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5 steps to take to get your GED before applying to college

    Wondering how to take your General Educational Development (GED) test? If you plan to attend college and haven’t received a high school diploma, you’ll most likely need a GED before applying.

    This article will cover what a GED is, what to expect from the test, and how to prepare for it.

    What’s the difference between a high school diploma and a GED?

    A high school diploma signifies that a student has attended and completed all required courses in a traditional classroom setting. The GED is a set of four exams that determine whether the test-taker has a high school graduate’s level of knowledge.

    Receiving a high school diploma is considered the more conventional educational path for a student. The GED is generally obtained by those who left high school due to family obligations or other personal issues and, therefore, couldn’t complete their high school program in a classroom setting.

    The GED test consists of four subject tests: reasoning through language arts, mathematical reasoning, social studies, and science. Passing the GED is often considered the equivalent of earning a high school credential.

    In many cases, you’ll need to pass the GED if you didn’t receive a high school diploma to apply to college, apply for and obtain certain employment opportunities, and serve in certain armed services departments in the U.S.

    While many international schools recognize U.S. diplomas, not all recognize the GED, which is worth noting if you’re interested in attending a college or university outside of the U.S.

    How to get your GED

    Getting a GED will likely require some preparation on your end. Here are five steps to consider taking to set yourself up for success.

    1. Assess your eligibility for the GED

    Before setting your sights on the GED, ensure you’re eligible to take it. Here’s the criteria you need to meet:

    • You aren’t currently attending high school. If you’re attending high school, you won’t be eligible to take the GED. You must pursue one or the other.
    • You haven’t graduated from high school. If you attended high school but didn't graduate or receive a high school diploma, you can take the GED exam.
    • You’re at least 18 years old in most cases. Depending on your state, you may be able to take the test at a younger age, but generally, you must be at least 16 years old, even in states with exceptions.
    • If you’re between 16 and 18, you may need to meet additional requirements, such as officially withdrawing from school, receiving permission from your former school district, and receiving parental consent.
    • In some circumstances, you may have a few more eligibility requirements to meet before pursuing your GED, such as being an official resident of the state where you’re taking the GED or showing proof that you’ve not attended school for a certain amount of time.
    • In some circumstances, you may also need to pass a qualification test to show you’re prepared for the GED exam. 

    2. Understand what the GED will test you on

    If you’re eligible for the GED based on your circumstances, it can be helpful to understand what to expect from the exam. To pass the GED, you’ll need to take these four tests:

    • Language Arts: 150 minutes, with a 10-minute break 
    • Social Studies: 70 minutes 
    • Mathematics: 115 minutes 
    • Science: 90 minutes 

    You can take all four tests at once, or you can take them individually. If you decide to take all four GED subject tests at once, you can expect the exam to take seven and a half hours altogether.

    3. Study for the GED

    The average time most students spend preparing for the GED is around three months. However, if you need more than three months to study, there’s nothing wrong with that. You should take the exam when you're confident that you grasp the test topics well.

    Consider dividing your time according to the areas you need to focus on the most. You can find many study tools online to help you prepare for the GED, or you can also find in-person classes at a local GED prep center.

    Keep in mind that you don't need to take all the subject exams on the same day. You can spread the exams over weeks or months, so you have time to take each exam when ready.

    When studying for your GED subject exams, consider the following tips:

    • Schedule your study times
    • Create a positive study environment
    • Remove yourself from distractions
    • Consider starting a study group if you know others preparing for the GED to help keep yourself on track
    • Reach out for help — be it from a tutor, classes, or friends who’ve taken the test — as needed to prepare
    • Take practice tests along with studying for individual questions

    4. Schedule your GED tests

    Once you feel prepared, you can schedule your exams on the GED website. You can choose between taking the exam at a test center or through online proctoring.

    Online proctoring is an alternative to taking the tests in person at a physical test center. During an online proctored exam for the GED, the proctoring software will monitor your computer's desktop, webcam, video, and audio to make sure you aren’t cheating during the exam.

    When it comes to how much to expect to pay to take the exam, the price per subject test can vary depending on your state. You also might be eligible for a fee waiver.

    5. Take the GED and (hopefully) receive your certificate 

    Once you've taken the entire GED or a part of it, you can expect to get results within a few hours or, at the latest, within 24 hours.

    If you pass all subject tests, you’ll get a copy of your e-diploma and e-transcript or a paper copy of your transcript and diploma, depending on your state.

    The state where you complete your GED will issue your diploma, indicating that you earned your high school equivalency. You’ll also receive a transcript, which includes the official record of the GED subject tests you completed and your scores. Your transcript is the official record of the GED test subjects that you took and your scores.

    You must pass a constitution test in North Dakota, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Illinois to receive your GED credential. In North Dakota, you must also pass a civics test.

    Final thoughts

    If you’re unable to finish high school in a traditional classroom setting, getting your GED can be a stepping-stone to setting yourself up for success and getting even closer to obtaining a college degree if that’s your goal. Good luck as you study for your exams.