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GED® Completion Rates?

Hello friends, A while back David Rosen posted a message asking about GED®  (and other high school equivalency tests) completion rates. I wanted to pose the question again since I'm hearing that the completion rates for the new GED® are shockingly low in PA. I'll share some stats from Pennsylvania in my next message. We are also experiencing much lower numbers of students in our GED® classes. I'm wondering how widespread this phenomenon is ---- or not -- for those who are using the new GED® test. How about for other high school equivalency tests?

Thanks, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP



strawman's picture

I am teaching at New Mexico State University-Alamogordo Adult Education and our GED program had over 300 students for 2013-2014 and we had 97 grads. This year 2014-2015, we have 150 students and only 2 grads so far. I think the student are intimidated by the new test (We use only the ED®) and feel they cannot pass. Many of the students do not like taking the test on the computer and liked the paper and pencil test.

misschristine's picture

I teach in a maximum security prison in Wisconsin.  Our GED testing numbers are down as well.  I think the reason here is that we pushed anyone through who was even close to passing the test.  The ones that did not pass had a lot left to learn to be successful.

paulaf's picture

I teach at an urban/suburban program near Minneapolis, MN. Our completion rates are also down; primarily, we think, because so many finished in 2013. Some of our class numbers are down (as are others in Minnesota), but enrollment in our evening GED prep program is at capacity. We think that is because employment has picked up and more of our potential students are working first shift. As we hear back from learners who take the actual GED, we're finding that they aren't actually that far off. What intimidated them and us at the start of the new test, is actually not that far off from what they can accomplish. It's the perception that seems to be holding some back. Each success we do have, we share like crazy. And this encourages others who can do it, to try. It's slow, but we're starting to see it make a difference.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Paula, Thank you for your post. I agree that sharing success as you say "like crazy" is a good strategy. Perception is likely part of the issue with this issue. We will definitely want to be sharing the success that is happening.

Cheers, Susan

Rachel Baron's picture

I also think that part of the drop in GED numbers is because we worked really hard to get our "borderline" students through by the end of last December. It might be more accurate to compare this year's data to 2012 than to 2013. That said, the new test is harder for most students. We are a voluntary program, and although I don't think our overall numbers are down, we have had fewer students who come in ready to pass the test, and although we still do get students who can pass the practice test after a month or two of prep classes, there are fewer of them.



Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hi Rachel, For sure there was a big push to complete the GED® last year, but we are also comparing pass rates this year to 2012, which also shows a huge difference in pass rate in our state. Do you think this will change over time as people get more familiar with the test or is this a much bigger problem?

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Thanks for your posting about what is happening at your program in NM.  In my view, it would be interesting and important to collect qualitative data on this issue to find out exactly how test takers and students -- as well as seasoned teachers-- are feeling and thinking about this new test.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Di Baycich's picture

The Cleveland Ohio Scene Magazine ran an article about the GED test and the drop in completion rates. I'd like to hear what others think about the reasons discussed in the article.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hi Di, Thanks for posting this. I'm eager to read it and to hear what members think.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

benmerrion's picture

This is a great article. Thanks much for sharing!

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hello Di and all, This article states that the new GED is designed specifically to prepare learners for college readiness and that career-readiness was an afterthought. We know that an increasing number of jobs require some training or college, which was the rationale for increasing the rigor of the test to be in line with the Common Core/CCRS. However, the author argues that many adults -- those who are most vulnerable, i.e. those who lack financial resources-- are being left behind. The author states that almost any job these days requires a high school credential or equivalency, a point that I think is obvious. The extremely low numbers of individuals who are taking the test -- let alone passing-- so far, would seem to validate the argument that many are being left behind.

The author also points out that familiarity and access to technology is a factor. Adults who have access to the internet at home have more opportunities to prepare. The cost of the practice tests is also mentioned as a barrier.

What do others think about these issues? Do you think this problem will sort itself out over time as everyone becomes more familiar with the test, or is this simply naive?

This problems seems quite serious to me. What viable solutions might there be? Please share your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, strategies, and solutions here.

Cheers, Susan

Assessment CoP

Kris Szovati's picture

The article did a great job at explaining how students are being left behind on the GED test. There are two things I want to comment on.

First, I don't think that the article emphasized enough that the price is prohibitive too. When the GED Testing Service paired with a for-profit company, the costs skyrocketed. Shame on them. It's like seeing Christmas as only a commercial holiday where the focus is on how much Americans spent instead of the meaning and roots of the holiday. I am very glad to see alternative tests out there now to compete with the GED test.

Second, our children are now receiving instruction that would adequately prepare them for a test like the new 2014 GED test. But our adults were never instructed the "common core" way. As a teacher, I am struggling not only to teach my students the content they need (more advanced algebra, for example), but I have to change the way they think about learning and education. The days are now gone when they simply need to read a passage and find the answer to the question in the paragraph. Perhaps that is a good thing, but that is precisely how our adults were taught.

Stephanie Moran's picture

Best piece I've read yet that captures the critical questions and issues that need to be addressed about GED 2014. Thank you for sharing it.

CTTurner's picture

I was asked to share this with the list. The National Council of State Directors of Adult Education just released a brief report entitled "The Decennial Scurry". This brief speaks to the lower testing rates and pass rates for all states in 2014 -- regardless of what test(s) they offer, if paper testing was the dominant delivery channel, and regardless of the cost of the test. I think this may be what the group has been looking for to help understand what happened in 2014 for all HSE tests. 

As a side note about passing rates for the GED test... About 1 in 4 GED test states achieved a pass rate over 70% last year, and three with pass rates over 80%. Math continues to be the subject that sets the pass for the national pass rate, as students can no longer mask lower Math scores on the new 2014 GED test as with past test series. Pass rates for the other three subjects nationally average around the mid to higher 70 percent range. Additionally, at least 75% of those adults who fail the Math test are within about 3 correct answers from passing.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Thank you, CT Turner, for posting "The Decennial Scurry." This is a very important summary that I hope all members will take time to read .Although I am not currently teaching an HSE class, I recently took the GED® Ready practice test to see for myself what the 2014 test is like. I found the test to be appropriately challenging. As so many members have noted, the math is definitely more difficult and covers more math concepts than the previous test. To teach the math effectively, I would need to prepare carefully. The reading and writing sections of the test require students to read closely and to think deeply, which are essential skills in the workplace and in post-secondary.

As this report articulates, the pass rate in the first year of any new test is always going to be lower. Once our teaching strategies align to the demands of the tests, we are certain to see improvement in the pass rates. Teachers need to seek out professional development to ensure they are able to provide the high quality instruction adult learners need.

Please weigh in with your thoughts on "The Decennial Scurry" report.

Cheers, Susan

SME, Assessment

Carole Scholl's picture

 The article is interesting, but states are seeing 70%+ drop in numbers, so the scurry--in and of itself- doesn't explain it. I think we all agree the test needed to be updated, but there's something not quite right about what's happening. Perhaps a glimpse into GED Testing Service's Annual Statistical Reports would be illuminating. But GEDTS has not released it yet for 2014.  Why? You can see nationwide and state results, and demographics of testers at this link:

Whatever test we use, we should also all be advocating for more advanced adult ed funding so that we can all provide instruction and student support that's needed.

Rachel Baron's picture

As I recall, the statistical reports are usually released about halfway through the next year. I don't think it's unusual that the 2014 one is not yet available. (Others can correct me if I'm wrong.)

