Thousands of Iowans who have started on the path toward a General Educational Development diploma, or GED, could be impacted if they don’t successfully complete the required testing by the end of this year.
That’s because GED Testing Service, the company that provides the test, will switch from the 2002 Series Test at the end of this year to an updated version, the 2014 GED test. Once the new version goes live in January 2014, anyone who did not complete the 2002 test by the deadline will have to start over under the 2014 series, and they will lose any scores earned under the current version.
Iowa is among the many states that uses the GED test to determine who should be awarded a high school equivalency diploma, a state-issued credential.
“Anyone who has passed a portion of it will need to finish out the whole GED test or they will essentially be starting over in 2014,” said Jeremy Varner, community colleges division administrator for the Iowa Department of Education.
Iowa’s 15 community colleges are all approved to offer the GED exam. The state awarded 3,404 GED diplomas in fiscal year 2012, with 443 of those earned at Kirkwood Community College. In total, GED enrollment in Iowa was 9,568 in fiscal 2012.
The GED is actually five tests in different subjects: reading, writing, social studies, science and math. A person must pass all five tests to earn the diploma.
Kirkwood officials said they currently have about 300 people who have started the GED program but have not completed it. The college recently sent mailings out to those people to inform them of the upcoming test change, and of the Dec. 13 deadline to complete the program under the 2002 version.
“The big thing is, it’s not too late to come back and finish it,” said Marcel Kielkucki, director of high school completion programs at Kirkwood.
In Iowa, there are 11,481 test-takers who started the GED test between January 2002 and March 12, 2013 who have not completed it, Varner said.
How long it takes to complete the five tests depends on the student, but Iowa requires them to pass practice tests in each subject before they can take the official tests, which cost money, Kielkucki said.
“In Iowa, you can’t walk in off the street and walk into a GED test center and take your test,” he said. “You have to participate in the program, take practice tests to show your qualifying score. It’s one of the reasons we have the best pass rate in the nation.”
Cedar Rapids resident Cindee Taylor needs two more tests to complete her GED. She plans to finish it within three months, before her practice exam scores expire, but knowing there’s the additional deadline of the GED test change at the end of the year also spurs her to finish it, the 24-year-old said.
“It motivates me to get it done, so it’s not going to be harder for me in the future,” said Taylor, who dropped out of high school when she became pregnant and works at Subway. “I just know it will open so many doors for me and give me better opportunities.”
The new version of the test will be computer based, with no paper test option available. Some Iowa test sites are piloting that computer-based test to get students used to it, officials said.
For decades, GED has been the only provider used in Iowa to determine when the state will award a high school equivalency diploma, Varner said. The state’s contract with GED expires at the end of 2013, and state officials will look at other providers, he said. It’s expected to go out for bid in the next month or so, and there are three vendors likely to submit proposals, including GED, he said.