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How to Get a GED: a Step-by-Step Process to Earn a GED

Successful completion of the General Educational Development (GED) exam leads to a high school equivalency credential for adult learners without a high school diploma. This GED credential can be used to pursue a college education or career advancement. Learn the steps for earning your GED here.

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Steps for Taking the GED Exam

The American Council on Education developed the General Educational Development (GED) exam to assess adult learners' academic preparedness for a high school equivalency diploma. Although this credential isn't the same as a high school diploma, it is accepted by many employers and postsecondary educational institutions in lieu of a traditional diploma.

The exam content and format was revised in 2014. The new exam must be taken on a computer and is made up of four subject tests on mathematical reasoning, language arts, science and social studies. Each of these test sections is broken down into additional content domains, and students will need keyboarding and computer skills to respond to the variety of question formats included on the exam.

Step 1: Review State Requirements

Test takers must be at least 16 years old before they can sit for the GED exam, though many states require examinees to be 18 years of age or older unless they undergo an approval process and receive an age waiver. Testing fees and retake policies could also vary from one state to the next. Individual requirements are available on the GED Testing Service's directory of state policies for 2014 and on state websites.

Step 2: Prepare for the Exam

Several resources are available to help adult learners prepare for the exam. The GED Testing Service, for example, offers free and low-cost practice tests and tutorials online. Several community and technical colleges also provide test prep classes through their adult education departments. Examinees can typically obtain additional test prep materials at their local libraries and might even be able to find free online resources, such as PBS' Literacy Link featuring GED exam videos.

Step 3: Register Online

To register, test takers will need to go to the GED website and create an online account that includes their personal information. Once this account has been created, exam candidates can log in, choose which subject tests they want to take and select a testing center in their area.

Step 4: Take the Test

It takes around 7.5 hours to complete all four of the GED exam's test sections. However, the 2014 edition of the exam allows test takers to sit for as many sections as they'd like to tackle at once, whether it be just one test section or all four. With a testing time of 150 minutes, the language arts portion is the exam's longest section. The math section lasts 115 minutes, and the social studies and science portions last 90 minutes each.

Special accommodations are available to make the test accessible for individuals with vision impairments and certain learning disorders or handicaps. These are available upon request and include extended time, paper-based tests and specialized screen-reading software.

Step 5: Access Your Score Reports

Successful examinees must earn a score of at least 150 on each portion of the exam. Adult learners who earn 170 or higher will receive an honors designation on their GED diploma. Test scores are typically available online around three hours after completing the exam.

All states and jurisdictions allow individuals to retake test sections at a discounted cost. State policies will determine the waiting period required before examinees can sit for the exam again, though the GED testing service mandates a 60-day period for test takers who fail their third attempt.

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