• December 2, 2023

The road to GED is much shorter than to high school graduation. Let’s say you’re in high school, and it isn’t going too well; you are at risk of dropping out or already have dropped out but require a high school degree for employment. A General Education Development (GED) test is an exam that you take which gives you the equivalent of a high school Diploma. Kids under 18 years need parental permission to take a GED test. Many ask if a GED is worth it and the chances of success with a GED certificate. 

It makes sense to start from the beginning to understand what holding a GED means. Stick with me to the end of this article to learn the rules that apply and understand how to be the exception.

A Little History

In 1942, the examination staff at the U.S. Armed Forces Institute constructed the first GED test. In 1945, the American Council on Examination (ACE) established the Veterans’ Testing Service (VTS) with a single purpose–to help veterans returning from war transition into the American workforce. Veterans who joined military service before finishing their high school education could take the GED test to prove to employers or colleges that they have high school-level knowledge instead of returning to study for their high school diploma.

The GED test has exams on four subjects –math, science, social studies, and language arts (split into literature and writing). Since the first tests were taken in the 1940s, the GED certification has become recognized in the U.S. and Canadian education systems.

What’s the GED Now?

The GED still tests people on four subjects. It’s currently popular among high-school dropouts. Up to 25% of high school freshmen fail to graduate on time. The total number of high school graduates yearly is from GED certificate-holders and high-school Diploma-holders. 

Teenagers drop out of high school for different reasons and often never return to classes. The GED gives these former students a second chance to finish high school. In some cases, the GED helps the certificate-holders find a new path to success; in other cases, the GED makes no difference in their chances.

Is a GED Better than a High School Diploma? 

It depends on the person and what is “better” anyway. Ultimately, a high school diploma prepares every student for college and their future career. GED holders do not often excel in college at the rate of high school graduates. However, exceptions exist, and GED holders, of course, still have higher opportunities to excel, especially over those who do not graduate. 

Does the Exam limit those who take it?

Skipping a high school education significantly increases the limitations on how far anyone can go in their careers. GED holders perform slightly better than school dropouts but still perform way less than high school graduates in college and careers.

It isn’t that the GED itself is limiting. Personal opinion incoming: The test simply does not test enough skills as the high school diploma does, and it rubs off on whoever is taking it.

Under the GED system, social studies tests (and any other subject) do not deeply explore social studies and history topics as they do in high school Diploma exams. The test takers do not need to know much factual information, and the questions are formed as multiple-choice questions. The answers in the language arts tests are always right there in the simple reading exercises. 

Historically, grading in the GED hasn’t been as tough as grading in the high school diploma. However, changes to the GED grading scheme have created three passing score levels;

  • 145-164: This range indicates a High School Equivalent level of your knowledge and skills.
  • 164-174: This range indicates the College-Ready level of your capabilities. You’re good to go to college if you want.
  • 175-200: This range indicates the College-Ready level, and you’ll also receive up to 10 College Credits.

From this test score chart, the passing score for GED is currently 145.

Combine the history of the GED, the test content, and the grading intensity. It becomes more apparent that while the GED test is open and is accepted by up to 98% of colleges in the U.S., the test itself does not prepare you for success to the same extent as four years of high school does. However, I’m not shaming those who take the GED (my mom being one of them); everyone has different opportunities and challenges they must face. If you can acquire four years of high school education and receive a holistic degree, I would opt for this option over the GED in most situations.

Succeeding with a GED: The Exceptions of GED Holders

For rules, there are also exceptions. The rule is that judging by how much less detail is put into a GED certification process, the GED does not prepare you to succeed in a career or college. So, succeeding in college or any employment place will require extra effort.

After a GED, you’ll need extra effort and commitment to close the existing gap (which may have required you to take the GED in the first place).

If you want to succeed, the gap created by skipping high school or college must be filled with something more, whether that be hard work, luck, or pure passion. Success isn’t accidental for anyone, and especially not for GED holders; you need to work just as hard as those who completed high school (the GED isn’t a cheat code to excel in life faster, it’s a tool to address those who can’t or were unable to graduate through traditional methods). Closing the gap is the only way to be the exception (that is, excel at the same level or beyond your high school or college peers). So, suppose you know a doctor (or someone else) who achieved success with a GED before college and medical school. In that case, they’re the exception that closed that gap with greater effort and commitment to building a successful career.

They’re the exception, not the rule; however, if, upon review, GED completion is your best option, I commend you for your persistence and send you the best of luck in future endeavors.

I hope this helps!

Desmond utilizes his knowledge of education policy from his undergrad, his Masters of Education from Johns Hopkins, and a variety of advanced certifications such as CHPC and LWT to construct prime academic intervention programs and homework/executive functioning support for all his students.

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