GED Testing Service

The GED Test as a Springboard for Opportunity  

The GED program serves adult learners over the age of 16 who have not received a high school diploma. However, the test is more than an assessment that determines high school-equivalency—it is an opportunity for adult learners to create a better life. When the American Council on Education first released the GED test in 1942, it was designed to help veterans re-enter the civilian workforce. The GED test is now operated through a joint venture between the American Council on Education and Pearson, which helps develop questions and administer the test. The test has helped bolster a generation of Americans returning from war, and its mission since has been to create opportunity for all Americans.


Percent of GED test-takers working part-time


Percent of GED test-takers who are unemployed


Percent of test-takers who said they were taking the GED test to qualify for post-secondary education

For many low-income families, earning high school-equivalency credentials has been critical to climbing out of poverty. Today, 19 percent of the 346,000 GED candidates are working part time and 36 percent are unemployed. Nearly a quarter make less than $20,000 a year—below the poverty line for a family of four.

"When I applied for a job, they would look over me because I was 19 without a GED. I [saw] the importance of a high school diploma, and how you get overlooked without it."

Tremayne, recent GED graduate, in an interview

In recent decades, increased competition in the labor market has made a post-secondary degree critical for employees to succeed. As early as 1988, more than 65 percent of candidates said they were taking the GED test to qualify for post-secondary education as opposed to directly entering the workforce. This prompted the GED test to shift its primary focus over time away from direct employment and toward post-secondary education.


Percent of GED test-takers enrolled in post-secondary education institutions within the first six months of 2015


Percent of test-takers prepared with the GED Ready Official Practice Test


Percent of test-takers who passed the GED test

Intended outcome 1

After earning their GED credential, learners will progress to post-secondary education.

In 2014, GED Testing Service conducted a study that showed 34 percent of GED graduates nationally had enrolled in post-secondary education within 6 months of graduating.

This number will likely exceed GED Testing Service’s goal of having 36 percent of GED graduates enrolled in post-secondary institutions a full year after receiving their credential. This six-month enrollment rate is more than a 30 percent increase from the 12-month enrollment rate GED test- takers had 10 years prior. It will be important to closely monitor the final number of GED graduates who enrolled in post-secondary institutions in all of 2015 to determine the overall effectiveness of the product and to set future goals for enrollment. In 2014, a higher percentage of GED graduates went on to pursue higher education than in any other year.

In response to an increasingly competitive labor market and a growing skills gap in the workforce, the GED test underwent another significant revision in 2014. The revised version of the test allows learners who score at the highest level to achieve college credits, which could further encourage them to pursue post-secondary education. Another significant component of this revision to the GED test was the transition to a digital platform. The official GED test, as well as practice tests and other features, are administered by computer. In addition to the flagship GED test, the program also offers the GED Ready, the Official Practice test, which provides a score predictive of performance on the actual GED test.

While users tout the ease and convenience of the MyGED portal, and more than 770,000 learners have online accounts, GED Testing Service intends to conduct further research to determine overall engagement on the platform. The number of MyGED users who take the GED practice test and complete the full battery of tests shows initial evidence of active user engagement on the platform.

Intended outcome 2

As the number of MyGED users increase, learners will take the official practice test as part of their preparation strategy.

An analysis of 2014 and 2015 results demonstrate that 51 percent of candidates prepared with the GED Ready Official Practice Test, surpassing the company’s target of 33 percent.

This target is based on historical percentages of test takers who completed the GED Ready Official Practice Test, and surpassing this benchmark shows strong improvement over time in the number of test-takers who prepare for the GED test.

"I was able to log in 24/7. I was able to look at my pre-tests and what I needed to work on … I could do the pre-test right on my computer screen at home on my own time, anytime I wanted."

Derry, recent GED graduate

As the GED test evolves and students use the practice test and other tools as part of their preparation strategy, the program aims to have more learners complete and pass the full GED test at increasing rates over time.

Intended outcome 3

Learners will complete and pass the full GED test at increasing rates over time.

An analysis of 2014 and 2015 test results indicates that 66 percent of candidates passed the GED test, well above the company’s goal of 59 percent.

To ensure learners will increasingly pass the GED test at the college and career-readiness performance standard, GED Testing Service conducted pilot studies in 2015 designed to help hone specific research questions that will guide a series of future longitudinal studies. These studies will also examine the progress learners are making toward the higher performance level. This is important for learners because higher skills levels are increasingly needed in order to enter and complete postsecondary education programs.

The GED test has evolved notably since its days as a pencil-and-paper test designed to help veterans to obtain a high school diploma. Seven decades later, the GED test is accompanied by services such as an online portal and a suite of preparation materials designed to prime learners to perform at their best on test day. In addition, an increasingly competitive economy has forced the test to shift even more significantly. College credits are now attainable for the highest scoring takers of the GED test, and enrollment in post-secondary education remains one of the highest priorities for the makers of the test. Many learners know that without a proper credential, long term economic success could remain out of reach.

A recent program called GEDWorks encourages employers to partner with the GED Testing Service to provide instruction, coaching, and support to employees who are seeking their GED credential. In 2015, several employers, including Walmart and KFC, launched the program free-of-cost to employees so that they could earn their high-school equivalency diploma.

GED Testing Service remains committed to helping Americans realize new and expanded economic opportunities by arming them with the preparation and tools they need to achieve their certification. The GED Testing Service has ambitious plans to conduct research that will further demonstrate the impact of their program on learners’ goals, such as jobs and post-secondary education. For an overview of these plans, please see the accompanying research report.

In 2013, we announced our efficacy initiative to measure the impact that our products and services have on our learners. We committed to publicly report our findings starting in 2018, and to subject those reports to external audit.  We are pleased to release our preliminary reports to share the work we have done so far and what we have planned ahead. The content in these reports reflects the continued refinement of our approach; while our work continues to advance, we are proud to share transparently what we have learned. We anticipate that we will continue to further refine these reports as we approach our 2018 target.

Age/Stage: Adult Learning

Type: Assessment

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