While it is discouraging to see the decrease in numbers, I am proud of the level that our "passers" have reached. I feel good about sending them to the local community college and trade schools because I know they'll be up to the challenge. If the result of this change is that more students get more of their education from free adult education programs, thus avoiding remedial classes in the future, then I'm in favor of it.

I wholeheartedly agree with you that we need to be advocating for more funding. When you ask students to reach a higher bar, you must provide them with the resources, including quality instruction, that they need in order to reach it. Those resources do not appear magically out of nowhere. Either corners are cut elsewhere in the program, or the resources--most critically the training for instructors--get skimped on. That is the inequity here. When a student arrives at a publicly-funded adult education program with the time and energy available to study, the program ought to be able to provide adequate instruction to allow the student to reach that goal. There needs to be an acknowledgement that per-student instruction is more expensive with the new tests; technology and textbooks aside, the average amount of preparation time has increased. This is not just hours of class time per student, but also the hours of research, professional development, and lesson planning instructors must engage in. Teaching a wider range of more demanding material requires better preparation and more carefully designed classes.

In Pennsylvania, our programs are organizing to advocate for higher levels of funding. I know some other states are doing the same. The new tests aren't going to go away, so we need to make sure that we have the resources to help our students meet their expectations.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Carole and Rachel, You both make a good case for additional funding to prepare students for the more rigorous HSE tests. Teachers need a great deal of professional development and support since business as usual is not going to be enough.

Rachel wrote, "While it is discouraging to see the decrease in numbers, I am proud of the level that our "passers" have reached. I feel good about sending them to the local community college and trade schools because I know they'll be up to the challenge. If the result of this change is that more students get more of their education from free adult education programs, thus avoiding remedial classes in the future, then I'm in favor of it."

Adult educators play a critically important role in preparing students for the workplace and/or training and post-secondary education. There is no doubt  that more resources for professional development are needed and would be welcome!

Let's hear from others on this important issue. How are teachers  being prepared in your area? What is working well? What additional support would you like to see?

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hello friends, Here are the shocking stats from PA. There have been approximately 3,000 test takers in 2014 vs 25,000 in 2013 and 21,000 in 2012. In 2013, 19,500 people passed the GED® test in PA ; in 2012, 15,000 people passed; and in 2014, only 1,600 people have passed.

As some posters have noted, since there was such a big push to complete the GED® before the new test, the 2013 numbers are exceptionally high. BUT it is clear that the current numbers are dramatically  lower this year in PA than 2012, too.

It would be good to hear form members at other states that are using the GED®. Are you aware of your state's stats?

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Stephanie Moran's picture

2013--~ 13,000


Alfons Prince's picture

Good Morning Everyone!

My name is Alfons Prince and I teach/prepare adult students for the GED at a technology school in Washington DC. Since August we've only had two students pass the math piece of the exam. I have several theories for this, but my major one is that students aren't prepared for taking a test, much less an online test. During this time in between, I want to try and give my students practice tests. But testing that prepares them for testing. My students have the knowledge but the testing intimidates them. I would love any suggestions or any resources to combat this.


mak's picture


Aztec Software offers  FREE GED Practice Tests on the computer. Your students will get an opportunity to take a test in each of the subjects covered on the GED 2014 and receive a readiness indication along with a remediation recommendations.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hello colleagues, Any and all information about free online materials would be welcome. Do you know of other resources that are free? The cost for practice tests, according to the article posted by Di Baycich, is one of the barriers for adult learners and programs. Please share information here!

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Karen Zandarski's picture

I have been researching this same topic and how it applies specifically to the extended response portion of the test. 

If anyone is interested in reading my paper, I have attached a copy. It discusses the challenges and a few solutions to teaching the extended response. 

Here is a link to my blog post with my paper:

I would love to hear successes of other teachers. 



Susan Finn Miller's picture

Karen, Thank you for sharing your blog with us. As was noted in the Ohio article cited in the discussion above, you acknowledge that many learners lack keyboarding skills, even though they often have access to and are comfortable with technology. Of course, to complete an essay online as required on the GED(r), one must be able to type fairly well.

Your comparison of the extended response with the previous GED(r) narrative writing task and how to teach the extended response will be useful to others who are preparing students to take this test. You argue that teaching reading and writing together is the way to go, and I would concur. I would add that we need to engage students in TALKING about what they are reading and writing, too. When students have the opportunity to talk about what they are reading and writing this deepens their understanding and supports them to build the academic language they need to reflect higher-order thinking. What are your thoughts about this?

What do others think about the value of integrating listening, speaking, reading and writing?

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Barbara Baker's picture

Hello Susan,

When Western Iowa Tech started the STAR Reading program, we bought textbooks first. We bought only enough to use in class and asked the students not to write in them. Books we're using are Groundwork for a Better Vocabulary, 4th ed. and Groundwork for College Reading in Phonics. As I was reading the "To the Instructor" part of the book, I read where Townsend Press had an online site that was designed to go with the textbooks. So I contacted them and their support team approved an account for myself and a co-teacher. It's really great. As we finish a chapter, we go into the lab and students that we have put into the program can go to the class we set up and do online exercise and tests that are covering the same type of material we're covering in the books. We did not pay any extra for this, however they do have it advertised on their site that students can sign up for what they call "Vocabulary Plus." It would be so much per student if we bought several spots. This would give students access to a whole list of books that cover Reading and Vocabulary and some novels online that can be listened to, etc. We haven't done this yet because we've exhausted our budget. As an administrator with the account they provided for us, we as teachers, do have access to that whole big list of books. I cannot say enough about how well it's been received by the students. After a question is completed, there's a brief explanation about why it's right or why it's wrong. I love it! The support team at Townsend had also been incredible. Joe Webb is who helped me in the beginning work through it all and get it set up. I dealt with a different support person today to ask if they could set up two more instructors. She was awesome too! She said that all you would need to do is go to Townsend Press and request to have an account set up. Then you have to wait for approval. I'm not sure if you would need to order books to be approved, but you might try it and see all the wonderful resources they have to offer! Good luck.

Meryl Becker-Prezocki's picture

Hi to Alfons and others,

I think that a way to help the students who are intimidated by the actual testing process is to use the testimonials from students that have successfully passed the test.  That can be very powerful.  You might want to video tape the student who passed the test or collect student comments and post them on a wall or bulletin board.  Has anyone encountered success with doing this at your workplace?


David J. Rosen's picture

Susan and others,

In an article published on December 17th in the Cleveland Scene the claim is made that: "In the United States, according to the GED Testing Service, 401,388 people earned a GED in 2012, and about 540,000 in 2013. This year, according to the latest numbers obtained by Scene, only about 55,000 have passed nationally. That is a 90-percent drop off from last year."

I am not sure where the Cleveland Scene got their data on 2014 GED(r) pass rates. Has GEDTS published this data yet for 2014?

David J Rosen




Kathy_Tracey's picture

Thank you for sharing this.

I would be curious if we had statistics on the TASC and the HiSet as well. What are their pass rates? And, when the GED test changed in 2002, did we see similar trends in lower numbers of graduates in the first 6 months of that test? 

David J. Rosen's picture


As I get new information about the GED2014®, the TASC®, and the HiSET®, I will add to this post. So far, I have (unofficial) reports from eight states on GED®2014 results. We also have some preliminary national GED2014® results.  If you have a report on HSE results for 2014 for your state, please post it here, or email it to me and I can add it to this post.

