Marty’s Corner: Updates Coming to the GED Test

We’re now in the fifth year of the “new” GED® test. What a long way we have come since we first introduced the idea back in 2009 of a new test edition aligned with college and career readiness content! Since 2014, we’ve continued to enhance the GED program, introducing many new features to our MyGED portal, new products to help students prepare, and our GED College Ready and College Ready+Credit performance designations to help students take advantage of postsecondary education opportunities, just to name a few.

Although our test content and item types will remain unchanged in 2019, we will be enhancing the format of the Reasoning Through Language Arts (RLA) Extended Response (ER) item next year. The format change is something you will hear more detail about in the coming months (and at our GEDTS Annual Conference in July), and it is based on research with students that we have conducted over the past several years.  This particular research has focused on what format changes we might consider making to the ER item that would provide clearer instructions and make it easier for students to respond to the item. As a result, we’ll be introducing some format changes that we think both teachers and students will find helpful – here’s a brief summary of them:

  • Enlarging the ER response box. Since we launched the test, the response box for the ER has always been visually small, with most of the screen “real estate” taken up by the stimulus material on the left hand side of the screen, and the prompt itself on the top right-hand side of the screen. Even though we’ve always stressed the important of a response of 300-500 words, the small response box has given a strong visual cue that has subliminally encouraged students to write shorter, not longer, responses. Next year, we’ll expand the response space to take up about half of the total screen space – the entire right-hand half of the screen. In our research, students that had this format wrote significantly longer and better responses than students with the current small response box format.
  • Enhancing the instructions. In the current ER format, the instructions are located in two different places – some of the instructions are part of the prompt on the right-hand side of the screen, but the rest of the instructions are in an exhibit called “Answer Guidelines” that students need to click on separately to view.  Our research has shown that very few students actually click on the Answer Guidelines, and as a result, their responses often don’t meet the expectations we have for performance. In 2019, we will get rid of the answer guidelines and place all of the instructions on the left-hand side of the screen in a more clearly formatted presentation, that will help students understand how to best plan, write, and edit their response.
  • Removing the tabs from the stimulus material. When we first introduced our new test, our usability research showed that students had a great deal of difficulty with scrolling up and down to see the reading material that accompanies the ER item.  Because of this, we distributed the readings across several “tabs” on the left-hand side of the screen in order to minimize scrolling. However, our students’ use of technology has greatly increased over the past several years, and our current research has found that today’s examinees are more comfortable with scrolling (possibly due to the increased use of smartphones in which scrolling is a common activity). In 2019 our reformatting will present all of the instructions on an initial tab, but the entire reading passage or passages will be contained on a second tab that students will scroll up and down to read. Our studies have shown that students not only liked the scrolling format better, but the revised format also made it easier for them to locate specific evidence or details in the passage as they develop their argument in their response to the item.

This is just a brief overview of the changes, and we’ll provide you with examples of how the screens will look later this year as we get closer to implementation. It’s important to remember that these are only formatting changes, and the none of the requirements have changed, so teachers should continue to do the same type of instruction as has been in place. Watch this column for more details!

–Martin Kehe, Vice President of Assessment Services for GED Testing Service


    1. We won’t be making the format changes to the Free Practice Test. Instead, we will have a document/poster that students can view or download that will show the revised instructions and format.

  1. Thank you Maryu for always keeping instructors informed and making pivotal changes on their data.
    Question, will the GED Ready exams reflect these changes as well?

      1. Thanks for the prompt reply Marty. Sorry about the typo on your name in the prior message. I am glad the changes will be reflected in both places for continuity purposes.

  2. Hi Marty

    None of my students have complained about any of these issues. Maybe being from a disadvantaged background, they are less likely to complain as they are grateful for the chance to study. The one major issue is time – maybe looking at an additional 10 min for second language learners would make the test comparable fpr international takers and American students.

    All the best,

    1. Hi, Steve –

      Because the performance standards are the same for all students no matter what their background is, we unfortunately cannot give additional time for some students and not others. My advice is to just encourage students to do their best in the time allotted.


