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December 10, 2013

Test-driven: Changes in GED exam take effect Jan. 2

NEW CASTLE — For some people, a GED is one of the most important pieces of paper they may possess.

And achieving that accomplishment could be a resolution for the new year.

Ashley Leonard had a goal to pass her GED and once she did, new doors opened up almost immediately.

Mastering the reading, writing, social studies and science tests for the GED was a breeze for Leonard.

But getting through the mathematics section was more of a struggle for the 23-year-old New Castle resident. The first time she took the math test, she didn’t pass.

On Nov. 28, she succeeded.

It was important for Leonard because she is trying to make life better for herself and her family. But it was also important that she passed when she did because beginning Jan. 2, the way GED testing is done will change and she would have had to start over again.

Leonard attended GED preparation at CareerLink through a program offered by Lifelong Learning Choices.

She took her tests on computer as opposed to the paper and pencil method, which will soon be eliminated.

Starting Jan. 2, all GED testing will be done via computer through the state-mandated Pearson Vue Testing Center. The 2014 series is no longer considered an endpoint but a starting point for further education, training and better-paying jobs.

TEST ALTERATIONS

There are more major changes taking effect the first of the year.

According to Gillian Maule, director of Lifelong Learning choices, the 2014 version includes four subjects — reasoning through language arts, social studies, science and mathematics.

Lynne Watson, education coordinator at Lifelong Learning Choices, said the version that has been used since 2002 was 100 percent multiple choice, whereas the 2014 test is 50 percent multiple choice. Both are based on the common core standard.

What was added was fill-in-the-blank, drop-and-drag, short answers in the language arts and science, and items where a blank is filled in using Hotspots, Watson noted.

Short answers are up to a paragraph in length while extended answers are equivalent to an essay, she continued. The 2002 test had no short answer feature.

Overall, the tests also demonstrate command of the computer.

“In this day and age, people need some degree of computer technology to be successful,” Maule said.

GRADING AND FEES

Scoring will change, too.

A student must achieve a score of 150 to pass, Watson said, adding scores of 150 to 169 are passing and a score of 170 to 200 is considered honors.

“It’s different because some colleges may accept the GED now and it also relates to employment.”

Scores will also be available immediately.

The reasoning-through-language-arts test takes about three hours to complete, the social studies test takes about 90 minutes to finish, and the science and math tests each require about 75 minutes to complete. The tests can be taken in segments or all at one time.

The computerized tests will cost $120.

Right now, there is no cost to take a practice test, but that will also change in 2014. There is an online practice test for each subject and it will cost between $4 and $6 for each practice test, Maule said.

CLASS ACTION

Meanwhile, some students are scrambling to finish a segment or segments of the 2002 version by the end of the year.

“We assist students to get registered for the tests,” Maule explained, adding each student has a goal, and the teacher knows that person’s strengths and weaknesses.

When the 2014 version goes into effect, a student can take each test three times in a calendar year, said Tracy Cherry, director of workforce development at Lawrence County Community Action Partnership — one of the sites where the tests are administered.

“Many individuals struggle with ‘what next’ once they earn the GED,” Cherry pointed out. “LCCAP offers various job readiness, employment assistance, and career exploration services to help individuals overcome barriers to employment, identify skills and build a career plan. This assistance is available now and into 2014.”

“Getting a GED is a nice accomplishment for students to have,” Maule added. “It’s difficult for some students. They may have to start all over again, take a deep breath, and recognize the progress they’ve already made, and their skills and abilities. But their life has been enhanced in some way working toward their educational goal. We are excited as an agency to move forward as we get into 2014.”

Leonard said the teachers and tutors do a phenomenal job and are terrific at building confidence.

“Their support got me through it.”

Passing her GED was life changing, she said, and she now plans to attend a college full time to study nursing or social work, and is searching for a job.

“You can’t get too far without a high school diploma. When I passed the GED, I cried because I was so happy.

“I know it will be hard but in the end, it will be worth it. I’m determined to do this. It’s never too late to get your education.”

(Email: lhudson@ncnewsonline.com)

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