David J. Rosen


Preliminary 2014 National Results

"Nationally, the GED Testing Service says while it has seen a "sizable decrease," it won't be able to release final 2014 numbers for several weeks. But here's what we know so far:

— In 2012, a total of 401,388 people passed the GED test.

— In 2013, people rushed to take the old test in its final year, creating a bump: A total of 540,535 people passed.

— How many earned a GED credential in 2014? In the general population: 58,524.

This drop, first reported in the Cleveland Scene newspaper, is dramatic, but that 2014 number is also incomplete. It excludes state and federal prisoners — thousands of whom pass the test in a typical year (although, in the past, many fewer than 100,000). It also excludes those taking alternative tests, though that number, too, is not yet large.

The decrease is considerable and, combined with the development of those alternative tests and some states' decision to abandon the GED entirely, represents a challenge to the exam's decades-long dominance in the field of high school equivalency."

Source: NPR Article "A 'Sizable Decrease' in Those Passing the GED" January 9,2015

State Results


"In my mind, to calculate the Pass Rates, don't we count the entire number of Test Takers (6,530 in PA) and calculate the percentage of Passers (2,194)?  That would mean that 33.5% of those that began the testing process were actually successful in reaching their goal (not a 60.30% Pass Rate).

In Colorado, out of the 4,460 individuals who took at least one GED test, only 1,707 went on to pass all the tests--a 38% pass rate.  Even though there are many reasons that individuals begin the process and don't go on to complete, we are finding that the test itself is a stumbling block to the average adult needing this high school equivalency diploma.  Many individuals are--once again--being left behind."

Glenda Sinks, 1.7.15 post to the LINCS Assessment CoP


The number of people taking the new, computer-based GED high-school equivalency test in Georgia also dropped dramatically in 2014, and the number of people passing the test at the beginning of the year declined even more, but by the end of the year approached the pass rate of previous years.

·      As of Nov. 31, 5,340 people had completed the test and 2,270 had passed, a 51 percent pass rate. However, the pass rate for the new test has increased throughout this year as teachers and students grow more used to it. Only 29 percent passed in January 2014, the first month it was administered, but 70 percent passed in November, close to the usual average for those who complete the entire four-part test

·      For the 2013 calendar year, 28,732 people completed the previous test and 22,178 passed, or about 77 percent

·      In 2012, 24,053 completed that test and 15,980 passed, or about 66 percent, Source: Technical College System of Georgia statistics reported in “Dramatic drop in GED numbers for Georgia, nation”

Source: 12.30.2014 Athens Banner-Herald article


"The Idaho Department of Correction would typically have 350 - 400 completions within a twelve month period.  The IDOC ended 2014 with 66 GED completions.  Testing began within the IDOC on April 1, 2014."
Source: Private correspondence (posted with permission) from Julie Oye-Johnson, M.Ed., IDOC Director of Education Services

New Mexico                                                                                                                               

New Mexico State University-Alamogordo Adult Education and our GED program had over 300 students for 2013-2014 and we had 97 grads. This year 2014-2015, we have 150 students and only 2 grads so far. I think the student are intimidated by the new test (We use only the ED®) and feel they cannot pass. Many of the students do not like taking the test on the computer and liked the paper and pencil test.”

Source: Judith Strawderman, December 17, 2014 post to LINCS Assessment CoP


·      “…according to the GED Testing Service, 401,388 people earned a GED in 2012, and about 540,000 in 2013. This year, according to the latest numbers obtained by Scene, only about 55,000 have passed nationally. That is a 90-percent drop off from last year.”

·      “In Ohio, 16,092 passed the test in 2012, and 19,976 did so in 2013, but only 1,458 have passed so far this year.”

Source: “Nearly 500,000 Fewer Americans Will Pass the GED in 2014 After a Major Overhaul to the Test. Why? And Who's Left Behind?” Article in December 17 Cleveland Scene


·  There were 6,530 test takers in 2014 vs. 24,937 in 2013 and 20,956 in 2012. In 2013, 17,654 (77.80%) of test-takers passed the GED® test in PA ; in 2012, 12,996 (70.50%) of test-takers passed; and in 2014, only 2,194 (60.30%) of test takers have passed. (Corrected version of 1.5.15)

Source: Susan Finn Miller. January 5, 2015 post to LINCS Assessment CoP

Rhode Island

“The number of Rhode Island students who passed the GED has dropped dramatically. The Providence Journal reported that as of Dec. 3, 225 students had passed the high school equivalency test in Rhode Island, compared with 2,363 in 2013. Just 625 people have taken the test in Rhode Island in 2014. The Journal reported the GED is more difficult. A spokesman for the national GED program said numbers are down nationally. (AP)”



"The data released by TEA[Texas Education Agency] though, shows that 23,526 people were tested in 2014 with 9,890 people passing the test compared to 63,006 taking the test in 2013 with 44,330 passing the test." Source: 1.7.15 San Antonio Current article (that discusses some of the multiple changes in Texas in 2014 that could account for the lower passing rate)




Susan Finn Miller's picture

David, Thank you for posting this and for inviting members to contribute details from their states. It will be very helpful to have all of this information available to the field.

Happy New Year, all!


Moderator, Assessment CoP

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hello colleagues, I need to correct the GED® figures I previously reported. See below for the revised data from PA. I understand that the official 2014 statistical report has not yet been published. Also, it's relevant to note that PA has a grandfather policy which gives credit to individuals who passed portions of the old version of the test. When these individuals pass, they do not show up in the 2014 data.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP





Test takers












Pass Rate




Glenda Sinks's picture

In my mind, to calculate the Pass Rates, don't we count the entire number of Test Takers (6,530 in PA) and calculate the percentage of Passers (2,194)?  That would mean that 33.5% of those that began the testing process were actually successful in reaching their goal (not a 60.30% Pass Rate).

In Colorado, out of the 4,460 individuals who took at least one GED test, only 1,707 went on to pass all the tests--a 38% pass rate.  Even though there are many reasons that individuals begin the process and don't go on to complete, we are finding that the test itself is a stumbling block to the average adult needing this high school equivalency diploma.  Many individuals are--once again--being left behind.


Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hi Glenda, Thanks for your post. The numbers I reported for Pennsylvania come directly from our state office. However, I can't say for certain how the figures are calculated. If anyone has insight into this, please add to the conversation.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Sue Snider's picture

Hi Susan,

When I was doing research for my doctorate, which focused on the characteristics of GED students, in my explanation of GED-related terms, I had to define the terms GED test taker, GED completer, and  GED passer so the reader could understand the difference. While the statistics change every year, the definitions don't. According to the  2013 Annual Statistical Report on the GED(r) test, which reported the stats for 2012, the glossary defines these terms. I know the terminology refers to the GED 2002, but below are the distinctions among the terms. A test taker can certainly complete all parts of the test without passing a specific state's requirements for a GED certificate. Below is what I copied from Appendix B: Definition of Terms (pp. 88-90). Perhaps this will clear up some of the confusion.


GED® test candidates − Adults who have tested in at least one of the five content areas of the GED® test, regardless
of whether they completed or met the GED® test passing standard. In this report, the terms candidates and test-takers
are used interchangeably with GED® test candidates.

GED® test completers − Candidates who have tested in all five content areas of the GED® test, regardless of whetherthey met the GED® test passing standard. The number of completers serves as the denominator for calculating the passrate. A candidate must have completed all five content areas and met the minimum passing standard in order to beconsidered a passer. In this report, the term completers is used interchangeably with GED® test completers.

