Big changes in high school equivalency

For nearly 70 years, the GED was the go-to exam for a high school equivalency certificate and a primary gateway to employment or higher education for those who never graduated from high school. But a recent revamp of the test has opened the door to competition, and today many states offer alternatives to the old standard.

GED takersThe move to revamp the GED began in the early 2010s, when the nonprofit American Council on Education, administrators of the GED, realized that the test was not in line with updated academic standards. Together with education company Pearson, they embarked on a complete overhaul, and debuted the new GED in 2014.

GED officials say the new test more closely matches the beefed-up national standards that high school seniors are expected to master. And proponents say the overhaul has resulted in upping the value of the credential in the job market.

But critics contend that the new GED is too difficult even for many high school graduates. Also, they note that the higher price tag—starting at $80—and the elimination of the paper-and-pencil option makes it inaccessible for too many. And the numbers bear them out: from 2010 to 2013, the number of annual GED-takers ranged from just over 500,000 to more than 800,000. But in 2014, the first year of the new GED, just 246,000 people took the GED. (Note that GED backers attribute that to a one-time post-change fluctuation that has occurred after past revisions to the test.)

In response, alternative high school equivalency tests are gaining momentum. To date, fifteen states and counting offer an alternative to the GED, with some offering up to three options. So what’s a test taker to do?

Get started by checking your state’s high school equivalency options. Follow the links to your state’s specialized information about each option. (And note that many states are in the process of changing their policies, so double check your state’s department of education if you don’t see options listed on the chart.)

You can also learn more about the three main options:

  • The General Educational Development (GED®) test
  • The High School Equivalency Test (HiSET)
  • The Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC)



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