According to 2010 U.S. Census data, 50 million adults do not hold a high school diploma, and the GED test's recent doubling in price to $120 does not help.
Fortunately, the cost of taking the GED test in Kentucky is being temporarily reduced to $40.
Last January, the GED test for high school equivalency was redesigned to meet the expectations of high school curriculum today, incorporating content from the new K-12 literacy and math standards adopted by more than 40 states.
It is now completely computer-based with four sections, or modules, instead of five: Reasoning through Language Arts, Mathematical Reasoning, Science, and Social Studies. Instead of solely multiple choice, the test requires short answer, fill-in-the-blank, drag-and-drop, and other strategies to promote reasoning and critical thinking. The essay prompt is now replaced by test takers reading a passage and defending their argument with contextual evidence.
These changes the GED Testing Service calls "cognitive complexity" may seem a bit daunting to test takers, but there are benefits to the new layout of the test.
"What is great about the new test is its modular setup," said Samantha Williams, director of the Adult Learning Center at West Kentucky Community & Technical College.
"The very first time you took the GED, you had to take every section and retake ones you did not pass. You could only retake it three times in a year. Now, you can take one module at a time. So if you're really great at math, you can get that out of the way and focus on what you need to really study for. That's one of the greatest benefits. You can also retake it up to eight times a year."
The price of the test doubled from $60 to $120. The elaborate instructions and more complex content as well as the increased price have deterred some people from taking the test.
"Right now, we have fewer people because many think it's too difficult, but price makes a difference as well," Williams said.
To offset the added expense, the Kentucky Council on Post-secondary Education is offering $20 vouchers, which can be used on each module of the test, reducing the total price to $40. There is a limited amount of 8,500 vouchers. To be eligible, you must be enrolled in a Kentucky Adult Education program and pass the GED Ready Test. Once students pass the practice test, their progress will be submitted to Frankfort and they will receive the vouchers.
"It's first come, first serve. The vouchers aren't distributed based on population. You have to go through Frankfort after passing the GED Ready Test," Williams said.
The GED Ready Test offers scores to clue in how students will do on the new test and includes focus areas for them to study. The WKCTC Adult Learning Center offers free classes and technology to help students prepare.
"We have to administer (the GED Ready Test) to know what skills to help them improve," Williams said. "It is a computer-based test like the GED. To help with computer skills, we have iPads the students will work on and a computer lab."
The vouchers should encourage more adults to take the GED, and Williams said the test may not be as difficult as it sounds.
"We are seeing a great passing rate," she said. "We had three students pass on their first try. With adult learners, they have critical thinking skills already. Questioning is a little scary, but when they practice they realize it's all adult-oriented content that they know."