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GED Test Taking Surged Before Switch to New Exam

Students hoping to pass the GED before the new version rolled out January 2 helped spark a surge in test taking last year. 

While the numbers aren't final, there was likely a 20 to 25 percent increase in test takers in 2013 over the previous year's volume of 674,000, according to C.T. Turner, spokesman for GED Testing Service.

For the first time in a decade, the General Equivalency Development (GED) exam has been revamped and is now offered on computer. The test is more challenging, with questions that focus on critical thinking and better reflect new standards for career and college readiness. Turner says the roll out has gone smoothly and data will be available in a few months on student performance.

Most states㬤 plus the District of Columbia—have committed to exclusively offering the new test designed by the nonprofit American Council on Education in partnership with the education publishing giant Pearson.

But states have discretion in how diplomas are awarded and not every state has contracted with GED Testing Services to offer the new GED exclusively. Concern over the higher price of $120 and students' ability to adapt to a computer test, led some states to seek out alternatives. (See this story: New GED Tests Stir Concern, Draws Competitors)

CTB/McGraw-Hill, the New York City-based educational publisher, has developed the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) and Educational Testing Service and Iowa Testing Programs joined forces to launch the High School Equivalency Test, or HiSET.

Ten states have opted to use one of the new tests instead of the new GED. New York has contracted with CTB/McGraw-Hill. Massachusetts recently announced it is using the HiSET. And others, such as Tennessee, New Jersey, and Wyoming, will offer students a choice of tests.

GED test taking volume increased by 20 percent from July through December in New Hampshire, said Art Ellison, who oversees the state's adult education programs. New Hampshire will begin offering the HiSET test January 15 for $95, up from a $65 fee for the GED last year. Ellison said it was important to offer students the option of taking the exam on computer or on paper and to phase into a more rigorous exam over three years.

The GED was also revamped in 1978, 1988, and 2002. Typically, Turner said, in the year prior to the change test taking jumps by 15 to 20 percent. In 2014, GED Testing Service expects a dip of about 10 percent from the average volume.

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