GED shifts to 21st century

By Dean Shipley

February 16, 2014

Their paths to the ABLE classroom at Tolles Career & Technical Center exhibit a continental variety: Africa, Asia, North America (including the United States and Mexico). By entering that classroom, adult students have taken an important step to achieving a goal: to obtain the General Educational Development (GED) diploma, be smarter than when they walked in and thus be better prepared to achieve that long-distance goal of a job or a better one.

“Everyone walks in with their own stuff,” said DeLynn MacQueen, teacher.

Stuff notwithstanding, MacQueen now has to work with students on a new format of the GED for 2014 and going forward. The biggest change is the transition from one on paper and marked with a pencil to a test a student takes on a computer. MacQueen said in addition to the knowledge students are required to know, they must also know computer functions including keyboard skills, drag-and-drop, navigating from page to page, etc. Keyboarding skills are, er, key.

But for the 21st century, computer skills are often mandatory. John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) sees the computer-format test as a benefit.

“You get results back more quickly, get the diploma quickly,” he said. Unofficial results are available instantly.

In addition to the expediency factor, Charlton said taking the test on the computer displays to potential employers, “you have the technical ability some employers are looking for.”

Charlton cited the computer-based format includes several new services that are streamlining the testing process and benefiting adult learners who often need to move quickly into jobs or training programs. These benefits include:

• online scheduling and registration that is available 24/7;

• more testing flexibility for test-takers;

• they can choose when and where to take their test;

• instant unofficial score reports;

• faster results mean adults can apply for jobs or begin studying immediately if they need to retake a subject area; and

• enhanced test security.

Another big change is the cost of the test. Charlton said it jumped to $120 from $40. The cost is governed by the GED testing body. Charlton said that cost hike of $80 could prevent someone from taking the test. To handle the cost-hike the state has set aside $2 million to cover the cost difference. A student need only to request some counseling in a career tech office. Once the request is made, the student will receive from the counselor a verification number. The student enters the number at the time of the test and the student will be reimbursed.

There are now four sections of the test instead of five. Two have been combined: reading and writing tests are now reasoning through language arts. Poetry has been eliminated in favor of written skills more usable in the workplace MacQueen said, such as how to write a memo, plus correct spelling, not the abbreviations often found in social media. R u paying attn?

With the new computer-based test, MacQueen must teach her charges the skill of test taking, since they have a limited amount of time to take the test.

But those are teachable skills. If a student needs it, it will become part of that student’s individual learning plan.

“A student’s plan will be different from the one sitting next to them,” MacQueen said. “They’re adults. They need to take charge of their learning. Part of being an adult learner is taking charge.”

Each individual section has a list of changes from the 2002 exam to the 2014 exam. It can be found at:

Once the students complete their GED requirements, the paths they will take there from will be equally diverse roads. But they all agree, achieving the goal of passing the GED is necessary as they move on.

Their goal is to encourage the students to become lifelong learners MacQueen said. “You need to be competitive. You need to be more educated than 12th grade.

Another lesson to be learned, MacQueen said. “You want to challenge them, but you don’t want to frustrate them.”

Dean Shipley can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 17 or via Twitter @DeanAShipley.