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GED Updated Test Versions

From its original inception in the 1940s, the GED has undergone four official generations of revisions following the changing role of high school education within American society. The GED is expected to undergo revision again soon, and the fifth edition should be released in 2012.

1940s to 1960s: GED First Generation
In the 1950s, almost a decade after the GED first was instituted for returning World War II veterans, a series of studies were commissioned by the American Council on Education (ACE) essentially to answer the question, "is a GED certificate equivalent to a high school diploma for college preparedness?" This was an interesting question because it brought into focus whether an achievement test such as the GED adequately could test an individual's knowledge of information generally learned in a typical classroom setting. Could a student who passed the GED exam handle the rigors of college academics? The first 1950s study examined how GED graduates faired after being admitted to college. The study discovered that GED certificate holders who had scored lower than a 275 on the GED exam experienced the most difficulty handling college level academics, and in many cases, these students dropped out all together. The study formulated that these GED holders may not have acquired the skills and drive that normally motivated traditional high school graduates utilize in order to persevere. Some experts theorized that when military veterans obtained their GEDs and took advantage of the federal GI benefits paying for college, financial burdens were lifted and the personal motivation to complete college that often comes from financial investment diminished. The study concluded in support of the GED program but with revisions that included exam format changes, the addition of a writing exercise, and a recommendation to raise the passing score.

1970s: GED Second Generation
Although the GED was revised along the way from 1943 to the mid 1970s, the official 1978 version of the GED is considered the second generation that placed an emphasis on a separate reading test in place of the original science and social studies reading version. It also deemphasized the necessity to recall a collection of memorized facts, and instead focused on conceptual knowledge by having the exam taker evaluate facts from questions presented within the exam. This 1978 exam also introduced the notion of testing for knowledge gained from daily real-life situations learned on the job or in the home rather than only from a high school classroom.

1980s: GED Third Generation
The 1980s produced the third generation of the GED that began to understand the nature of a worldwide global shift within societies and the primary emphasis on an information and technology driven education. In 1988, the GED exam added an essay-writing test along with an increased awareness of how critical thinking applies to problem solving.

2000s: GED Fourth Generation
In 2002, the GED entered its fourth generation with content changes derived from changes to education on national and local levels. The ACE also went on to emphasize that measuring a high school level of education was still the primary focus of the GED achievement program.

The New, Improved GED: Fifth Generation
In late 2010, it was announced that the GED will be drastically revised to meet the demands of the marketplace. Employers are relating that many GED holders aren't up to the task of doing high school level reading, and so the test is expected to become more difficult. This new GED will debut in 2014.

Last Updated: 05/15/2014

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