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New GED exam deadline brings about a year-end flood of test takers

By the numbers

• Approximately 20 million test takers nationwide earned a GED since the exam's inception in 1943.

• The education level completed among test takers has hovered around 10th grade.

• Mathematics and writing are the two most challenging content areas, as indicated by the average standard scores.

• The average age of test takers is slightly older than 26. Those 16 to 18 account for 21.7 percent of test takers.

• Candidates 50 or older account for 3.7 percent.

• In 2012, men took more GED tests than women, accounting for 55.7 percent of all exams.

Sources: 2010 census; GED Testing Service

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Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 10:20 p.m.
 

General Educational Development exam proctors reported a huge influx of last-minute test takers in December as students rushed to finish the five-part battery before sweeping changes that took effect on Wednesday nullified incomplete scores.

“If you were stuck on a particular subject, this deadline was a gut check,” said Greg Mims, public relations director for the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council. “We've had a very busy year.”

Aligned with Common Core standards taught to traditional K-12 students, the new version condenses content from five to four subjects; raises and standardizes test fees; adds short answer and extended response questions; and requires students to demonstrate computer skills by eliminating a pen-and-paper option to take the exam.

The test includes a new scoring level termed “Career and College Ready,” indicating the test taker scored at the highest level and is academically prepared for the workforce and post-secondary education.

Students who failed to pass all five tests by Tuesday now must restart the process in 2014. The base price to take the test is $120.

“Anytime there's a major deadline like this, people hurry to finish up,” said Don Block, the literacy council's executive director. “Many of our students have been working toward this goal for years. They don't want that work to be lost.”

The 2010 Census indicates that more than 39 million adults 16 and older in the United States lack a high school credential, including 710,000 in Pennsylvania, Block said. In the same year, about 757,000 adults took the GED worldwide, according to GED Testing Service LLC in Washington.

In 2012, 20,956 took the GED test in Pennsylvania. Seventy percent passed the exam.

At the council's fifth-floor offices on Monday, hordes of hopeful 20-somethings paced the hallways, awaiting their scores.

Slumped against a pastel wall, Dorian Asque, 23, of Lincoln-Larimer bemoaned his four-year GED journey.

“Don't laugh at me. This is stressful,” he said, tapping a blank phone with a frown. “The test next year will be so hard. I don't want to do this all over again.”

Friends chided him. “You've got this,” one said. “Don't beat yourself up before you know for sure,” said another.

Asque, who passed, and others screamed, danced and wiped each others' tears each time officials announced a passing grade.

“We were all so worried about starting over next year,” said Jonathon Miller, 20, who studied for five months before he earned a passing score. As with Asque, only math held him back.

“It's 7 o'clock on the last night, and we're waiting on a score,” he said. “It's really scary.”

Proctors at Goodwill of Southwestern PA had nearly 120 test takers in December, almost four times the norm, adult education coordinator Danielle Blanchard-Krane said.

“We fast-tracked anyone we thought was ready,” she said, “and started orientation on the 2014 test for anyone who wasn't.”

Many participants had trouble with scheduling a test date, said Judy Martier, Goodwill's director of education assessment and training.

“We called around for a lot of them,” she said. “Some drove to Scranton, Philadelphia, the New York border. They really wanted to get this done.”

The new test emphasizes critical thinking skills over memorization, Blanchard-Krane said.

“So in science, you may have to write up an experiment to prove the hypothesis explained in the test question. Before, you just labeled the parts of a cell with multiple-choice options,” she said. “For some people, this will be a total mental shift.”

Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5815 or mharris@tribweb.com.

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