDonald, who is based on the Fayette campus, said, there is a “sense of urgency” for those who are concerned about costs or using a computer, and particularly those who only have one section left to complete. Under the new tests, those students would have to start all over from scratch. She said the GED testing service has changed nationally under a realignment announced in a March 2011 press release.  The new venture involves the American Council on Education (ACE, and Pearson (, the world's largest education and testing company that is also known for the Financial Times Group and the Penguin publishing brand.

The two developed a new business that resulted in a new GED test that built on the goals of the GED 21st Century Initiative. It was said to be essentially a “public-private partnership” that would result in a test that would ensure students were more adequately prepared for college and careers. ACE is the major coordinating body for all the nation's higher education institutions, representing more than 1,600 college and university presidents, and more than 200 related associations, nationwide.

The GED Test is used in the U.S. and Canada to award a high school graduation equivalency diploma. Nearly 800,000 GED Tests are taken each year, and in 2009, more than 470,000 individuals were awarded their GED diploma, according to ACE. Bevill State enrolls 1,000 GED students a year over five counties, McDonald said. A total of 14 percent of Bevill State’s enrollment holds a GED. “I tell our GED graduates that you will find people at the college who are very much like you,” McDonald said.

There is no handwriting on new test. She said the new method will be exclusively on a computer. “You will take the test on the computer. You will register for the test online. You will pay for the test online,” much like the ACT test is registered for and paid for online. “There is no handwriting (on the test). You will type the essay,” she said. “The questions won’t be strictly multiple choice, like they are now. There will be some click-and-drag situations. There will be some short answers. The essay will be very, very different, too.”

The student will still need to go to a GED testing center approved by Pearson, she said, including those on Bevill State campuses. “And now, with the way the test is set up, you have to score 410 on each of five sections, with an overall average of 450,” McDonald said. “If you made 410 on social studies, and you made 520 on something else, it will pull up your average. “The new test will have two cutoff scores,” she said. The first will be a pass-or-fail type of test where one would achieve high school equivalency. “The second score would be an indicator of college readiness,” she said. “It is going to be so very different, and we’re still learning.

The big concern is not just that it is going to be entirely on computer, but the cost of the test is going to increase significantly,” McDonald said.

A practice test for the new test will not be available until fall 2013, she said. Meanwhile, teachers will also have to be retrained. Test cost will be at least $120 or more. Currently, the paper GED test costs $50, she said. “We expect that (cost) to triple” for the new test, she said, although details were not firm. “We know it will cost at least $120,” but the Alabama State Board of Education will likely play a role in deciding how much more the fee will be to cover administration costs in the state. “Schools will have to cover the expense of providing computers and someone to administer the tests,” McDonald said.

Currently, the state picks up the $50 test fee under certain eligibility requirements, including never attempting the test before, 30 hours of GED instruction and minimum scores on the practice test, she said. McDonald said officials are not sure what will happen to that offer once the new test is in place.

She said she is concerned that the increased costs could cut down on GED enrollment at the college, while the needs remain. Also, the test should be somewhat tougher to include new standards. The current test is made so that a third of graduating high school seniors would fail the test, she said. The new test will still follow those general norms, with some tougher provisions. College’s advice: Enroll today McDonald said her message for those who prefer the current method is to enroll today, while there is still time. She noted there is not much time for some, as some people may need more time to prepare-- although others may not need much.

“I don’t want people to put it off until the last minute,” she said. “There are lots of people who may have taken the GED in the past and passed one or two parts. We need them to come in and take care of the other sections. They wouldn’t have to take the entire test over. They just take what they didn’t pass. When the new tests come out, they won’t be able to use those old scores. They will have to start all over--plus, it is a whole new day.” Still, she pointed out Arthur Gay, 67, of Fayette, who got his bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Alabama only this year, after attending classes part-time over the past eight years. He recently spoke to GED graduates on Bevill State’s Fayette campus. “It may take you a lot longer, but you are never too old,”  McDonald said.

McDonald, who started in the adult education program in 1989, said she has seen predictions from the 1990s come true that everyone will at least need a GED degree to get a job. The good jobs now require going beyond high school levels to operate computerized equipment, even on a production line of a manufactured housing plant.  “Alabama leads in workforce development,” which has led to car plants and other major industrial plants, she said. Also, McDonald pointed out some of those jobs are just down Future Interstate 22 in Tupelo, Miss.

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