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GED Passers Test While Knowledge is Still Fresh

GED Passers Test While Knowledge is Still Fresh
By David Pluviose

In response to concerns that students who passed the GED still lacked basic skills, the American Council on Education (ACE) in 2002 issued a new General Educational Development (GED) test series designed to be more rigorous in certain sections.

So why are more test-takers passing a test that is supposedly harder than before?

Slightly more than 71 percent of test takers in the United States passed the GED in 2004, after ACE added complex math questions requiring calculators and made the writing and reading portions more demanding. The GED passage rate in 2000 was 69.3 percent, and was 69.6 percent in 2001. ACE’s GED is widely considered equivalent to a high school diploma.

“What we’ve seen is people are coming back to try to take the test sooner” after leaving high school, says Paul Hassen, spokesman for ACE. A new 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.

According to the report, those who are more successful in taking the GED are younger, stayed in school longer and have spent less time out of school before taking the test. More than 35 percent of those who passed the GED completed 11 or more years of formal education and nearly half, 44.1 percent, had been out of school for two years or less. Just one in five of those who were out of school three to five years passed the test. The average age of GED passers in the United States was 23.7 years, a year younger than the average age of all U.S. GED candidates.

ACE also reported that the number of test-takers is increasing, having reached 665,927 in 2004.

The numbers have been edging back up since 2002, the year the more rigorous test was introduced. Numbers were down 50 percent that year, after more than 1 million people took the test in 2001. But test-takers began to return to the GED between 2002 and 2003, when the numbers increased by 17.9 percent. The GED saw another 1.3 percent increase in 2003-2004.

Lyn Schaefer, director of test development for the GED Testing Service, says the tests now reflect what high schools are doing, such as permitting calculator use on one-half of the mathematics portion. “Prior to 2002, we needed to have #the questions somewhat less complex so that they didn’t need a calculator,” Schaefer says.

Of all the test-passers in the United States, 64.2 percent were White, 15.8 percent were African-American, and 15.3 percent were Hispanic. ACE started tracking GED results by race in 2002.

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