GED® test passers − Completers who have met their jurisdiction’s minimum passing standard (see Appendix A for
detailed score requirements). The number of adults who met the passing standard serves as the numerator for
calculating the pass rate. Some jurisdictions require adults to fulfill additional requirements beyond passing the GED®
test in order to receive a GED® test credential (see Appendix A). In this report, the term passers is used
interchangeably with GED® test passers.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Thanks for clarifying these terms for us, Sue!

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hello friends, These stories about low GED® pass rates made the front page of the Lancaster News yesterday.

Revised GED Test Creates Hurdle for Many

How Has the GED Changed?

 Test Yourself with Sample GED Questions

Comments welcome!

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Meryl Becker-Prezocki's picture

Hi to all,

Here is another article that was posted on January 26 in the Detroit Free Press: GED overhaul: Tougher test, less success 

Meryl Becker-Prezocki

Laurie Bargstedt's picture

Thanks for posting this. I enjoyed reading about others people's thoughts.

JackieTaylor's picture

Hi All,

I thought you would find this of interest. Just out on PBS: Is the new GED test an educational improvement or setback? Thank you to both Lecester Johnson and Randy Trask for having this conversation on PBS NewsHour.

"An overhaul of the GED to meet Common Core standards has made the high school equivalency test more rigorous and more expensive. As a result, fewer people are taking and passing it. Gwen Ifill gets debate from Randy Trask of the GED Testing Service and Lecester Johnson of Academy of Hope about what the changes mean."

What do you all think about the arguments they presented? What would you add to what they discussed?

Jackie Taylor

SME, Evidence-based Professional Development Community of Practice


David J. Rosen's picture

Thanks Jackie for calling this national debate on the GED(R) exam to our attention. This is a useful debate, and one that is happening now in many states, both those that have gone through a formal high school equivalency exam procurement process and chosen the GED(r) exam and the more than half of the states that have not completed a formal procurement yet.

I was surprised that GEDTS CEO Randy Trask didn't mention that there are two levels of the GED(r) exam, the traditional high school equivalency level normed on graduating high school seniors as well as the new College and Career readiness level. I wonder why the high school equivalency level doesn't meet the needs of the people that Academy of Hope Executive Director, Lecester Johnson -- and many others -- are rightly concerned about, who don't necessarily want to go to college (yet). Anyone have thoughts about this? Perhaps Lecester could join this discussion. I would be interested to hear her answer, as well as others' answers.

It is important to keep in mind that in the competitive high school equivalency exam environment  -- currently there are three competing tests including the GED(r) --  the other two tests (TASC and HiSET) will likely also be raising their bars in 2015 and 2016. Will that mean that the "bar too high" phenomenon that Lecester has described will play out in all states, that even in the few states that currently offer options of two or three HSE tests, there will be fewer choices for adult learners and programs?

Some readers may be interested in reading the whole discussion that has been taking place about the HSE -- and in particular the GED(R) exam -- here on the Assessment list. As part of this discussion I have posted an update on what is happening with HSE completion rates in several states and provided a reasonably up-to-date list of what states offer what test(s) and a list (with information provided by CTB McGraw Hill's Mike Johnson) about which of the 28 states that have not done a formal procurement process plan to do that or are doing that now.

I wonder if this important HSE discussion might be of interest to members of other LINCS CoPs. If so, perhaps someone could cross-post an announcement about it on those where there might be some interest.

David J. Rosen


David Kester's picture

I agree the open debate about the meaning of the change is a good thing. David, Interesting that you mention the two levels of the GED. It is my understanding that if they pass it, without honors, they still pass it. So, even though the standards were raised as a way of supposedly getting rig of the gap between passers and college and career readiness, it still remains.  As a result of looking at the test, I will definitely agree that the gap has been narrowed, but interesting that it still remains isn't it?   

The question of fewer people taking the test needs to be interrogated carefully.Why are the numbers down? There are multiple different possible interpretations.

Carole Scholl's picture

Every week we see recommendations that adults need to learn more to earn more (get on career pathways, etc) --consistently low rates of GED attainment this past year are tremendously concerning!  Here in our Portland OR program- we have the same # of students, but students aren't getting to a high enough level to take and pass the GED test. Of those who have passed, they are our "gifted" students-- the 1% of our studentswho don't need much help from a teacher. For them, the new GED works great! 

I think also that the GEDTS/Pearson Vue online practice test system is very flawed- students get discouraged and don't get the classroom help they need......

Terry's picture

Some of our students have been doing the online high school available in Michigan instead of the GED? Have any of you noticed this in your state?

Terry Pruett-Said

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Terry, Thanks for bringing up this topic. It would be great to hear more about online high schools. How does this work exactly? Are students earning credit toward a traditional high school diploma? How are these schools funded ?

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP


David Kester's picture

At New River Community College, in Virginia, we have an online High School program that we sometimes use with our students of Middle College age, and also Adult Education students. We cooperate with a private online high school in West Virginia, to give diploma's to students who can not get one in cooperation with the local district, for whatever reason. However, we have another service provider that helps us work with students in cooperation with local school districts. That way we are able to provide a full list of options for all our students, and piece together a plan that is in their best interest.  I think this is an important part of Adult Education programs, and will likely increase as you indicated.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

David, Thank you for posting about how your program in Virginia is making an online high school diploma a viable options for adult learners. Could you clarify what you mean by "middle college" age? I'm also curious about the funding. Would you be able to offer any details about that.

It would be great to hear from others who offer this option to adult learners in their communities.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Debra Burdman's picture

Could you please give me more information about your online diploma program...what program do you use.  We are looking into CyberHigh. Has this program been successful with anyone?




David Kester's picture


We use multiple different ones for different reasons. When we give out a diploma in cooperation with the local school districts, we use a online curriculum provider they recognize - APEX.  Here is their link

When, for many different reasons, the student is not able or willing to get a diploma in cooperation with their home district, we have a private online high school we use - Compuhigh.  Here is their link

They have both been very good partners.  If the student does not want to use either of these options, we have online GED preparation they can use. We were looking into the National External Diploma for some students missed in this toolkit, but that had to be put on the back burner for a while.

If you have any other questions, feel free to let me know!  


David Kester's picture

Middle College is for youth from 18-24 for those that want to get their GED or HSD and goto college. Here is the link for our program

It was originally funded by the state VCCS system, which has now run out to my understanding. So, the community college is picking up the expense of the program.  Our MC is part of an office that administers many other Adult Education services that are funded by State grants. So it is what we euphemistically call a program with "blended funding."  



Jon Engel's picture

Thanks Jackie for posting the PBS video.  David, I think the reason that Randy Trask did not mention the two level cutoff score--one for HSE and one for college readiness is that the bi-level cutoff score does not exist, at least as I thought it would.  What appears to be the case is that passing students can earn a passing grade on the test or a passing grade with honors.  These seem to be the cutoff scores.  Regular passing would indicate high school equivalency. I suspect the devil is in the details of the norming process GEDTS utilized.  Several months back I asked Martin Kehe if the norming process was going to be essentially the same as for the 2002 GED test where the norm was set at the level where 60% of high school seniors passed and 40% did not.  Martin said that it would essentially the same combined with some sort of focus group or other strategy.   The test is not normed at a level anything close to 60/40 in my view.  One need only look at the ridiculous Math question in the Cleveland Scene article to see that the wheels have fallen off the bus.

