Test Prep

7 Tips to Know Before Taking the GED

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If you've signed up to take the General Educational Development exam, more commonly known as the GED, you're probably already aware that the exam consists of four subject tests: Math, Language Arts, Science and Social Studies. Each subject test can be taken on a different day, which is probably best, since the entire exam taken altogether lasts about seven hours. But you should also consider a few other important factors as you make your preparations to take the GED, which provides you with proof that your knowledge is equivalent to that of a high school education.


Check Your State Policies

This should be your first step. Every state has its own variation on the test-taking rules for the GED. You should also make sure that there is a testing center in your state that offers the GED; otherwise, you'll need to go to a different state that accepts non-resident test-takers. You can find each state's policies on the GED website here. Look up the details of your state's policy to find out about:

  • Age restrictions
  • Residency requirements
  • Acceptable forms of ID at the testing center
  • Fees for the first exam and the retakes
  • The amount of times you can retake the exam in one year
  • The waiting period in between retakes.

Make Your Study Plan Work for You

With four different subject tests to study for, you will definitely need to plan out a schedule for your test prep — especially if you're also juggling a job and/or taking care of children. You will want to find what kind of test prep system works best for you. A lot depends on the test-taker's educational and work background, says Dave Kobzina, assistant director for transfer recruitment at Portland State University.

"Is someone preparing for the test in a profession where they use math on a daily basis? Are they writing reports?" Kobzina asks. "Some of the skills will be ones they already have, so I think a lot depends on what knowledge the test-takers already have. You might have a parent whose children are currently in school. Maybe they are studying subjects that would pair well with the GED. The student can use their children or partner as someone who can help prepare for the exam. It could be as simple as making flash cards. Before or after dinner, spend 10 minutes working on math problems, refreshing grammar skills."

Timing Is Important

The amount of time in which you should complete all four exams doesn't technically matter — it all depends on your reasons for obtaining the GED in the first place. Is it for a job promotion? Then perhaps the sooner you complete the GED, the better. However, if you are applying to colleges with a minimum score requirement (in general, a passing score is 410 for each subject and 2250 for the whole exam), and you don't achieve this score on your first attempt, you will want to retake the test. This means you need to work backward from the college application deadline to figure out how to plan out enough time to study and also allow time to retake an exam or two — in addition to some extra test prep time in the subject(s) you are retaking. Although you will usually be able to see your exam scores online within 24 hours of taking the test, you might have to undergo a waiting period to retake a subject test, depending on the policy of the state where you live.

Don't Cram

"Students shouldn't be cramming for this," says Kobzina. "Instead, look at the subjects on an individual basis. Math is likely to be one of the more challenging subjects, so this is an area students should work on and come back to throughout their preparation period." How much time you will need depends on how comfortable or not you are with the material. Take a practice test as a diagnostic for each subject test to determine which subjects you need to study for the most.

Subject Test Order Doesn't Matter

While there is no specific order in which you should take the subject exams, Kobzina thinks that students will probably want to "first take the exams where you have the most confidence. By getting off to a good start, students will feel better about themselves going into the more difficult exams."

Remember to Prep for Computer-Based Testing

Most likely, you only took paper-based tests when you were in high school. The GED is entirely computer-based, so you should familiarize yourself with the format of it as part of your preparation. The best way to do this is to take a practice test — you can find them on the GED website here.

Explore Your Test Prep Options

Brush up on GED subject skills and knowledge with the many free study materials that can be found online, including the official GED online study guides for each of the subject areas. But you can also find review courses at a local community college, or hire a tutor if you feel that you need one-on-one help.

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