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How to Get Your GED, Like I Did

Updated on July 20, 2017

Tips for Getting Your GED in TN or Anywhere

If knowledge is power, then the GED is an asset you want to have. For some of us, like me, completing high school wasn't easy. It's not always because we don't have the knowledge but other people and situations got in our way. Completing your GED test and getting an equivalency diploma is one way to overcome high school set backs and finally move on. Here's how I got my GED and how you can too.

* Image provided by MorgueFile user JPPI through a Free Photo license.

What is the GED

The GED or General Education Development test has been used since World War II to measure test-takers' general knowledge in key subject areas. Over its long history, millions of people have taken this test, gone on to college or founded great businesses. Dave Thomas, the iconic founder of Wendy's, even earned a GED as have many great actors, celebrities and singers.

The GED is jointly managed by the non-profit American Council on Education (ACE) and the for-profit education giant Pearson. These two organizations teamed up in 2011 and are aiming to overhaul the test by January 2, 2014. Test materials for the new version are currently in development and will be released soon.

Changes to the 2014 Test

Scoring for the 2014 GED test will change along with the content. Test developers say that these changes are designed to better measure college and career readiness and to better align with national curriculum standards. In 2014, test takers will received a scaled numeric score and well as college and career readiness scores that were not available in 2013.

What Will Be Tested

Information on the particulars of these changes is currently available to educators and is not easy to digest. New test questions will include three difficulty levels. One is the recall level and levels two and three are progressively more detailed and in-depth. The new test will focus on the same core skills, including reading and writing, social studies, science and math.

After 2013, all GED tests will be given on computers. No pencil and paper versions will be offered after 2013. As of this writing, test takers can choose between paper versions and computerized tests that offer unofficial preliminary scores. The cost of the computer test is approximately $120 and the paper test is around $70.

My GED Story

Sadly, I went to a private high school that didn't offer the type or range of classes I wanted. This led to three years of frustration that spilled over at the end of my junior year. In addition to the mediocre yet expensive education, the school also gave me bad advice. Since I planned on going to a community college instead of completing my senior year, they reasoned that a GED would be pretty meaningless if I had a higher college degree. I took college entrance exams, college equivalency (CLEP) tests and enrolled in classes, but I didn't complete a degree and was consequently left without a high school diploma or any type of certification--even though I had plenty of knowledge. I regretted it.

Not having a high school diploma bothered me and made me feel second rate. I've lied on forms that asked "which high school did you graduate from" or "do you have a GED/high school diploma." I'm not proud of it, but what can you say? Once I checked into the process, I realized that I could get my GED fairly easily, and I shouldn't put it off any longer. Just taking the first steps made me feel more confident and fulfilled. I deserved to get my GED, and sometimes you have to step up to get the things that you're entitled to. A GED isn't much more than an important piece of paper, but it can make you feel like a different, more complete person.

Your Path to Passing the GED

From start to finish, it will take anywhere from two to three months to get your GED. This includes preparation and studying times as well as the 6-8 weeks that it takes for the testing service to process and mail scores.

1. Check with the GED Testing Service to locate an official test center in your area.

2. Depending on your state's rules, you might be required to take a half-length practice to help you prepare. This is true in Tennessee. If you need to take a practice test, locate an adult education, literacy program or workforce development group in your area. Official prep centers can be located on the GED website.

2(a). Most states offer free GED prep classes. These organizations also administer official practice tests. You results aren't important, but they have to be notarized before you can sign up for the real test. (NOTE: This requirement has been lifted in Tennessee. If you live in another state, check with a local organization to make sure.)

2(b). To assess your skills, you may also be given a TABE assessment (Test of Adult Basic Education). This battery takes around three hours to complete and measure basic math and English skills. If you want to get started, you can find some practice questions here.

3. Based on the result of your practice test, begin studying the areas that need the most work. Create a study schedule to keep you on track. This should take anywhere from two weeks to a month, depending on your level of preparedness. Talk to a GED counselor if you're having difficulty preparing. Many organizations can provide you with a GED tutor to improve your weakest areas, especially if classes aren't helping.

4. Schedule a time to take the real test.

5. Get your GED! It takes 3-6 weeks to receive your official scores. You've done all the work, now you need to wait for the results.

What You Will Get

After you pass your GED, you will receive your official GED transcripts or scores, which show your percentile rank compared to graduating seniors and a three-digit numeric score.

You will also receive a GED or equivalency diploma from your state's department of education. Keep this document safe, because most states will only issue one. You can present these documents to employers, colleges and other organizations that require proof of education.

GED Prep Books

Test preparation books are an excellent way to prepare. Here are a few of my favorite books and test preparation tools.

Cracking the GED, 2013 Edition (College Test Preparation)
Cracking the GED, 2013 Edition (College Test Preparation)
The Princeton Review really knows its stuff, and this book is no exception. The review sections are neatly organized and packed with drills, practice questions and super test-taking tips. This is a good one!
Peterson's Master the GED 2013
Peterson's Master the GED 2013
Peterson's "Master the GED" is an excellent resource. Unlike the Princeton review, this book features full-length practice tests and a diagnostic test. The questions are challenging and the book is a good way to find your weaknesses.

What is Tested

It takes a little over 7 hours to complete the full battery of five sections:

Section 1: Language Arts

50 Multiple-choice questions 75 minutes

1 45-minute essay

This section cover sentence structure, grammar, organization, punctuation, spelling and other mechanics and basic writing skills.

Section 2: Social Studies

50 Multiple-choice questions in 70 minutes

This section covers everything from social studies with an emphasis on written passages and graphics. Topics include national and world history, government, economics and geography. No specific dates or detailed knowledge will be required.