I thought the Cleveland Scene article was an excellent overview of the whole situation.  When one thinks about it, one might say with a certain level of confidence, that testing to the Common Core standards is at the heart of the Pearson business model.  It is heavily invested in the Common Core and any commitment to testing toward anything else is not viewed as profitable.  As a result, the valued intent and historical legacy of the GED test trying to account for and somehow "measure" the life experiences of adults starting with the returning WWII GIs is totally absent.  And that is a shame.  From what little I can glean regarding the other HSE options out there, I believe that the HiSet is the HSE test most appropriate for the adult education population in the US.


Best Regards,

Jon Engel


Susan Finn Miller's picture

Thanks for posting this, Jackie. It's good to see this issue in the national conversation. As David pointed out, we have been discussing this in the Assessment Community, so folks may want to check there to add further comments. The article in the Cleveland Ohio Scene magazine piece is especially relevant. (Thanks to Di Baycich for posting this.) One point that is raised in the article, among several other important ones, is that many learners do not have credit or debit cards to pay for the online test. This may be a fairly minor issue, but it is real.

Also, relevant is the fact that the American Federation of Teachers (union) has endorsed Hi-SET over the GED due to issues around equity.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

JackieTaylor's picture

Good morning, everyone,

Thanks David, John, and Susan, I'll be sure to refresh on the Assessment Group discussion as well. I'd like to add another national article to this cross-posted discussion that just came out this morning on NPR. You can listen to or read the story here:

A 'Sizable Decrease' In Those Passing The GED

The audio version of the NPR report includes quotes from a master's level teacher of 30 years who said that she took the practice test but did not pass it. Have others here in this discussion taken the practice test? If so, what was your experience of it?

Thanks all, for the very timely discussion.


Jackie Taylor, SME, Evidence-based Professional Development Community of Practice

Kathy_Tracey's picture

I believe we are seeing significant decreases in completion rates for many reasons. Increased costs in tests, longer preparation time due to the expectation of background knowledge in some of the content areas, higher expectation of content knowledge for the student are some of the reasons.  However, I am more intrigued about the comment about the master's level teacher not being able to pass the practice test. This statement says volumes about the struggle many teachers are feeling. Throughout my professional development experiences, I have heard from teachers across the country and their main concern is the struggle with teaching content areas in which they are not experts. For example, teachers who are strong in math are often not experts in the social studies or science areas and reading teachers no longer feel comfortable teaching the higher level math. 

I have taken the practice tests and passed the content areas, but I will admit my scores were not as high as I would have preferred. 








Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hello Kathy and all, I think teachers taking practice tests is a good idea. We need to understand the structure and content of the test we are preparing students for. When I was teaching for the GED®, I took several practice tests so I could support students in their preparation. Since I am not currently teaching for the GED®, I have not taken any of the new practice tests. I hope to find time to do that, especially in light of the discussion we've been having.

Thanks for sharing your experience with this. I welcome other teachers to share their experience with taking practice tests themselves.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP


Barbara Baker's picture

Is there a way to take this online? 

I looked at it and really struggled myself with understanding the questions and they way they were asked. I actually need to cover all of this for my new class. I have never had HiSED students before; I'm coming from ELL and moving into HiSED. The questions are layed out funny and I did struggle at first glance. I thought about scanning a sheet and projecting it to simply show the students how to read the questions before they ever get to answering them, but I didn't know if that was allowed. If there's something online that I can show them and practice with them, please let me know. Thanks.

Rachel Baron's picture

There is a free 1/4-length practice test available on the GEDTS website. (It's pretty much the same thing as the item sampler, so you can search for either.) Students with MyGED accounts should also be able to access it, although it gets moved around occasionally.

Rachel Baron's picture

I am interested in the implication here that some of the drop in completion rates may be in part because the instructors are struggling to teach the new material. As a GED instructor, I know firsthand that this new test has presented a steep learning curve to teachers--even a year later, I am still working hard to adapt my teaching to the new test. I am alternately overwhelmed by everything I have to teach my students to do and excited by the higher level of work that they can accomplish.

As the difficulty of the test has increased, there has been a corresponding increase in the difficulty of teaching students who are preparing for the test. We have to become more familiar with a wider array of topics, and we have to learn material well enough to teach it. We are also still getting a feel for the relative importance of different skills. It's possible that as teachers gain experience, there will be a rise in our success rates. It's also possible that, due to factors like the ones Kathy cited (cost, length, content knowledge), we won't ever fully regain the ground we lost.

As far as I can see, the biggest challenge is simply time. It takes a student more time to prepare for a harder test. Many of our students have limited time to devote to education. There will be more of them who simply don't have the time they would need in order to succeed. Can that gap be narrowed by effective teaching? Probably. Can it be closed? That remains to be seen.

Barbara Baker's picture

Running out of time on the essay part is what another instructor in our area said her students stressed over the most. She said they were able to do the writing, but not in the time allowed. 

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Rachel, You have raised an issue that has not yet been brought up here, and one that I'm certain is a factor -- i.e., teacher preparation. It would be interesting to hear how states and programs have been supporting their teachers to teach the new test effectively.

What professional development have GED® teachers found helpful? What kind of additional support would you like to be able to access?

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

David J. Rosen's picture

Colleges interested in the HSE,

The Cleveland Scene published another article on the GED(r) 2014 exam on December 17th, 2014, "Nearly 500,000 Fewer Americans Will Pass the GED in 2014 After a Major Overhaul to the Test. Why? And Who's Left Behind?" by Daniel McGraw.

David J. Rosen

Susan Finn Miller's picture

David, This link takes us to the same article posted previously. Is there another one?


Alfons Prince's picture

Good Morning Everyone!

I have read the comments on the new GED and the drop in students that are passing it. We are experiencing the same type of drops at my school. After reading the article I would be interested in hearing someone from the collegiate side to speak if the GED represents as assessment that they would want their incoming freshmen to know.

As for the job-seekers, I try to get my students to understand that them conquering this test will set them up for success in terms of learning new skills for their jobs. Also, can anyone speak to what employer look at (if anything at all) when they inquire are an employee having a GED.

Lastly, thank you to those who responded about GED software. It is much appreciated.


Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hi Alfons and all, My understanding is that the new GED® was designed to be in line with the Common Core to address the gap in GED graduates' preparation for college. The large number of students in college developmental courses is evidence of this gap. I am less certain about the role employers played in the design of the new GED®. 

What do other members know about the development process?

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

CTTurner's picture

I thought it would be helpful to add a bit more information about the change in the GED pass rate between 2014 and the last time a new GED test series was released in 2002. 

Here's some more detail about how the pass rate has changed:  
Overall,nationally, the individual subject test pass rates for 2014 are closely aligned with subject test pass rates in 2002 (despite common perceptions). The significant change from 2002 to 2014 was the elimination of the compensatory model. In the past test-takers didn't need to reach a full HS equivalency level in Math, as they could make up extra points on a different subject to boost their overall passing score total. In fact, if the 2002 cut score for Math was 450 instead of 410--which would be more equal to today's Math test 150 HS equivalency passing score-- the Math pass rate in 2002 would have been 60.3%. However, due to the compensatory model the overall 2002 pass rate jumped to 70%. The 2014 test is different because test-takers must be able to demonstrate a HS equivalent level of knowledge and skill in all subject area before passing the GED test. 
Additionally, more than 75% of test-takers that fail Math are within 10 points of passing.
Professional Development Resources
We have put a number of professional development resources on the GED Testing Service website (, as well as a list of frequently missed skills/concepts on the 2014 GED test (released this last summer). On that page you'll find a number of resources, including: an eight-week, self-paced free course; a content comparison between 2002 and 2014 tests; instructional videos; training courses; and other resources. Staff and consultants are frequently traveling to states to present sessions on professional development, so be on the look out for those in your area.
You can expect us to continue our professional development activities over the next year, and look for a new version of the "frequently missed" document with some examples included in the coming months.
Douglas Paul Landwehr's picture


Do you know what points are allocated for the Extended Responses in RLA, Social Studies and Science? I have heard that the GED Ready does not count those responses in its practice score because the software cannot be attached to a $6 test. If I knew (I suspect that they are weighted) what the score range was for the various Responses, I could adjust my teaching to either emphasize or de-emphasize the curriculum accordingly. I have seen some poor writers pass the RLA with room to spare, so I suspect that less emphasis is given to the essay than in years past.

