The Computer-Based GED Test

Here's what to know about what's on the test

adult test takers

Getty Images/Ariel Skelley

In 2014, the GED Testing Service, the only official "keeper" of the GED test in the United States, a division of the American Council on Education, converted the official GED test to a computer-based version for the first time. However, it's important to realize that "computer-based" is not the same thing as "online." GED Testing Service states that the test "is no longer an endpoint for adults, but rather a springboard for further education, training, and better-paying jobs."

The latest version of the test has four assessments:

The scoring system provides a profile of scores that includes a student's strengths and areas of needed improvement for each of the four assessments.

This scoring system gives non-traditional students the opportunity to demonstrate job and college readiness through an endorsement that can be added to the GED credential.

How the Change Came About

For several years, the GED Testing Service worked closely with many different education and career experts while making the changes it sought. Some of the groups involved in the research and decisions:

  • High schools
  • Two- and four-year colleges and universities
  • Employers
  • National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
  • National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
  • Adult educators from around the country
  • National Center for Improvement of Educational Assessment, Inc.
  • Educational Policy Improvement Center at University of Oregon
  • Education Division of ACT
  • Institute for Education Leadership and Policy

It's easy to see that a high-level of research went into the changes in the 2014 GED test. The assessment targets are based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Texas and Virginia, as well as career-readiness and college-readiness standards. All of the changes are based on evidence of effectiveness.

The bottom line, the GED Testing Service states, is that "a GED test-passer must remain competitive with students who complete their high school credentials in the traditional manner."

Computers Offer Variety in Testing Methods

The switch to computer-based testing allowed the GED Testing Service to incorporate different testing methods not possible with paper and pencil. For example, the Literacy Test includes text ranging from 400 to 900 words, and 6 to 8 questions in a variety of formats, including:

  • Multiple choice items
  • Brief short answer items
  • Several different types of technology-enhanced items
  • Cloze items embedded in passages (multiple response options that appear in a drop-down menu)
  • One 45-minute extended response item

Other opportunities provided by computer-based testing are the ability to include graphics with hot spots, or sensors, a test-taker can click on to provide answers to a question, drag-and-drop items, and split screens so the student can page through longer texts while keeping an essay on the screen.

Resources and Study Help

The GED Testing Service provides documents and webinars to educators across the country to prepare them for administering the GED test. Students have access to programs designed not only to prepare them for the test but to help them excel at it.

There is also a transition network that supports and links adults with postsecondary education, training, and career opportunities, providing them a chance to earn a sustainable living wage.

What's On the Computer-Based GED Test?

The computer-based GED test from GED Testing Service developed in 2014 had four parts:

  1. Reasoning Through Language Arts (RLA) (150 minutes)
  2. Mathematical Reasoning (90 minutes)
  3. Science (90 minutes)
  4. Social Studies (90 minutes)

It's worth repeating that while students take the test on a computer, the test is not an online test. You must take the test at an official GED testing facility. You can find the testing centers for your location via state-by-state listing of adult education websites.

There are seven types of test items on the exam:

  1. Drag-and-drop
  2. Drop-down
  3. Fill-in-the-blank
  4. Hot spot
  5. Multiple choice (4 options)
  6. Extended response (Found in RLA and Social Studies. Students read and analyze a document and write a response using evidence from the document.)
  7. Short answer (Found in RLA and Science. Students write a summary or conclusion after reading a text.)

Sample questions are available on the GED Testing Service site.

The test is available in English and Spanish, and you can take each part up to three times in a one-year period.