What is a GED? Your Ultimate Guide Before College


Without finishing high school, you can still showcase that you have the equivalent knowledge of someone who earned their high school diploma. This can be done by passing the GED. What is a GED exactly? We’re here to share everything you need to know about the GED exam. 




What’s a GED?


The GED is an alternative to a high school diploma. The GED meaning stands for General Educational Development Test. You also may come across other explanations of the acronym, like Graduate Equivalency Degree or General Education Diploma. 



The GED is a series of tests that can be used to show employers or higher education institutions that you possess a high school level of education. 



Regardless of the reason why you may not have earned a high school diploma, there’s no reason why you can’t still continue your academic or career pursuits. The GED gives you what you may need to do so. More than 98% of higher education institutions in America accept the GED in place of a high school diploma.



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A GED vs. High School Diploma: What’s Right for You?


Both a GED and high school diploma will open the door to endless possibilities for your future. For those who have four years to dedicate to their studies and access to high schools, then it’s a good idea to go down that route. 


However, if for any reason you cannot complete the four years of high school, then a GED will provide you with the same opportunities that you would’ve been exposed to with a high school diploma. 


For example, at University of the People, one of our requirements for prospective degree-seeking students is proof of high school completion. Yet those who have passed the GED exam can submit that, too. 




What’s on the GED Test?


The GED test includes four main areas:


  • Mathematical reasoning (115 minutes to take) 
  • Social studies (70 minutes to take) 
  • Science (90 minutes to take) 
  • Reasoning through language arts (150 minutes to take, includes a 45-minute essay writing portion) 



Each test is taken separately and can be either scheduled together or taken separately. 



So, what does passing the GED mean? The test isn’t scored like a normal test. Instead, every few years, high school students have to take the test. As long as a GED test taker does better than 60% of the high school students who have taken the test, then they pass. 




Benefits of Getting a GED


There is no downside to getting a GED. You can take it on your own time and still signal to employers and colleges that you are prepared.

Let’s review some of the major benefits of getting a GED:


Job opportunities: Most employers seek employees who have a diploma or GED. If you’re unable to get a diploma, then a GED will do the job (so you can, too).


College admissions: College admissions requirements are generally stringent and extensive. Even when they aren’t (like at the University of the People), the requirement for a high school education is the bare minimum. A GED is the perfect substitute for a high school diploma, so nothing can stand in your way from continuing your education.


Trade school: With a GED, you have the option to learn at a trade school and expand your future possibilities.  


Adds to earnings: Like a high school diploma, those with it earn more on average than those without a diploma (or GED). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, your GED may increase your potential salary by about 30%. 



How Long Does it Take to Get a GED?


The amount of time it takes to get a GED can vary. It’s a good idea to start by taking a practice test to gauge where you stand before you sign up for the test. For some students, it’s possible to learn all the material within three months. 



Even if you take all the tests at the same time, you would only have to retake the sections that you don’t pass (if that’s the case).



How Much Does it Cost?


The cost of the GED depends on the state in which you take it. On average, it will be about $120 to sit for all four tests. You can find the pricing for your state here. The pricing quoted includes 2 retakes per subject (not including the test center fees that may still apply). 



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Who is Eligible for the GED Exam?


If the following three bullets apply to you, then you are eligible to take the GED:


  • Are not currently enrolled in high school
  • Are 16 years or older 
  • Have never graduated from high school 



The Bottom Line 


Now that you can answer what’s a GED, you can assess if it’s right for you. The GED is a great option for anyone who is over 16 years old and has not graduated from high school. For many, finishing high school isn’t a given. However, a high school diploma is often required to start college or be hired for most jobs. In the event you are unable to graduate from high school, you don’t have to lose hope. Instead, you can take the four-subject GED exam. 


As long as you can demonstrate that you know what a high school graduate would, you’ll likely pass the exam. You can either study before the test or simply take the exam if you feel confident you’re ready. 



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