Contrast Between High School Diploma And GED

What Is the Relation Between GED and High School?

This is the only nationally accepted high school equivalent credential in the US. Most US universities, educational institutes and employers accept the credentials for admission and employment. But, how are high school and GED related? Do they measure the same skills and provide the same diploma or certificate credentials?

Taking High School GED

In US and Canada, high school completion is the basic educational qualification required for further studies and employment. Yet, not everyone is able to complete a formal high school program. It thus becomes a necessary service to create alternate opportunities for the non-high school graduating people. The important points of the test taking requirements are:

  • The high school program in US generally lasts till 18 years or so. As compulsory education is up to 16 years only, many might drop out from completing the program.
  • It can only be taken by those who have not completed their high school education or an equivalent program and have not received an equivalent credential. 
  • The minimum age requirements might vary based on the jurisdiction. For example, California has a minimum age requirement of 17 years, while North Dakota has a minimum age bar of 16 years only.
  • 95% of US colleges and universities accept GED scores as equivalent to high school diplomas.(
  • Completing the high school program is most desirable, if circumstances allow it. High school provides student with a lot more opportunities of learning life during its longer coursework, in addition to academic and technical skills required. However, in case of a candidate not being able to graduate, taking GED exam is the next best option. About 96 percent of US employers accept the credentials.

GED Test and High School Program

Though both the programs are intended to further educational and employment opportunities for the candidates, they are essentially not the same.

  • Taking the GED might not require the same amount of time and effort for preparation. It requires preparation for a couple or more months only, while high school diplomas require completing the course work spread over 3-4 years.
  • However, the GED test is not any less complex or easier. It measures the academic skills and knowledge of the candidates at the level of a high school program, focusing on employment and further studies opportunities. It tests candidates in five subject areas:
    • Mathematics
    • Social Studies
    • Science
    • Language Arts, Reading
    • Language Arts, Writing
  • Though various jurisdictions follow different policies of testing and award different credentials (a diploma or a certificate), it is a standardized test and has strict standards for passing the test.
  • The tests are standardized based on the levels of high school students. It is proved that only 60% of students pass this test at the first take.

Question Types in GED

It requires that candidates are able to read, write, express unambiguously, compute, analyze and interpret information on a level comparable to graduating students. Questions in all the five tests are designed to measure the required skills:

  • Mathematics: The test has two parts with 25 questions each and analyzes the candidates' understanding of concepts and their ability to apply the concepts. A calculator is provided for the first part. Questions are a mix of multiple-choice, standard grid and coordinate plane grid types.
  • Social Studies: There are 50 multiple-choice questions from History, Geography, Civics and Government and Economics. The questions are based on visual and written texts, like passages, charts, graphs and tables.
  • Science: There are 50 multiple-choice questions to be answered based on the given passages or visual information. Questions are spread across Physical Science, Life Science and Earth and Space Science areas.
  • Language Arts, Reading: The test contains 40 multiple-choice questions based on literary and non-fiction texts. The test measures the candidates' ability at reading comprehension and interpreting.
  • Language Arts, Writing Part I and II: Part I of the test includes 50 multiple-choice questions that require candidates to revise and edit documents. Part II consists of an essay question on a general topic.

The question types do not necessarily follow the same pattern and structure. But the purpose being the same, a high school program and GED measure the candidates' abilities and skills in similar core areas. While high school might provide more topics and electives to choose from, the test content of GED is almost fixed to focus on the core essentials, with slight variations owing to jurisdictional and geographical differences. To summarize, in case of an inability to complete high school, the test ensures that there is still a way to continue education and seek better opportunities.

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