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Big Changes on the Horizon for GED Program

July 24, 2012. Upcoming changes to the GED (General Education Development) program will make getting a high school diploma equivalent much more expensive. However, the changes reach beyond just cost. They will include changes to the actual testing process.

The GED program is for adults age 18 or older who do not have a high school diploma. The program prepares students for the GED exam, which includes a series of five tests: language arts-reading, language arts-writing, math, social studies and science. For students who may need to refresh their basic skills in reading, math and writing before they begin the GED program, there is the Adult Basic Education (ABE) program. Wilkes Community College offers both the GED and the ABE programs.

“If anyone has been contemplating getting a GED, now is the time to pursue the goal,” says Jason Pilkington, Basic Skills coordinator for Wilkes Community College. “Beginning in January, there will be new challenges to getting a GED.”

Currently to obtain a GED, students must complete the series of tests, which are taken with paper and pencil. The cost is $25 for the series of tests, with no re-test fee for those needing to retake a component due to a failing score.

Beginning in January 2013, the GED test will be administered by computer. There will be a $24 fee for each of the five tests in the series. Additionally, the re-test fee will be $24 each time a test is retaken.

“This means that the cost of obtaining a GED will increase from the current maximum of $25 to a potential $120, or more if a person has to retake a test,” says Pilkington. “For the past 50 years the GED test has belonged to The GED Testing Services, which made the test available through contract with the federal government. That contract has expired and the GED test has been sold to PearsonVue, a private, for-profit company. This change in ownership is resulting in many changes to the testing process, including cost. In July 2011 the cost of taking the GED test increased from $7.50 to $25, which resulted in a great hardship for many of our students. Knowing how that increase impacted our students, we want to make every effort possible to make the public aware of this new, upcoming increase.”

More changes will take effect in January 2014. The GED test will be aligned with the new common core standards adopted by 45 states, including North Carolina, and reduced to four components. The language arts-reading and language arts-writing tests will be combined into one literacy test. There will still be math, social studies and science tests. Additionally, there will be an increase in open response questions on the tests as opposed to the current multiple choice format.

Prior knowledge in social studies and science will be necessary for the new GED program format. Focusing themes in science will include human health and living systems. Focusing themes in social studies will include civics (50%), U.S. history (20%), economics (15%) and geography (15%). And the literacy and social studies tests will have a writing/essay component to them.

“Another big change is that text selections will increase in length from around 100 to 150 words to 400 to 900 words,” says Pilkington. “What this means to the student is more time will be needed to read the selections; therefore, students will have less time to go back and re-read when taking the test.”

Pilkington continued, “We have verified that passing scores on parts of the current (2002) series GED tests will still be valid with this change, however, students will have to pay the additional $24 for the tests they must still complete. I do know that beginning in January 2014, all GED test scores from the current (2002) series GED tests will become invalid, and anyone in the GED program will have to take the test series from the new version.”

The GED program is individualized for all students, however, a minimum of 60 hours of study is required in order to meet state and federal regulations for the program. Depending on initial assessment and placement, some students are able to complete within 60 hours but the majority of students require more time to finish.

“Remember, this is truly a high school equivalency. How far someone went in high school and how long they have been out of school can affect the amount of time it takes to acquire the necessary skills to pass all five tests,” adds Pilkington.

Wilkes Community College offers GED locations throughout its three-county service area. These sites include: North Wilkesboro Center, Family Central at Lincoln Heights, Goodwill Career Connections, Ronda Town Hall, WCC Ashe Campus, Riverview Community Center and WCC Alleghany Center. Distance Learning is also available in all three counties with registration by appointment. For class days and times at each of these locations, visit http://www.wilkescc.edu/GEDschedule/.

In addition to the ABE and GED programs, Wilkes Community College also offers the Adult High School (AHS) diploma through the Basic Skills Division. This program parallels the traditional high school diploma and honors credits already earned in a traditional high school.

For more information on these programs or to schedule an appointment for assessment testing, call 336-667-6493 (Wilkes County), 336-846-3900 ext. 3124 (Ashe County) and 336-372-5061 (Alleghany County).

Wilkes Community College, a member of the North Carolina Community College System, is a public, two-year, open-door institution serving the people of Wilkes, Ashe and Alleghany counties and beyond.