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The GED: What to Expect on Test Day

Taking the GED is an exciting and challenging testing opportunity that can open doors to new educational and employment opportunities. This exam can, however, be intimidating if you're taking it for the very first time or if it's been some time since you last attempted to obtain a passing score. Below is information on the GED and answers to questions you may have as you prepare for the test.

What is the GED?

The general equivalency development test is a computer-based high school equivalency exam administered by the GED Testing Service. Successful completion of the test will result in a GED Diploma, which is accepted by many employers as a replacement for high school completion. When supplemented with SAT or ACT test scores, a GED is accepted at about 98% of colleges. People of all ages take the GED, but high school students are eligible to take it at age 16. In May 2014, the price of the GED was $70 for the entire test, or $14-$16 for an individual subject test.

Is there a paper version?

Computer literacy is an important part of today's work world, and the GED is a test that measures whether a citizen has the basic skills necessary for career success. With that in mind, the computer-based nature of the GED is actually testing for basic computer literacy. A paper version is offered for people with physical disabilities that prohibit computer use, but is not intended for convenience. For anyone intimidated by the format, The GED Testing Service provides free practice tests online to help you get more comfortable with the digital formatting. GED preparation courses online are also offered via GED online schools.

Where and when do I register?

The GED is offered at testing centers all over the United States, and they operate at different schedules. To register for the GED, you will need to visit the GED website and locate the nearest testing center. Your testing center will post its current schedule. You will need to create an online account with the GED Testing Service as soon as possible to view your test date options and plan your study strategy accordingly.

How long does it take?

The GED test consists of four subjects that take about 7 1/2 hours to complete.

  • Language arts = 150 minutes
  • Mathematics = 115 minutes
  • Social Studies = 90 minutes
  • Science = 90 minutes

You will have 10-minute breaks between subjects. Each subject has more than one section, and some testing centers allow short breaks between sections. If you leave the testing room outside of an approved break, you will forfeit that subject.

You will need to check with your testing center to find out about their lunch break policy. Some allow a 30-minute break for lunch. Others do not, instead encouraging students to spread their test out over two half-days. Testing centers will usually not admit late students, so they advise you to arrive 30 minutes prior to your test to allow ample time to check in and get settled.

What do I need to bring?

Testing centers have a lot of rules that you will be informed about when you register. You will need to bring a photo ID to verify your age and signature, but you will not be allowed to bring anything at all into the test room. Calculators and scratch pads will be provided for you, and you may not eat or drink in the room. You will also not have access to any personal items during the test, and many centers videotape the test for later viewing if cheating is suspected.

Cellphones in the testing room are expressly prohibited. Violation of this rule will result in immediate dismissal from the test and the forfeiture of all test fees. Each section is only an hour or so long, and testing centers usually have a storage space allowing you to access your belongings during breaks.

How do I get my scores?

Your score will be available online usually the same day you take the test, although some scores may take up to three days. Depending on where you live, you may automatically receive your diploma online, or you may have to order it using a process explained on test day.

Last Updated: April 21, 2015