What you need to know about the changes to the GED exam

Training and testing for the high school equivalency credential is changing Jan. 1

While the GED, or General Educational Development, credential is the only high school equivalency credential recognized nationwide in each of the 50 states, not every state offers the same GED training and testing. With several options out there, it’s important to know that training in one state may not properly prepare an individual for the testing required in another state.

In the case of New Hampshire, where training and testing is changing in 2014, those who have been training for the GED prior to 2014 will require additional learning to be fully ready for GED in 2014 in beyond. The reason is that the test has changed as of Jan. 1, 2014. According to the New Hampshire Department of Education, anyone who had not completed and passed all sections of the GED tests before the end of 2013 will have to begin all over again.

Art Ellison, administrator of the Bureau of Adult Education for the N.H. Department of Education, said that three vendors offering high school equivalency tests submitted proposals in August 2012, each of which was carefully reviewed by a panel of readers from the adult education community. The consensus to choose Educational Testing Service’s HiSET test was based on two main considerations; the cost and the availability of a paper-based as well as computer-based version of the test. The new test going forward as of January 2014, will be both computer-based and paper-based and will cost test-takers $95 for the full battery of tests.
“By providing a paper-based option for the test, New Hampshire’s adults and teenagers over the next three years will be able to transition to the computer-based version of the test starting in January 2014,” Ellison said.

The new test will be based on the Common Core State Standards, according to Ellison, which insures that successful completers of the test will be prepared for transition to postsecondary education and quality jobs. While Ellison acknowledges it is far too early to assess what the passing rate on the new test will be, he said that that New Hampshire’s passing rate on the GEDF test has historically been around 83 percent, which is approximately 11 points higher than the national passing rate.

So for those either involved in testing or hoping to achieve GED test completion soon, the big question might be, “What’s changed?”

There are some things that do remain the same, and the first is that HiSET Tests also assess the same areas of competency as the former did—reading, writing, math, science and social studies. The complete test battery will still take about seven hours. The HiSET Tests also require that test-takers do better than 40 percent of high school seniors in a national random sample (the exact same standard used for GED Tests in the past). Test-takers who pass all sections of the HiSET test battery will receive the New Hampshire Certificate of High School Equivalency, which is signed by the State’s Commissioner of Education. Students under the age of 18 (16 and 17) can only register for HiSET if school officials have referred them after demonstrating the ability to pass official practice tests.

As for what’s different as of Jan. 1, students that are referred for HiSET testing may still be enrolled in school during the testing period. The cost has changed, and as noted above, is now $95 for the full battery of HiSET tests. Some of the N.H. testing centers will now offer a computer-based testing option. Students will all register for the tests through an online portal before receiving a referral to a local testing center. They will also now have the option to demonstrate “college and career readiness” by achieving a score that is higher than the required passing level. Schools will have the benefit of obtaining official practice tests at a small fee by downloading them from the HiSET website or obtain a master copy completely free of charge from their local testing center.

Organizations like YouthBuild, located locally in Manchester, are at work preparing students involved in their program for the new GED test.

According to case manager Courtney Frederick, it’s her understanding that those who didn’t complete the current testing by year’s end will have previous scores zeroed out and will have to begin again with the new curriculum for the HiSET testing.

YouthBuild, which received a U.S. Department of Labor grant for up to 48 participants in their program, is an education and job training program for 18-24 year olds seeking the opportunity to complete high school and begin a career, possibly in the construction field. The Manchester program is one of 273 YouthBuild programs in 46 states, as well as Washington, D.C. and the Virgin Islands.

Frederick said that the program enables successful participants to earn their GED while teaching construction skills, allowing an individual to potentially move into the early stages of a career in that field. Those in the program have been involved in construction of lower-income housing in Manchester, which enables them to give back to the community in a positive way.

“We’re preparing our students for the next step,” said Frederick. “Within our program, the new GED can help them get ready for community college or perhaps continue in the construction field.”

Learn more about the High School Equivalency Testing Program in New Hampshire at www.education.nh.gov/career/adult/ged_test.htm. Further information on YouthBuild may be found at www.YouthBuild.org/siteview/72139/info

Pamme Boutselis is a N.H.-based freelance writer, a content director at Southern New Hampshire University and a serial volunteer. She blogs regularly at Along the Way. Follow her on Twitter @pammeb.