Elaine Glenn said she saw about a 20 percent increase in the number of students taking the GED exam during the last few months of 2013.
Glenn, the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Campus’ GED and ESL lead instructor, said there was a lot of “intense studying and hard work on the part of many of these students to get the test taken.”
“There are a lot of people who knew that they were not ready, there were people who did not quite pass and then kept studying really hard for another two weeks,” she said. “We worked with them intensely and then they were able to pass.”
The rush to earn a GED before 2014 was prompted by a revamped testing process that took effect Wednesday. And students who have passed some but not all of the tests to earn a GED will have to start over from scratch.
The new setup of the exam corresponds closely with changes to standards in kindergarten through 12th-grade schools, known as Common Core, across most of the United States.
A new payment structure allows test-takers to pay for one portion of the test at a time, while the total cost of $160 for the entire GED will remain the same. The price per test is increasing from $32 to $40, but two language arts tests are being consolidated into one.
Deborah Killip, director of data management at Lanier Tech, said there will be some adjustments to the new tests, including the essay portion, but she wants students to remain optimistic.
“Don’t be discouraged,” she said. “A lot of people have heard this is a harder test, but I would not want people to think they can’t pass it. I want to put people’s minds at ease about that, and that Lanier Tech is there to help them.”
Testing is conducted entirely via computer, which means for those who are not technology savvy, there’s a learning curve, Glenn said. But it also ensures test-takers will have basic computer skills that will be useful for either a college or career track.
Students must have working knowledge of Microsoft Word and learn how to use a more advanced calculator.
“We’ll have information about what computer functions they’ll need to be used to, and will need to get familiar with as far as working the actual program ... and there’s a lot of new information that we have for them to work on, which will help them to prepare for the new test,” she said.
“We’ll be working the first month on getting them used to the new calculator. They’ll be learning on a physical calculator, but it will be a virtual calculator they’re using for the test.”
School begins Jan. 8 at Lanier Tech, which is when GED classes will pick up. Testing will begin shortly after for students who feel prepared. Glenn said the school will offer practice tests based on the new format to help students determine if they’re ready.
Killip said in addition to the new testing, there is also a separate scoring option.
“They’ll get a basic GED score that tells them if they passed,” she said. “But if they scored high enough, it may be an indication they may be ready for college. I think it will be great feedback.”
The new scoring, called the career and college readiness score, also offer feedback into areas the test taker can improve on before attending college. The results show detailed information about a student’s weak areas with links to specific study materials for remediation.
The readiness scoring is going to help students obtain goals beyond acquiring a GED, Glenn said.
“We don’t feel that it is more difficult, but it’s a lot more areas that are being tested,” Glenn said. “It’s just helping people prepare more, and be better prepared for college and for life. That’s the purpose of this new rollout.”