What Is the GED?

The GED Test Measures High School Academic Equivalency

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GED stands for General Educational Development. The GED test consists of four exams designed by the American Council on Education to measures "knowledge and skills at a range of complexity and difficulty levels that are covered across multiple high school grades," according to the GED Testing Service, which administers the test. 


You may have heard people refer to the GED as the General Educational Diploma or the General Equivalency Diploma, but these are incorrect. GED is actually the process of earning the equivalent of your high school diploma. When you take and pass the GED test, you earn a GED certificate or credential, which is awarded by the GED Testing Service, a joint venture of the ACE and Pearson VUE, a subdivision of Pearson, an educational materials and testing company.

The GED Test

The GED's four exams are designed to measure high school level skills and knowledge. The GED test was updated in 2014. (The 2002 GED had five exams, but there are now only four, as of March 2018.) The exams, and the times you'll be given to take each one, are:

  1. Reasoning Through Language Arts (RLA), 155 minutes, including a 10-minute break, which focuses on the ability to: read closely and determine the details being stated, make logical inferences from it, and answer questions about what you've read; write clearly using a keyboard (demonstrating the use of technology) and provide a relevant analysis of a text, using evidence from the text; and edit and demonstrate an understanding of the use of standard written English, including grammar, capitalization, and punctuation.
  2. Social Studies, 75 minutes, which includes multiple-choice, drag-and-drop, hot spot, and fill-in-the-blank questions focusing on U.S. history, economics, geography, civics, and government.
  3. Science, 90 minutes, where you'll answer questions related to life, physical, and earth and space science.
  4. Mathematical reasoning, 120 minutes, which is composed of algebraic and quantitative problem-solving questions. You'll be able to use an online calculator or a handheld TI-30XS Multiview scientific calculator during this portion of the test. 

    The GED is computer-based, but you cannot take it online. You can only take the GED at official testing centers.

    Preparing for and Taking the Test

    There are many resources available to help you prepare for the GED test. Learning centers around the country offer classes and practice testing. Online companies also offer help. You can also find plenty of books to help you study for your GED test.

    There are over 2,800 authorized GED testing centers around the world. The easiest way to find the center nearest you is to register with the GED Testing Service. The process takes about 10 to 15 minutes, and you will need to provide an email address. Once you do, the service will locate the nearest testing center and provide you with a date of the next test.

    In most of the U.S., you must 18 years old to take the test, but there are exceptions in many states, which allow you take the exam at age 16 or 17 if you meet certain conditions. In Idaho, for example, you can take the exam at age 16 or 17 if you have officially withdrawn from high school, have parental consent, and have applied for and received a GED age waiver.

    To pass each exam, you must score higher than 60 percent of a sample set of graduating seniors.