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ACE Report Details Characteristics and Performance of GED Test-Takers

ACE Report Details Characteristics and Performance of GED Test-Takers

By David Pluviose


      In response to concerns that GED passers still lacked basic skills, the American Council on Education in 2002 issued a new General Educational Equivalent test series designed to be more rigorous in certain sections. A recent ACE report titled, “Who Passed the GED? GED 2004 Statistical Report,” details the characteristics and performance of GED test-takers in North America, the Caribbean and the South Pacific.

      In 2002, the year the more rigorous GED test series was introduced, the number of test-takers and test-passers dipped drastically — around 50 percent — from the previous year. Lyn Schaefer, director of test development for the GED Testing Service, says this drastic decline is due to a number of factors.

      “When we went to the 2002 series, we reflected what the high schools were doing at that point in time … we now permit calculator use on one-half of our mathematics test. Prior to 2002, we needed to have the questions somewhat less complex so that they didn’t need a calculator.”

      Schaefer added that the writing and reading portions of the GED were made significantly more rigorous in the 2002 series.

      “We heard from the field that candidates couldn’t write, so we addressed that by putting the teeth in the writing test. … The standard is higher than it was prior to 2002, it perhaps is more intimidating to the candidates at this point,” she says, acknowledging the steep drop in GED test-takers.

      Dr. Stephen J. Ruffini, director of research and program evaluation for the GED Testing Service, says the drop is also due to automation in GED scoring and registration introduced in 2002, and the closing of numerous testing jurisdictions in January and February of that year. Also, test-takers that tested multiple times in multiple states were counted each time prior to 2002. That duplication was eliminated with the new test.

      “The tests, when they were redesigned, were made more difficult, and there was some speculation that candidates were waiting for others to take it first to see what it was like,” Ruffini says.

      The number of test-takers has risen again since 2002. From 2002 to 2003, the number of test-takers increased by 17.9 percent, with another 1.3 percent jump from 2003 to 2004. Also, the number of test-takers who took all five subjects (math, science, reading, writing and social studies) in the test battery increased 3.2 percent from 2003 to 2004, and the number of people who finished the entire battery rose 4.7 percent during that time frame.

      Just over 55 percent of the 665,927 people who took the GED in the United States in 2004 were White. Nearly 22 percent of the test-takers were Black and about 18 percent were Hispanic. Approximately 570,200 people took all five sections of the test, and 405,724 passed.

      ACE started tracking GED results by race in 2002, and Ruffini says the organization has not yet looked into why different ethnic groups take the GED at rates not close to their proportion of the U.S. population.

      “At this point, we haven’t looked at the reasons for testing by ethnic group,” he says. “We have a wealth of data available to us since we went to automatic scoring, we just haven’t had enough time to look at a lot of different combinations of variables. This is one that’s important to us that we’ll be exploring in more depth.”

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