      1. Mr. Martin Kehe,

        I was wondering if you could tell me how you came up with the passing score? When you compare the percentage to the 2002 series, the 2014 is so much higher. Is there a reason why?


      2. I only needed a GED to continue a job I have worked in for the past 6 years.. no college plans. Just keep a way of making a living. I’m 54 years old. One point away from passing math. General math in my day is not what is offered on the test. Lost my job. With no hope. One point away. all other test I passed. After 3 tries I gave up.

    1. Heather – there are two Adult Education Centers in Anderson County. Depending on which school district you live in determines which program you would enroll with for classes. I am with Anderson School Districts 1 & 2 (864-947-9311). We do offer online classes for our students but encourage everyone to come to class when at all possible. Our school year is ending in two weeks and we will start back in the fall. There is another program for Anderson School Districts 3, 4 and 5 (864-260-5075). They have wrapped things up for the school year, also. I would call the appropriate program in early August to enroll.

      Janice Walpole, Director

  3. I wish the actual test for the Reasoning Through Language Arts matched the order and format of the GED ready test. The GED ready test gives the reading and comprehension part first and then has 2 articles to read and do the extended response at the end. On the real test there are some comprehension questions that go with the 2 texts for the extended response. Then the writing portion. Part 2 is the main reading comprehension part. My students are exhausted from part 1 before ever starting part 2 and many don’t realize that the test is in reverse order from the GED ready test.

    1. I agree with this comment, and have a question for Marty. Why does the GED Ready not score the essay, and give an accurate predicted score? Since the actual essay is scored by software I cannot understand why the practice test essay cannot be score by software.

      1. I agree as well. The change in format from the Readiness to the actual RLA test disorients students, as well as me as an instructor. I hope the GED Testing Service re-examines this issue.

  4. Hey, Marty
    Are the changes being made to the extended response only or the the entire test also if the entire test will be change will we have to start all over if we have not complete it in my case I have math left only.

  5. Pam I don’t like the ged test it hard and don’t make sense the question on the test is hard and some adult can’t go to classes they to have homeschooling for adults

  6. Will there be any changes of having more time or no time at all? I find to have run into more problems. When I’m getting timed. Especially with people who might have anxiety or some type of nervous condition. Being timed throws me off especially when I’m doing the math test.

    1. Hi Hannah,

      No, you will not need to retake the RLA portion of this test because of the 2019 updates. The updates will not affect your current timeline for completing your testing and earning your credential.

  7. I can not understand why the topic of the GED essay is so hard when in true it should be base on or an normal experience on one day to day life. If i have never been to Mars, then i would not know much to relate to a topic with Mars if i never get to research about space. Even if they very choices where you choose a topic where you can elaborate on.

  8. Will there be any changes to the score expiration dates? Maybe once you pass a part it won’t expire so we don’t have to retake the whole this over. I have passed two part and my other two will expire this year in March. I have been working really hard and get so close and I’m always 6 points from passing. It very frustrating trying to pass and fitting in time to take the test.

    1. Hi Erika,

      Your official GED test scores do not expire. Any test subjects passed since January 2014 are eligible toward a GED credential.

    1. Hi Sameera,

      GED scores acquired after January 1, 2014 do not expire. You can continue testing until all subjects are completed.

    1. The student I am working with has the Kaplan 2019 book. In it the ER pretest on page 16 is a single article with a prompt directing to analyze the article in essay form. But most of the samples and practice I see on the website are 2 articles to write about which article better argues their position and why. Please advise as to which format is current.

  9. Hello and good evening will the math sect on test change so people can aleast pass I have been trying with the math part and no success passed everything else I’m ready to give up ☹️ It’s to hard

  10. Do I have to worry about my scores expiring at all once I’ve already passed them? For instance if I haven’t passed my ged once the next ged update happens does that mean my scores then expire and I have to retake the test again?

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