The Edvocate’s Guide to the GED

The General Educational Development (GED) exam is a group of four tests that assess a person’s knowledge of educational subjects usually taught in high school. Test takers who pass all four sections earn a certificate of completion from the state where the test was held. This certificate is regarded by many employers, colleges, and post-secondary schools as an equivalent of a high school diploma.

The GED test is administered by each state, which designates testing centers, times, and dates. The GED tests cover four content areas: language arts, social studies, science, and math. Each section has a time restriction. The GED tests are now taken on a computer, and question formats include multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, hot spot, and drag-and-drop. There is also a 45-minute required language arts essay, as well as a 25-minute social studies essay.

The GED tests must be taken in person at an official GED testing center. Tests cannot be taken online, and the GED Testing Service warns interested candidates to be wary of the many websites that claim to offer online testing and accredited degrees.

History of the GED

The GED program started in 1942 when the U.S. Department of Defense partnered with the American Council on Education to develop a battery of general education tests based on the high school curriculum. The tests were originally for military personnel and veterans who had enlisted before finishing their high school education. Passing these tests gave these service members an educational credential that could then be used to help gain entry into college or to obtain a job.

In 1947, New York became the first state to make the GED test available to non-veteran civilians and made it equivalent to the Regent’s Diploma, a credential normally given to adults attending night school to obtain their high school diploma. By 1974, at last, 50 states were awarding GED credentials to non-veteran civilians. The American Council on Education has revised the GED test four times and plans future revisions as personal, employment, and educational needs evolve.

Where to Take the GED

Testing sites and study centers are found in each state. Study centers are usually part of a state’s Adult Education network, and testing centers are usually at colleges, universities, public schools, or community centers. Many states have numerous GED sites, while others may have only a few at centralized locations. The GED Testing Service website,, has a Test Prep Center locator tool that you can utilize to find a study center located near you. You must create an account to utilize this tool. The website also provides a search tool for GED testing centers, and you can find the location nearest you with an address.

How to Take the GED

To take the GED, a learner should first prepare for the exam. Most GED programs offer a pre-test meant to gauge readiness. The GED Testing Service provides an official practice test called GED Ready taken on a computer and half the actual tests’ length. GED Ready will tell you if you’re likely to pass the tests, and if you need more preparation, it will tell you what you need to study. There is a $10 fee for each of the four GED Ready test sections.

There is also a free practice test in English and Spanish that can help you understand the four tests’ scope. However, this test is not meant to decide if you are ready for the actual exams.

To take the GED tests, you must register on the website. Eligibility requirements for the GED differ by state. Being able to prove age, residency, and lack of a secondary school credential are usually needed to register for the test. You can check the requirements for each state and testing jurisdiction on the GED Testing Service website.

The GED tests are available in English and Spanish. Test takers can apply for accommodations, such as more time, a reader or scribe, a private room, and all other approved accommodations. The GED tests cost varies from state to state but averages around $120 for the four tests.

Lesson Summary

The General Educational Development exam is a group of four tests that assess a person’s knowledge of educational subjects usually taught in high school. The test covers four content areas: language arts, social studies, science, and math, and involves two essays in language arts and social studies. People interested in taking the GED can prepare at an adult education center and take practice tests, and they can take the test at a school or community center. Individual states decide study centers and testing center locations. The GED test can usually be taken in English or Spanish and usually costs around $120.

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