Since I am a writer, this breaks my heart to de-emphasize the writing aspect of the test, but it that is what it takes to allow my students to efficiently pass, then so be it. Again, I am not looking for testing secrets, just a range of points. 

And, thanks for all your information about the test. I pass it along to team members and part-time instructors so we can all help our students.

twillis1's picture

Hey Doug, I don't know if this will help you but I understand the extended responses and short answers response is as follows: RLA is worth 6 points; Social Studies 4 points; and Science 3pt/short answer response. All points are doubled if the students answer appropriately. For instances, if the student gets 6 points for the RLA portion he is given 12 points for that response. So yeah, the extended answer portion on the RLA and Social studies as well as the short answers for the science is critical. I hope this information is useful to you.



I wanted to follow up on this comment, and find out if it is fact or opinion and whether it can be located on the GED TS site: "I understand the extended responses and short answers response is as follows: RLA is worth 6 points; Social Studies 4 points; and Science 3pt/short answer response. All points are doubled if the students answer appropriately. For instances, if the student gets 6 points for the RLA portion he is given 12 points for that response." 

It is contrary to what I have learned about the writing portion/s of the GED exam, so want to make sure I am understanding it correctly.  Thank you!


CTTurner's picture

Doug, Twillis and JN... those points seem to be right on target. You can find the information on the GEDTS FAQ page at:  or this, plus other detailed information about what's covered on the 2014 GED test in the Assessment Guide for Educators at:

twillis1's picture

Thanks a bunch CTTurner. I could not remember the websites.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hello all, I would like to hear more about this issue, too, since I've heard anecdotally from a teacher that students have been able to pass the GED® without writing at all. Has anyone had that experience?

Cheers, Susan

SME, Assessment CoP

Douglas Paul Landwehr's picture

I would not be surprised. If you look at the test strategically, the 45-minute Extended Response is only a 6-point loss. If a student struggles with writing, then those points may not be worth the extra effort.On the GED 2002 version, if the student answered all the multiple choice questions correct, but wrote a substandard essay, he or she failed the GED Language Arts: Writing test. That would not happen now.

I'm not saying the writing element is unimportant (especially if the student has any aspirations of going on to a post-secondary credential), but it is no longer a base requirement. 

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hi Douglas, Thanks for your comment. I would say what you describe is accurate. I agree that adult learners who have aspirations to go on to post secondary absolutely need to be able to write, so it's disappointing to me that the writing component is not essential.

At the same time, I would say that the type of writing featured on this test is more in line with the type of writing adults need to do in their lives as well as in post secondary.-- that is, compared to the old version of the test.

What do members think about the type of writing featured on this test? How do the 2014 GED® writing expectations compare with those of the other high school equivalency tests?

Cheers, Susan

SME, Assessment COP

Stephanie Moran's picture

The RLA writing and its time limit make sense; the SS time limit is dreadful despite GEDTS's contention that 25 minutes is plenty. I applaud the fact that students now need to be much more familiar with key historical documents, thinkers, and events and be able to synthesize material in a sophisticated way, but good lord--25 minutes?! We are dooming most of our students to failure and feeling like failures. Extend this time by an hour, and I can expect my students to grapple with the prompt, consider prior knowledge and how best to incorporate it, and then write and revise.

Amy Petcoff's picture

I've been in several trainings with the actual GEDTS people.  All scores are doubled.  So, the 6 points for the RLA is a raw score but the actual score is 12, the 4 for the SS becomes 8 and so on.


janekelly's picture

Here is some info just released by Larry Breeden, Adult Education Administrator, NJ Office of Certification and Induction
 "Below is NJ’s 2014 TASC  statistics.   Looks like we are at a 67%  pass rate, which is just about the same as we were under the old GED.  I don’t have the final numbers in front of me, but I believe it is pretty close to what the Hi-Set numbers are as well.  For the GED we are at 59 %."


My personal experience with students in Bergen County (across he bridge from Manhattan)  taking TASC and Hi-SET is that they are passing at an even higher rate, but very few are willing to try. They are afraid of failing and put off by the $92 fee (up for $50 in 2013). 

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Thanks for sharing the statistics from New Jersey, Jane. When you say that "very few are willing to try" are you referring to the GED® or the other high school equivalency tests?

Cheers, Susan

Assessment, Assessment CoP

janekelly's picture

I was referring to any HSE exam.  The GED is not offered in our county or nearby, so our students choose TASC or Hi-SET.

Mandrews's picture

I found this stream interesting- we are all dealing with a new test, GED or TASC and seeing varying results. Here in NY, the test is aligned with COmmon Core, and yet, High School is not- (working toward it, but not rolled up yet). So people who drop out today, take the test, are testing at a higher rate, level, than they would be if they had just staying in High School. Right now, the test is harder than high school. I try to tell them that, but they don't believe me.

I don't know the real numbers on pass/fail rates, but my students are passing, many of whom never passed before.

I believe, because they haven't had that many people take the test, the curve is big, and you need to get very few right in order to pass.

While I don't find this right- I know that sooner or later, the curve will work itself out.

I think the new test is good- we need a harder test, High School is harder, and it should not be easier to drop out and take the test- or more will do it. If it is discouraging, it was made to be that way so that people (kids) do not choose this route.


Susan Finn Miller's picture

Thanks for sharing your experience with TASC, Margie. It's good to hear that students are passing even though you are saying that it is a harder test.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean when you describe the curve "and you need to get very few right in order to pass." How does this work exactly?

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Steve H.'s picture

[My comments here are focused on math because that is my expertise. I have worked in adult education for 10 years, across many states—as a math teacher, educational researcher, professional developer, curriculum developer, and as a consultant giving feedback on a number of federal adult education projects.]

In my view, there are deep tensions lying underneath the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the OCTAE-recommended subset of those standards for adult education, and the new HSE exams that are being discussed here.

On the one hand, it makes sense that there should be a relationship between what adult learners are doing, and the standards that we imagine are guiding instruction in the K-12 system. It’s important to remember, though, that the CCSS remains an aspiration. We do not have a large share of K-12 students meeting these standards, and we shouldn’t expect to see this any time soon.

The tensions I see in adult education stem from three competing expectations. Firstly, federal/state governments and testing companies want to project that adult numeracy teaching and HSE math tests are “aligned” or are “aligning” over time with the CCSS. Secondly, practitioners and governments believe that adults should not be held to a higher standard than high school learners (who are largely not meeting CCSS standards at present). And thirdly, practitioners and governments don’t want to see pass rates plummet on HSE exams. Simply put, these goals cannot be achieved at the same time.

