Beginning in January, students who take the General Educational Development credential test will encounter a more rigorous exam offered exclusively on computer.
To help individuals prepare for the experience and give them feedback on their performance, the GED Testing Service will offer individualized online support starting in late November.
"This is no longer just a test. It's a start-to-finish program," said Randy Trask, the president of GED Testing Service in a webinar with the media on Tuesday.
The new MyGED Web portal allows test-takers to register online, find nearby testing locations, learn about local adult education programs, and take practice tests. Students will get immediate feedback on how they do on the practice tests and suggestions for where to focus their studying to improve.
Nearly half of all GED test-takers (about 350,000) sit for the exam without having taken an adult-education class to prepare, creating a demand for this new service, according to GED Testing Service officials.
Under the new model, students will be able to take the five sections of the GED test individually by subject (mathematics, social studies, science, and language arts) over time. They will also receive the results immediately online. Currently, students have to wait up to eight weeks to learn if they passed and 85 percent of students who fail the GED do not retake it, according to GED Testing Service.
The hope of GED officials is that by having the option to take the test in chunks and getting an immediate and detailed report of how they did on the test, students who failed will be more likely to try again and succeed. "Students are more motivated and engaged because they have an actionable plan," said Cassandra Brown of GED Testing Service.
Adult-education teachers will also receive more detailed information on the preparation and progress of students to allow them to better tailor instruction to students' areas of weakness.
Once students pass the exam, they will be given a transcript to bring to employers or educators to demonstrate the skills they mastered to get the credential. The new portal provides information on training programs and colleges to give them options for the next step in their career path.
Now, although 65 percent of GED test-takers plan to go on to some form of postsecondary education, only 35 percent enroll within seven years, and just 12 percent earn any higher education credential, according to research by the nonprofit American Council on Education, which has administered the GED for years. In revamping the exam, the ACE partnered with Pearson, the world's largest education and testing company, to lead the effort and invest in the online transformation of the program.
Access to the online guide will be covered in the new $120 fee that the GED service will now charge students.
The new fee represents a price increase in many states, but just how much students will pay for the exam depends on where they live because states have varying policies for how much they subsidize the registration fees. (For more on the transition to the new test and alternative vendors, see the June Diplomas Count article.
Most states have opted to go with the new GED Testing Services exam, although not all. Some, such as New York and New Hampshire, have contracted with other vendors that will continue to offer paper-and-pencil tests and plan to phase in a more difficult version of the test. CTB/McGraw-Hill and the Educational Testing Service are among the other competitors in the market offering their own versions of a high school equivalency test.
Trask underscored that GED will be the only entity offering a test in 2014 that fully aligns with the new Common Core State Standards. He maintains that a more rigorous test is needed to reflect the increased demands of the workplace. The new GED test format will provide a score with detailed information about college and career readiness that goes beyond basic high school equivalency achievement.
Despite some reluctance of state adult education officials to move to a computer-only testing model, GED Testing Service officials said early response from students has been positive. Nearly 200,000 students have taken the computer-based GED and passing rates are 88 percent, compared to 71 percent among paper test-takers. This is due in part, Trask added, to the new flexibility for students to take the test in the order they prefer and in separate sittings over time.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this item incorrectly referred to the new GED test as an online test. It's more accurate to say the test is computer-based.