GED basics

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What is the GED?

The Test of General Educational Development (GED), developed by the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C., measures competency in high-school level skills and knowledge. A passing score earns a high school equivalency certificate. Most colleges and universities accept the certificate in place of a high school diploma although the cutoff score for admission may be higher than the passing score. One or more sections of the test may be retaken until a desired score is achieved.

The GED test is an eight-hour series of five multiple-choice exams on math, science, interpreting literature and art, social studies and composition, plus a written essay. Illinois also requires a constitution test, which covers both the state and U.S. constitutions and the proper care and display of the American flag.

The GED test is designed to be difficult enough so that only 66 percent of graduating high school seniors would be able to pass it. It originated in 1942 to allow returning World War II veterans to earn high school certification.

It costs $15 to take the test and an extra $10 for the GED certificate. An individual section may be retaken for $2.

Who can take it?

In Illinois, anyone age 18 or older whose high school class has graduated may take the GED test. Seventeen-year-olds also may take the test if they are pregnant or parenting or can prove they have been out of school for over a year.

How do you prepare for the GED test?

City Colleges of Chicago offers semester-long courses, and community-based organizations (CBOs) also offer preparation programs. CBOs often set standards for admission; City Colleges programs accept all comers but place those with less than a 9th-grade reading level in Adult Basic Education classes first.

Where and when is the test offered?

The test is offered on five City Colleges campuses and at six colleges in nearby suburbs a total of about 20 times a month. The seeing-impaired may take the test at Chicago’s Lighthouse for the Blind.

Two city test sites and extra dates have been added since March, when a critical report by Chicago’s Taylor Institute and Women Employed identified the testing schedule and locations as roadblocks to GED completion. The Educational Testing Service, which coordinates the test administration in the Chicago area, plans to add two more Chicago test sites by November. For more information, call ETS at (800) 716-2582.