The GED is Going Digital

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The revamped General Educational Development exam is rolling out next week.

And there’s some big changes coming to the test more commonly known as the GED.

It’s harder. It costs more. And it will now only be offered on a computer.

It’s that last change that makes Jo Steigerwald a little nervous. She’s the development officer at Cleveland’s Seeds of Literacy, an adult literacy program that offers free GED preparation classes.

“We do live in an age where the expectation from employers and from everyday life is that you’re literate digitally,” she said. “But our students have a lot of barriers.”

Passing the GED is generally considered the equivalent of graduating high school, and one of the barriers that Steigerwald said test takers may face is adapting to unfamiliar technology.

Many don’t have computers at home, she said, meaning that skills like pointing and clicking and dragging and dropping are pretty foreign.

But Nicole Chestang, Vice President of GED Testing Services, said that the test was updated to reflect technology skills that are necessary in today’s job market.

“You don’t have to be a computer scientist to pass our test,” she explained. “It’s basic computer skills that every adult needs today just to do the basic things of life, including searching for or applying for jobs. In many states, the ability to access social services is dependent on how to access technology.”

Chestang said a bonus of an electronic test is that scores will be available immediately, along with some in-depth information on an individual’s performance.

“Every time you take a GED test you’re going to get an incredible amount of feedback,” she said. “What you did well on, what you need to improve, and exactly where in the study materials you’re using that you need to go and review and build.”

Seeds of Literacy’s Education Consultant Dan McLaughlin helped the program to adopt some new technology to become better prepared for the 2014 version of the test.

Black desktop computers line long tables in a corner of the center’s open classroom. It’s a comfortable situation for their students, many who have been attending the center’s classes for weeks or months.

According to information from the state’s GED office, the center used to be one of more than 60 testing centers that offered the paper test.  But now, tests will only be offered at certified computer based testing centers. McLaughlin said that these types of environments could be a little jarring for already nervous test takers. It’s vastly different from the old standard of a paper and pencil test.

“It’s almost like a prison-like atmosphere in there,” he said. “You're in a little tiny booth, and there’s a camera trained on you the whole time. So it’s a really different feeling than taking the test someplace that you’re comfortable and someplace that you know.”

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