Section 3: Science

50 multiple-choice questions in 80 minutes

Don't worry if you didn't take many science classes. All the information you need is supplied is the supporting text and graphics. This portion of the test uses more images that any other and the type of questions are very similar to those asked in the social studies section. Questions cover life science, biology, earth science, space, chemistry and physics.

Section 4: Reading

40 multiple-choice questions in 65 minutes

The portion of the language arts test measure comprehension and interpretation with a focus on analyzing literature and some non-fiction. Expects to see experts fro poems, plays and books as well as workplace documents, reviews and pop culture publications.

Section 5: Math

Part 1: 25 questions with a calculator.

Part 2: 25 questions without a calculator.

Includes 80 percent multiple-choice and 20 percent short answers in an alternative or coordinate grid format.

Covers math topics though Algebra I and possibly II. No calculus, pre-calc or quadratic equations are required. Expect to see questions on number lines, percentages, ratios, fractions, number sense, estimation, geometry, data analysis, probability, statistics, algebra, functions and patterns.

Create a GED Study Plan

Studying for the GED is an exciting and rewarding opportunity. Your course of study should depend on your level, your strengths and weaknesses and how long it's been since your high school days.

For me, studying for the GED meant reviewing and remembering my math and science, skimming socials studies and checking out parts of the writing test. I got my first study books from the library on June 20th and managed to take the official test by July 30. I haven't been in school for nearly 10 years, so a lot of my study plan was remembering. I took a week to review math, another week to review science and the rest of the time to skim over the other subjects that I already felt confident about.

If you're just leaving school or haven't been out, take advantage of all that current knowledge and take the test. If you're familiar with all your subjects, just focus on honing your test taking strategies.

If you need additional help and don't feel like you have a solid understanding on each topic, work with your local adult education center. Free GED classes and free tutors are available in all states. Take advantage of all of your options, and you'll get a great score.

Barron's GED: High School Equivalency Exam
Barron's GED: High School Equivalency Exam
Barron's is another comprehensive book with diagnostics, test-taking tips and a comprehensive review of each section on the test. If you can't find the two books mentioned above, this is a good third choice.

Are You Getting a GED?

GED test
GED test

* Image provided by MorgueFile user Poet_atrabilious through a Free Photo license.

Are you preparing to get a GED?

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Scoring Requirements

The GED consists of five subject sections that are each scored separately. You will receive one score for both parts of the math test, and you will receive one score for the writing and essay in the first language arts portion of the test.

Each section is scored based on a standardized grading system. To do this, the number of questions you answered correctly is converted into a three-digit standardized score. Possible scores range from 200 to 800. To pass the GED and get your certificate, you must receive a score of at least 410 with an average of at least 450 on all five parts.

It takes two to three weeks to receive your scores from the testing service.

Test Day Prep List - What You Need to Bring

By the time test day rolls around, the questions and content of the GED should be old hat. Because the test is so long, it's a good idea to bring snacks and beverages to enjoy during short breaks between sections and your longer lunch break. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, because you will be sitting in the same place for a LONG time.

You will need to forms of ID to check in for your test, a driver's license and social security card, passport or birth certificate, for example.

Pencils, scratch paper and everything that you need will be provided by the facility giving you the test. Electronics, food, cell phones and anything else that you bring have to be stored away from your desk.

You can't bring your own calculator to the test, but you should practice with the Casio FX-260. It has some tricky features, so it's good to familiarize yourself ahead of time.

The Official GED Calculator

Casio FX 260 Solar II Scientific Calculator, Black
Casio FX 260 Solar II Scientific Calculator, Black
The Casio FX-260 solar calculator is the official calculator of the GED until the current version of the text expires at the end of this year. Pay special attention to the calculator's square root, parenthesis and negative number functions, which take a little time to locate and master.

How Long Did It Take to Receive Your GED Scores?

According to most GED books, it takes 3 to 6 weeks to receive your scores in the mail after the date of the test. If you take your test on the computer, you'll receive your preliminary score instantly. However, the essay will be graded separately. For paper tests, times vary depending on where you live.

When Did You Receive Your Resuilts

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FAQs About the GED

What changes are coming in the 2014 GED?

On the new computer-based test, there will be a combination of multiple choice answers, fill in the blanks, short answers and extended response questions.

How is the new GED graded?

Aside from the essay, the new test will be graded entirely with computer algorithms that detect natural writing patterns and keywords.

How long will it be before I get the results?

Currently, test results are mailed 3 to 6 weeks after the test depending on where you live. If you test on the computer you'll receive preliminary results before you leave the testing area. Your state will then mail your equivalency diploma.

What should I know for test day?

You are allowed to bring snacks, cellphones and personal items to the test, but you'll have to store them away from your desk. Once you begin a section of the test, you will not be permitted to leave the room, go to the bathroom or do anything that might allow you to cheat. To stay fresh throughout the test, take advantage of each break. It will only add a few minutes on to your total test-taking time.

What was your score?

If you receive your scores, let us know how you did.

What was your average for the five GED tests?

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Here are a few more resources that I have found to be helpful when studying for the test.

Tennessee GED Resources

Here's some additional information for people getting their GEDs in Tennessee.

Watch Out for Phonies!

The official GED test is only administered in-person at official test sites and at certain unofficial locations that have received approval. DO NOT sign up for GED tests given on the internet. These tend to be unofficial certifications or meaningless documents issued by so-called diploma mills. In short, they're scams.

What Happens After You Take Your GED?

After you complete your test, you'll receive your preliminary test scores. This is one advantage of the new format.

You'll receive your official results and the scores from the essay in about six weeks.

ACE will send you a complete review of your results that shows your score and your percentile.

Then, your state will send you your equivalency diploma and a card to put in your wallet. In Tennessee, this document is issued by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

If you don't get a passing score on any section, you'll be able to take that section over again individually.


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