Why Now is the Time to go Online to Prep for High School Equivalency Tests


Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 1:00am

After World War II, returning American service personnel who had put aside getting their high school diplomas to fight for their country needed a way to finish their education so that they could take advantage of government programs and enter college. To facilitate this, the American Council on Education put together a test that most Americans are familiar with, the Tests of General Educational Development—or GED® Test for short.

For a long time, the GED® Test was the standard by which all states granted a high school equivalency diploma. However, in 2012, the time came to renew and revise the GED® Testing program. The American Council on Education formed a joint venture with NCS Pearson to create the GED Testing Service LLC and produced a new, computer-based only, GED® Test. In addition to the move to the computer, the new test includes all new objectives that are closely aligned with today’s Common Core State Standards, and it features a price tag that is nearly double what it originally cost to administer.

This new higher cost, and the fact that the GED® Test is now available only on computer, where many of those that need to take the test—such as prison inmates—can’t access it, led some states to look for alternatives. This resulted in the creation of two new high school equivalency tests.

The first new test is the High School Exit Test (or HiSET®) which was created by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and is based on the objectives of the previous GED® Test created in 2002. The second new test is the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC™), which was created for the state of New York, where districts are bound by legislation to pay for administering the test, thus the need for a less expensive alternative. The TASC® objectives are also based on today’s Common Core State Standards. TASC was developed by the CTB McGraw Hill Company and is now adopted by several states. Both the HiSET and TASC are available online and via paper-and-pencil. And although the majority of states still rely on the GED® Tests, some are opting to use these alternatives, and the list is growing.

Even with the evolution of the high school equivalency tests, the act of preparing for the test remains mostly the same. Students can take courses at their local community college, at Department of Labor “One Stop Shops,” job training centers or—should they be incarcerated—at their correctional facility. Test takers can also prepare themselves by purchasing books and other prep materials at bookstores.

However, in the same way that alternatives exist for the test itself, there are also alternatives to the traditional methods of preparing for it. Online learning solutions now offer high school equivalency test preparation programs that can be superior to traditional courses and prep materials for three distinct and important reasons:

Efficiency – Some online learning programs are prescriptive. Students taking practice high school equivalency tests through prescriptive online learning solutions will have their learning gaps identified by the program and be provided instructional materials that address those gaps, better preparing them for the exam. Considering how much information the test needs to cover—an entire high school career’s worth—it is immensely more efficient to identify gaps in knowledge and work to fix them than to study everything.

Accessibility – People who are seeking high school equivalency degrees usually have significant responsibilities, such as jobs, family care, or other responsibilities that place high demands on their time. These individuals may not have the ability to get to where high school equivalency test prep courses are being offered, when they’re being offered. However, online programs allow them to engage in the material anytime and from anywhere they have Internet access, making the programs more accessible to a large population of test takers. There are even solutions, such as the Fuel Education Anywhere Learning System, that can be delivered online but do not require Internet access. This enables places like prisons to run the online education solution contained entirely within their walls and on their networks.

Familiarity – Between the GED® Tests going computer-based only and the HiSET and TASC also available to take on the computer, the majority of high school equivalency test takers are taking a computer-based exam. The GED® Tests alone have a number of particularly innovative test items that use computer models. Students who prepare for the test online will be more comfortable taking the exam on the computer, lessening their test anxiety.

High school equivalency tests assess individuals on their knowledge and comprehension of an entire high school career’s worth of course content. For a student who is only a few course credits away from graduating, it may just be more efficient to finish the few courses they need than to try to take a multiple part test that covers four years of content. School districts with online learning programs can enable these students to take those courses on their own schedule from anywhere in order to finish their diploma without having to take an equivalency test.

High school equivalency tests are changing, with new tests entering the market, new content being covered, and in new ways in which tests are administered. It’s time to give individuals taking these tests a more effective way to prepare for them. Online learning programs can allow test takers to prepare more efficiently, get them accustomed to the experience of taking tests online, and enable them to engage in the material on their own schedule.


GED® is a registered trademark of the American Council on Education (ACE) and administered exclusively by GED Testing Service LLC under license.  This material or content is not endorsed or approved by ACE or GED Testing Service.


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