The testing companies are in a heated battle for market share around the country, and some or all of them are likely tinkering with their tests to reach a “sweet spot” in the pass rate—not too high, and not too low. They can do this on the math test in a few ways. One way is to change the average difficulty of the questions, but there is a tension here because they want to project the image that they are a rigorous test aligned with the CCSS. Another way is to keep lots of difficult content, but change the number of correct answers needed to pass (the cut score). Normally, I would not expect any of the companies to admit that they are tinkering with the average difficulty level of the questions, with the cut scores, or with both of these to reach a particular pass rate, but I think we have this when one of the companies apparently claims that its pass rate will mirror the pass rate on the old GEDTS exam.

Even when company representatives say their math test is guided by a norming study done of high school students, the way those studies are designed gives the company lots of flexibility in how they ultimately set average question difficulty and the cut score.

What we do know is that none of the companies can afford to have a test that becomes known as one that students can’t pass. To avoid this, a company will likely make adjustments so that they are not very different from the pass rates on the other HSE exams. [Of course, there also is an incentive to keep a challenging test that students need to take multiple times to pass, because that leads to more profit from the extra tests students pay for. However, there has to be a limit to how low the pass rate can go before students just give up trying and states decide the test isn’t viable.]

When companies include math questions that reach far beyond the content that has been tested in the past (and that lies beyond the content knowledge of current high school seniors and the adult numeracy teaching force), the only way they can keep pass rates up is to reduce the cut score. A concern is that the cut scores in one or more of these HSE math exams could get (or are already) so low that students will pass the test even when they guess randomly. We don’t want a test that has become so challenging (in terms of the content) that it becomes easy (because a non-trivial percentage of students will pass even when guessing). A math test that can be passed by guessing should never be considered a rigorous test, or one that signals that a student is ready for college. National press reports and what we’ve seen from the companies themselves suggest this may already be happening.

Unfortunately, most state government offices in charge of adult education do not have experts who could demand information from the testing companies and analyze it from a critical perspective. Government-employed assessment and content experts should decide when items test meaningful content, not just when they are statistically reliable. Assessment experts should identify instances when cut scores get unreasonably out of whack. And content specialists should guide the companies on the appropriate subset of CCSS content to assess, and how to do that. Sadly, these decisions have and are being made almost entirely by private companies, with government officials and the public on the sidelines. We are mostly stuck with talking points from salespeople.

I would like to think the field has improved a great deal in one year, and that this explains why current pass rates on some or all of the HSE math tests might look similar to the pass rates on the old GEDTS exam. That’s not realistic, though. I think the pass rates (and how they may be changing) have much more to do with what the companies are doing behind the scenes. And this is unfortunately where we are now in adult education—private companies are in charge of high stakes assessments, and folks in the field (governments included) are on the outside trying to figure out what is going on, and what the best course of action is in our teaching. It shouldn’t be this way.


Steve Hinds

Director, Active Learning in Adult Numeracy (

Adult Numeracy Educator, Truman College (The City Colleges of Chicago)

Meryl Becker-Prezocki's picture

Hello Steve,

We have never met, but I have heard much about you from former colleagues in Kentucky.  I want to thank you for articulating your insight and thoughtful arguments about the current situation in adult education.  Your stated your position well.  I think that the low numbers of individuals that have passed the new test speaks loud and clear.  The companies have discredited the students and instructors who work so hard everyday.  It is very disheartening.

Meryl Becker-Prezocki, SME College and Career Standards

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Steve, Thank you for sharing your thoughts specifically about the HSE math exams. I do not have a background in math, but I have taught HSE math in the past, though not for a couple of years. From reviewing the GED® Ready practice test, it is clear to me that the level of mathematical understanding needed to pass the new test has increased quite a bit. Math has always been the most challenging test for most learners, so that is nothing new. However, with this new test, the challenge is greater.

I'm not familiar with the other HSE tests currently being used since these are not available in Pennsylvania, so I'm curious if learners are facing similar challenges in math with those tests.

I hope those who are teaching math and preparing students for the different HSEs will weigh in on this important discussion.

Cheers, Susan

SME Assessment CoP


omireles's picture
Fewer finish GED tests

Oscar Mireles

Oscar Mireles

Executive Director/Principal of Omega School

Fewer finish GED tests

By Hillary Gavan | Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2015 4:00 pm

Because of a new test and increased fees, the number of Blackhawk Technical College (BTC) students receiving a high school equivalency certification this year has decreased in line with state trends.

According to the Department of Public Instruction, 912 people graduated from the state’s General Education Development (GED) program in 2014, compared to 11,378 people in 2013, representing a 92 percent decrease.

The number of BTC students starting the test hasn’t changed significantly. In 2014, there were 596 students attending orientation for testing, similar to previous years, according to the Blackhawk Technical College Director of the Student Success Center and GED Chief Examiner Terese Tann.

Although the amount of students who began the test process was strong, the number of students actually completing it has significantly dropped during the past year. For example, in 2012 there were 223 BTC students who completed the test, and 188 students finishing it in 2013. In 2014, however, there only were 14 BTC students who completed the test.

In January of 2014 the GED test changed, with students having to take it on a computer. It also went from five to four tests as it combined the reading and writing test to become a language arts test. The math test was also revised to include algebra.

Test fees also increased. Previously, it cost $75 and it’s now $33.75 per exam for a total of $135. Tann, however, noted students can pay per test as opposed to having to pay it all up front like in the past.

Although the numbers of BTC students completing the test was up in 2012 and 2013, Tann attributed it to a huge push for students to finish up by the December 2013 deadline.

Tann said there are 195 students in the pipeline to take the test in 2015, and she anticipates numbers of those who complete the test will grow.

She said GED preparatory classes, offered at BTC Beloit Center at 50 Eclipse Boulevard, are free of charge. Courses are offered during the day as well as evenings. For more information people can call 608-757-7741.

In addition to free preparatory courses, there is financial assistance for the GED for those who qualify. The BTC Foundation has supported 38 tests per year, or $1,500. If a student gets 1-2 tests covered, it would bring the total cost down to around what it was previously.

“We try to remove those barriers,” Tann said.

In the past BTC offered 45 courses throughout Rock and Green counties through the year. In 2014 it offered 61 courses to help students prepare for the new test. BTC has also increased the number of students it can test at a time.

“We’ve remodeled our Student Success Center and that includes our testing service area,” Tann said. “We just encourage people. The fear is not worth putting it off. We have the resources, and so many of them are at no charge.”

She said instructors also work to pre-test students to evaluate what areas they need help with and to form an individualized course of action for them.

Nationally, Tann said 40 million people still need their high school diploma. Prior to the test change 8 million people a year would begin their GED.

Nationally, 60 percent of students are passing the new test. At BTC 61 percent of students are passing it, and the state average is 65 percent of students.

Tann said she spoke to a student who started the 2013 test and wasn’t able to complete it. He then tried the new one in 2014. Although it was more challenging, he said he did OK as he was well prepared through his BTC courses.

“He went through our classes and that was a benefit. He knew what to expect,” she said.

One nice thing about the new test, Tann said, is that scores are calculated automatically.

“By the time they drove home they can pull up their online account and see where they are at,” Tann said.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Thank you, Oscar,  for sharing the information about GED® completion rates at Blackhawk Technical College and in Wisconsin. It's good to see the rates improving. These improvements are in line with a recent report The Decennia Scurry that was posted earlier in this thread by CT Turner. I know we are all eager to see more students earn a high school equivalency credential.

I hope others in our community are starting to see similar improvement in pass rates. Let us know how things are going in your area.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

David J. Rosen's picture


If you continue to follow the state-by-state results of the new GED this July 9th Washington Post article focusing on Texas, "The big problems with Pearson’s new GED high school equivalency test," may be of interest.

