Starting next year, anyone taking the General Education Development (GED) test in South Carolina will only be able to take the exam by computer.Adults who did not finish high school can take the GED test to get their diploma equivalent. For years, it has been paper-and-pencil, but the group which sponsors the tests began introducing new computerized versions last year. Since then GED Testing Service says it has seen marked improvements in the results, as adults who took the computerized test finished nearly 90 minutes quicker and were more likely to try again if they failed.
David Stout, the Director of Adult Education for the South Carolina Department of Education, agrees. “On the computer-based, people are tending to work faster and do a better job,” he told South Carolina Radio Network, “Especially the younger students. They’ve grown up on computers and the technology and they pretty much zip right along through it.”
Using those statistics, GED Testing Services announced it will begin testing only on the computer after January 1, 2014. Those changes will have a notable effect on South Carolinians in both positive and negative ways, Stout says.
First the positive: the computer requirements mean more available time slots for adults to take the GED, which is divided into five different sections (Reading, Writing, Math, Social Studies, and Science). Test proctors must travel from Columbia with copies of the paper test. As a result, the tests were historically given on Saturdays only, although that has expanded in recent years. Stout says that would no longer be necessary with electronic versions.
The state Department of Education currently runs six computer-based test centers around the state in Conway, Columbia, Manning, Rock Hill, Summerville, and Sumter. That number will grow to 50 by the end of 2013. “The individual testing center can plan their own schedule,” Stout said, “They can give the GED during the evening. They can give it during the day. They can give it on Saturdays. It will be convenient for students.”
Test-takers will also be able to get their results much more quickly. Not too long ago, it would take four weeks for a person to learn their score. Now, they can get the unofficial results as they walk out the door.
But the computer tests also cost nearly twice as much as the paper version. Stout says South Carolina charges a $80 fee for the traditional GED, but it is $150 for the electronic version. The new tests will also begin following “common-core” standards in 2014, which most educators consider tougher than South Carolina’s current standards. And, of course, it will require the test-taker to be computer-literate.
Through May 31, 2013 testtakers who begin their GED test on a computer will receive one free retake if they fail their first test. Adults who began their GED test on paper will be eligible if they live in a state where computer and paper based test scores can be combined. Any GED candidate that has not successfully passed the GED by December 31 will have their scores voided. All GED testers that have not earned their diploma by that date will have to restart the process.
South Carolina officials are proud of their GED program, which has seen major improvements in the number of students passing over the last decade. In fact, the state’s pass rate is above the national average. In 2012, approximately 8,200 adults took the GED examination and passed in the Palmetto State. That’s nearly double the 4,300 GEDs that were awarded in 2004. The number of GED diplomas awarded in South Carolina has increased each of the past eight years.