GED Test Guide

The GED Test Summary
What: The General Education Development test is an exam students can take to earn the equivalent to a high school diploma.
Who: Anyone who has not completed high school can take the GED.
Where: There are 3,400 test centers in the US.
When: Year round
How: Pencil and paper
Type: Multiple choice and short answer
Why: A GED or high school diploma is the gateway to jobs and college education.
Time: The exam lasts around six hours.
Language: English, Spanish, French and Braille
Preparation: Contact the testing center or visit the official GED testing Web site for tutorials and sample questions that will appear on the exam.
Cost: The cost of the GED test varies by state jurisdictions, and fee information will be available by contacting the local testing center.

By Missy Spangler, Tests.com Contributing Writer

The General Education Development test, or GED, is a test used by individuals who were not able to complete high school, such as war veterans, pregnant teenagers or students who may have gotten into some trouble. The GED is equivalent to a high school diploma, and test takers seek the GED so that they can qualify for employment opportunities or admission to college. GED exams are administered by the American Council on Education and can be taken at more than 3,400 testing centers worldwide.

How the Exam Works
The written test measures individuals’ ability to demonstrate high school-level knowledge. Sixty percent of test takers will pass it on the first attempt.
According to the American Council on Testing, the GED measures the test taker’s skills in five sections:

  • Language Arts for Writing
  • Social Studies
  • Science
  • Language Arts for Reading
  • Mathematics

Language art for writing includes 50 questions to complete in 75 minutes, as well as an essay that test takers have 45 minutes to complete.
Language arts for writing uses four different types of questions. Organization questions require the test-taker to edit text to make it grammatically correct. Fifteen percent of questions appear in this format. Sentence structure questions make up for 30 percent of the test. This includes correction of sentence fragments, run-on sentences, comma splices, improper coordination and subordination, modification and parallelism. Usage questions also comprise 30 percent, and this type of question involves subject-verb agreement, verb tense errors and pronoun reference errors. Mechanics make up the last 25 percent of this portion of the test, and include questions on capitalization, punctuation and spelling.

The language arts for writing essay, which must be done in 45 minutes, evaluates the test taker’s ability to write. The candidate is assigned a topic and must assume a point of view, and then write to support that view. A four-point scoring system is used: effective, adequate, marginal and inadequate. Examiners evaluate response to the prompt, organization, development and details, conventions of edited American English and word choice.

The science section of GED has 50 questions that cover physical science, life science and earth and space science. Candidates might be asked about concepts and processes, science as inquiry, science and technology, personal and social perspectives on science, and the history and nature of science. GED test takers have 80 minutes to finish this part of the test.

The social studies section covers 50 questions on history, geography, civics and government, and economics. Content areas include US history from beginnings to 1820 to present, world history from beginnings to 1000 B.C. to present, civic government covering civic life, politics, geography and economics. There also is a Canadian edition for this portion of the test. The questions are all multiple choice and are based on formats including prose, visual text and written text. Test takers are allowed 70 minutes for this section.

The language arts for reading section covers literary and nonfiction text. There are 40 total questions in this area, and test takers have 65 minutes for completion. The literary section includes at least one selection from each of the following: poetry, drama, prose fiction prior to 1920, prose fiction from 1920 to 1960 and prose fiction after 1960. As far as nonfiction text, this section has two selections each of: nonfiction prose, critical review of visual and performing arts, workplace and community documents, rules for employee behavior, legal documents and other correspondence, and also manual passages.

Finally, the section on mathematics includes 50 questions on number operations and sense, measurement and geometry, data analysis, statistics and probability, algebra, functions and patterns. Most of the questions are multiple choice, but in 20 percent of them, the test taker must construct an answer. Applicants have 90 minutes to finish this section.

GED Test Registration
Testing centers are available throughout the country, and the cost to take the exam varies by location. Individuals can obtain fee information by contacting their local testing center. The test can be taken in English, Spanish or French. There also are Braille, audiocassette and large-print versions of the test for those who have these special needs. In order to pass the GED test, takers must score a minimum of 2210 on the entire exam and 410 in each individual section.

Are you ready to start preparing to take the GED? Check out our GED Test Directory to find helpful test prep materials. For more insight into the GED test, see our interview with GED preparation expert Elizabeth Burchard.