David J. Rosen






David J. Rosen's picture


In 2014-2015, there was a lot of concern about the new GED® tests and their higher standards. Now, three or four years later, is this still a problem, or 1) have changes by the GED Testing Service and Pearson, lowering minimum passing scores on some tests, 2) changes in teaching practices, and 3) teachers, administrators and students adjusting to the new computer-based format and the new test content made this no longer an issue? Are your HSE preparation students who are preparing for these tests: 1) passing them at about they same rate that they were passing the GED® 2002 series tests? 2) Are they doing nearly as well? 3) Are they still doing poorly on the new test? If they are doing as well, nearly as well or better than on the former tests, what do you believe accounts for the improvement?

David J. Rosen

CTTurner's picture

Good afternoon. I thought I'd post some stats related to this topic to give folks a more national line of sight into things like pass rates, average passing scores since the GED scores were adjusted, and postsecondary outcome measures to date:

Pass Rates for the GED Test:

Overall Pass Rate in 2013 (last year of testing on the 2002 Series GED Test) nationally was: 76%
National Pass Rate in 2017 (last year of testing) across all GED test-takers was: 79%

Average GED Scores in 2017:
Average passing score: Math, 153; RLA, 155; Science 156; Social Studies 155
Average non-passing score: Math, 141; RLA, 140; Science 1141; Social Studies 140
Average overall scores: Math, 150; RLA, 152; Science 154; Social Studies 153

*It is important to note that both the average passing and overall average scores continually are above and continue to trend upwards from the HSE cut score for the GED test.

Other outcomes measures:

Attendance in a college-level program after earning a GED credential since launch of the new exam in 2014 (based on annual data matches with the National Student Clearinghouse - latest data match was Fall, 2017):
35% enrolled within 1 year.
45% enrolled within 3 years.

More than 90% of GED grads in postsecondary data match continue to be enrolled semester to semester
Persistence rate of GED grads in postsecondary on the 2002 Series GED Test was 29%.

CT Turner
Senior Director, GED Testing Service


David J. Rosen's picture

Thank you, CT, for sharing these encouraging stats. I hope you will continue to post here as new data become available. I am especially interested, if you will have data on this, to know not only about GED grads' persistence in postsecondary education, but also their completion rates in one-year certificate programs, two-year AS and AA programs, and four year undergraduate programs. Given the significant increase in postsecondary persistence rates, I expect you will also have good news to report on completion rates. It appears from these data that the response from adult learners to the GEDTS raising the bar, often with the help of GED preparation programs, has been to get over the bar to pass the exam and do better in postsecondary education. In addition to percentages, however, can you also share a comparison of the national number of GED test-takers in 2013 and 2017?

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Program Management group



Stephanie Lindberg's picture

Hi all, just in a quick survey of the graduates from our program in the last year, half took HiSet and half took GED. But I see a similar thing to the scores GED posted here. Only two graduates taking GED tests scored 146. All the rest had scores of 150 or above with the highest score being 165. The average score of a passing math test on GED for these students was 153. Of our HiSet graduates, where the passing score is a scale score of 8, only one student scored a 9, the highest score was 19 (out of 20), and the average was 12. I don't have scores specifically for students who have taken the test and not passed, as that is relatively uncommon in our program. But we have changed our class structure to more match specific levels of study in which we move students through to the highest level (using TABE and alternative assessments) of our classes. This highest level of class has students who are grade equivalent to high school, 9th through 12 grade on TABE. This is where we really encourage students to go take tests. I think this has increased the scores on HSE tests, no matter what test students take. At this level, we are covering a lot of higher level math that enables students to pass with higher scores. When students progress through our levels, we are seeing success in the testing center. They are persisting and staying in class longer to build these higher level skills. 


Susan Finn Miller's picture

Thanks for posting this inquiry, David. And thanks to CT Turner and Stephanie for sharing statistics. It's good to see improvement in HSE pass rates, and to hear that more adults have enrolled and are staying in post-secondary programs. It would be great to hear from more members on these issues.

I do wonder about lower level learners. It seems obvious that it would take much longer for learners at lower level to prepare for these tests. It would be interesting to hear stories from teachers who work with lower level learners who have HSE goals.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Teaching & Learning CoP

David J. Rosen's picture


I would like to call your attention to some new data about the high school equivalency (HSE) exams and to thank our colleague JoAnn Weinberger for calling my attention to this column from the Hechinger Report newsletter, GED and other high school equivalency degrees drop by more than 40% nationwide since 2012, .

Here are some highlights from the short article:

  • "Decline linked to 2014 change in exam and adult ed budget cuts, researcher says"

  • "Little is known about what has happened to adult learners seeking high school degrees since the old GED exam disappeared because annual data is no longer published as it used to be every year. But thanks to a data collection effort by an expert in adult education at a nonprofit research organization in New York, Center for an Urban Future, we now have evidence of a sharp decline in new high school equivalency degrees in almost every state between 2012 and 2016."

  • Specifically, the annual number of test takers who completed one of the three exams has fallen more than 45 percent from more than 570,000 in 2012 to roughly 310,000 in 2016. The number passing the exam and earning a diploma has decreased more than 40 percent from almost 400,000 in 2012 to just over 225,000 in 2016.

  • “Every state has fewer people obtaining high school equivalencies. We need to have alternative routes for people who don’t graduate from high school. Communities and states that have large populations of people who lack a high school credential are places that will have heavy users of public services, whether welfare or Medicaid.” (from Tom Hilliard, a senior fellow at the Center for an Urban Future)

  • A map is offered, with a number of red states where the number of people obtaining an HSE dropped by more than 50% between 2012 and 2016.  You can go to the map from the article and click on your state to see what the drop there has been.

What do you think?

What should be done about this? Should more states offer alternative competency-based credentials like the National External Diploma Program? Should states create their own equivalency exams? Should HSE test-makers, as some have recently done, lower the cut scores for some of their tests, for example the math or writing test?  If we had 2017 data would we see a different picture? Has this disparity in opportunity been recently narrowed, or not?  Perhaps you do not see this as a problem, that this is an inevitable consequence of raising the testing bar so more people with an HSE cannot only enter post-secondary education but now, with a higher level of knowledge skills, can succeed. If so, does this mean that we need to increase intensity of instruction at pre-HSE or even more basic levels?  If so, how can programs do this without significantly increased funding? What's your perspective on this news?

David J. Rosen







Kathy_Tracey's picture

David and all,

I think this information paints an incomplete picture. From the article, "Specifically, the annual number of test takers who completed one of the three exams has fallen more than 45 percent from more than 570,000 in 2012 to roughly 310,000 in 2016. The number passing the exam and earning a diploma has decreased more than 40 percent from almost 400,000 in 2012 to just over 225,000 in 2016." 

Without enrollment data, this information may, or may be accurate. Did enrollment also decline at that same time? Are there less students completing their high school equivalency certificate because there are less students enrolled in programs? 

I'd love to see if anyone can shed some light on this. 







Lynda Ginsburg's picture

Indeed, the number of test takers has greatly decreased from 2012 to 2016, perhaps for many reasons such as less money for adult ed, higher HS graduation rates, etc. However, given the reported numbers of test takers and passers, the pass rates have not changed much. Actually, there's a slight rise in the pass rates. Using the numbers provided, in 2012 70% passed the test. In 2016, 72.6% of those taking the test passed.