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What is a GED?

If you didn’t graduate from high school, you can still earn an academic equivalent by getting your GED. The GED is a substitute for a high school diploma, and can be earned by passing a series of exams. Many individuals who don’t complete high school choose to obtain their GED as a way to further their educational and professional opportunities. 

What exactly is a GED?

The GED (General Educational Development) is a credential earned by passing the GED Test. This test is designed to evaluate if students possess the academic skills equivalent to those of graduating high school seniors. 

The GED Test is composed of four separate exams, each one focusing on a different academic area. The GED Test includes the following subjects:

  • Reasoning Through Language Arts
  • Mathematical Reasoning
  • Social Studies 
  • Science

Those who pass the GED Test earn a GED credential. This credential, awarded in the form of a diploma or certificate, is equivalent to a high school diploma. 

Is the GED actually the same as a high school diploma?

On paper, yes, a GED credential is the academic equivalent to a high school diploma. GED holders and high school graduates possess the same academic knowledge, but not necessarily the same experience. Those who earn their GED do so after dropping out of high school, while high school graduates finish their schooling and obtain a diploma. Below, we’ll discuss the educational and professional opportunities available to GED holders. 

What options do I have with a GED?

If you didn’t earn a high school diploma, obtaining a GED credential is an important way to expand your educational and professional opportunities. Keep in mind, though, that some colleges and employers may not necessarily view GED holders the same as high school graduates.  

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If you’re looking to continue your education and go to college, the GED can be listed on your application as a substitute for a high school diploma. According to GED Testing Service, more than 98 percent of colleges and universities in the U.S. accept the GED in lieu of a high school diploma. 

However, some colleges may view GED holders differently than high school graduates. Even though a GED credential is the academic equivalent of a high school diploma, unfortunately sometimes the GED is perceived as a shortcut to completing four years of high school. 

To demonstrate your academic commitment when applying to college with a GED credential, it’s important to have a well-rounded application. This means that in addition to scoring highly on the GED, it’s helpful to have high SAT or ACT scores and extracurricular activities. Depending on the context of your individual situation, you may choose to talk about your experience getting a GED in your personal statement or in the context of an interview. 

See also: Top Scholarships for Nontraditional Students


The GED is also a great option if you’d like to immediately enter the workforce. Most employers view the GED as equivalent to a high school diploma. This means you shouldn’t have trouble applying for jobs that require a high school diploma or equivalent, as long as you have the necessary skills and experience for the position. You also have the potential to earn a higher wage with a GED. 

As to how employers view GED holders compared to high school graduates, it can vary based on the company. For workplaces where rules and protocols are very important, such as banks and the military, a completed high school diploma may be viewed as an indicator of an individual’s ability to follow rules. However, for startup companies and creative job positions such as video game developers, a GED may be viewed as an asset. 

How to get your GED


To be eligible to take the GED test, you cannot be enrolled in high school. In addition, you must be at least 18 years old. However, some states allow students to take the GED at age 16 or 17. Check your local requirements to see if you’re eligible to take the exam.

Preparing for the test

It’s important to prepare for the GED so that you know what to expect when it’s time to take your exam. On average, it takes about three months to prepare for the GED according to GED Testing Service. However, this varies based on skill level and education. Fortunately, there are a variety of resources available to help you get ready to take the GED. 

Taking a practice test is a great first step when preparing for the GED exam. GED Testing Service offers the official GED practice test, which is $6 per subject. This test is written and designed by the creators of the actual exam. Therefore, it will give you a good indicator of how likely you are to pass the real test. GED Testing Service also provides free sample tests, which are less in-depth but will still give you an idea of what to expect. 

Once you’ve taken a practice test, it’s time to study. By now, you should have an idea of your strengths and weaknesses and what you should focus on for the test. Plenty of GED study materials are available online. For instance, GED Live offers access to online prep classes in all four test subjects for $129. Another study option is GED Flash, which offers thousands of interactive practice questions on all four subjects for $25. You can also hire a test prep tutor to help you study. There may also be community-based organizations that offer free test prep support.

There are also a variety of free study materials available. Online search phrases such as “free GED resources” or “free GED practice” should turn up hundreds of potential resources. If you’d prefer to take an in-person class to prepare for the test, many community colleges offer GED prep courses. Visit GED Testing Service to find a GED prep center near you.

Scheduling your test

Once you feel like you’re prepared to take the GED, schedule your test with GED Testing Service. The cost of taking the exam varies by state, but the average cost of all four tests is around $120. You can schedule your exams one at a time, or you can take all four at once. The GED can be taken in person at an approved testing location, or online in the majority of states

If you don’t pass one of your GED test subjects, you are given two retests with no restrictions between retakes. However, if you fail the third or any subsequent GED retest, you’ll have to wait 60 days until retesting again. You should note that individual states may have other requirements for retesting which you can find here.

Is the GED worth it?

The GED is absolutely worth pursuing if you didn’t finish high school and you’re looking to expand your educational and professional opportunities. Having a GED credential can be your ticket to college, or the route to a higher paying job. Even though some colleges and employers may perceive GED holders differently than high school graduates, don’t let this stop you. Remember, the majority of colleges and employers accept GED holders, so it definitely can open doors.

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