New GED affects logistics and content: Fifth generation test must now be taken on computer

Published on Saturday, 4 January 2014 21:38 - Written by By Emily Guevara

After becoming a mother more than a year ago, Monica Garcia decided she wanted to set an example for her daughter.

So, last year, she started attending GED classes at the Literacy Council of Tyler after hearing about it from a friend.

When she is ready, she will take the first of four subject-area tests on the road to completing the whole thing.

“I didn’t finish high school,” Ms. Garcia, 27, of Tyler, said. “Now that I have (a daughter) I want to get my GED done so I can start my career and give her a better life. … I want to be an example for her, to have a career so she can see that her mommy is supporting her too.”

Ms. Garcia will be among the first of many to take the new edition of the GED, which was launched Thursday. This is the fifth generation of the test and the first change in more than a decade.

The reason for the change is twofold, according to Literacy Council officials.

“It was a combination of wanting to have a GED (recipient) … who’s college or career ready and staying consistent with what is going on in school,” Resa Wingfield, the Literacy Council of Tyler’s executive supervisor, said.

Since the GED assesses academic skills and knowledge generally developed during the four years of high school, the test must change as secondary education changes, according to the GED Testing Service website.

“I think they really actually came out with a pretty good product,” Ms. Wingfield said. “The stuff I’ve seen, I like.”

Ms. Garcia said she isn’t nervous about the changes because the Literacy Council classes are preparing her.

In addition, she said, her teacher is telling her about how the new test will benefit her more because of the knowledge she will have to gain to pass.


Key changes

Nancy Crawford, Literacy Council of Tyler executive director, said the changes to the test affect logistics and content.

First, the new test has to be taken on the computer, though not online. However, test takers will have to create an online account through the MyGED program in order to register and take advantage of other resources.

The test no longer will be offered in a paper form, except for test takers who need an accommodation.

The new test combines the writing and reading portions, so it includes only four portions instead of five as the previous version did. It also focuses more on reasoning within each subject area.

Resa Wingfield, the Literacy Council of Tyler’s executive supervisor, said the test seeks to measure a student’s depth of knowledge.

This means students have to be able to take knowledge and apply it in new ways, rather than simply regurgitate facts.

“It’s not a matter of hard and easy, but complexity and thought process,” Ms. Wingfield said.

In the writing section, the emphasis on higher reasoning skills will require students to compare and contrast texts and support their points with evidence from the texts.

Previously, students could write a five-paragraph essay based on their opinions and provided they stayed on topic and followed the format, all was well. So the new requirement is going to be a challenge for them, Ms. Wingfield said.

In the math portion, students won’t be provided formulas as they previously were, but will have to know them by memory.

Vocabulary also will play a larger role, with test takers having to know more subject-specific words.

“Our speculation is that the majority of our students will take a little longer to prepare,” Ms. Wingfield said, adding that the practice tests will become more important.

Although content changes are significant, they aren’t viewed as a problem because teachers want their students to have the best opportunities to further themselves, Ms. Crawford said.

The price change, however, is a different story. With the old test, students paid $80 to take it at the Tyler Junior College Testing Center.

However, the 2014 GED is expected to cost test takers about $125. Paul Goertemiller, a consultant for TJC’s GED testing program, said the GED office in Texas and Pearson VUE decided on this amount and TJC has no control over it.

Pearson VUE is a for-profit company that partnered with the American Council on Education to create and administer the new GED.

Ms. Crawford of the Literacy Council said she would like to offset any price increase with other funds in an effort to keep the Literacy Council students’ portion to $80.

“We don’t want it to become a stumbling block,” Ms. Wingfield said of the cost.


Preparing the students

Literacy Council GED instructor Rich Roper said the organization has been looking ahead to the changes and instructors adjusted classes accordingly.

This has meant and will continue to mean spending more time with students in the computer lab building their basic technology skills; increasing their math skills — the new test will require more Algebra than before; and building their reasoning ability, Roper said.

Elizabeth Felix, 22, of Tyler, one of Roper’s students, said the change to a computer-based test is making her slightly nervous, but she also feels like she is being well prepared.

Roper said although no one likes change, he thinks the new test will be good for students in the long run.

“Not every student wants to go to college, but I think that this test and the skills needed to pass it will make them a lot more college ready,” he said, adding that they will be more marketable as well. “We’re going to have some growing pains as we go, but I think it’s going to be a good thing.”