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GED FAQs: How Is the GED Scored?

Passing the General Educational Development exam (GED) qualifies someone without a high school diploma for an equivalent credential. In most states and jurisdictions, test takers must score at least 410 on each of its five tests, and must earn a total score of at least 2250 to pass.

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What Do GED Test Scores Mean?

What the GED Test Measures

The GED tests measure an adult's ability in the five areas associated with completing a high school education: mathematics, social studies, science and language, reading and writing. Since the GED credential is used as an equivalent to a high school diploma, the test demonstrates how an individual compares to a graduating high school senior in that same year. Created and administered by the American Council on Education (AC), the GED exam has been designed so that test-takers will outperform about 40 percent of high school seniors if they were to take the exam (www.acenet.edu).

How the GED Test Should Not be Used

Potential employers and schools of higher learning are not allowed to ask someone to take the GED tests to verify their high school graduate's grades or diploma. GED test scores also should not be used as an estimate of a test taker's grade point average or how they would have done on other standardized tests. The GED tests do not measure non-cognitive skills such as an individual's ethics or leadership ability, according to ACE.

Raw Scores

Except for the essay and ten math questions, all of the GED test questions are multiple-choice. There are 50 questions each in the math, social studies, writing and science sections, and 40 questions in the reading test. Ten math questions are in an alternative format in which the test-taker must construct an answer. All of these scores are then electronically marked to obtain a raw score that is used to determine the standard score on the GED transcript. All parts of the test must be completed in seven hours.

Essay Scores

Two expert readers review the essay portion of each GED test. They score the essay from one to four, with one being the lowest grade possible, based on whether the test taker has written clearly enough for them to grasp what the test taker is saying. Higher scores are given to essays that are about the assigned topic. The two grades are averaged, but if the two reviewers disagree by more than one point, the essay is read by the chief reader and averaged with the grade he or she most agrees with.

Test takers must get at least a score of two on the essay to pass this section of the arm. Test takers are not given the raw essay score; it is converted and combined with the multiple-choice score. The essay makes up 35% of the total writing score. Those who don't get at least a two are not given a combined writing score, even if they got most of the multiple choice questions right. They will have to repeat both parts of the writing test to pass the GED exam.

The Standard Score

The standard score is how a GED candidate is compared to graduating high school seniors. A sample of graduating high school seniors periodically take the GED tests and their raw scores from each exam are mathematically converted to a scale from 200 to 800, with the average score set to 500. The standard deviation is set to 100, meaning that two-thirds of test takers score between 400 and 600, but only 2% score more than 700 or less than 300.

When the tests are given to GED candidates, their scores are converted and standardized against the graduating senior's scores. ACE determined that GED test takers should have an average score of 450 (combined score of 2250), with no one test below 410. They calculated that 58% of the high school seniors would pass with those cut-offs--not too high that it would be unfair to adult test takers and not too low that the trustworthiness of the GED credential would be questioned.

The Percentile Ranking

The GED percentile scores shows where a test-taker is ranked among all those taking the GED test, and among the graduating high school students. The number is the percentage of persons who got a lower score than the test taker on that exam. Someone in the 85th percentile would have done better than 85% of test takers, and is thus in the top 15% for that test.

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