Homeschoolers Guide to Getting a GED

Homeschooler's Guide to Getting a GED

NOTE: The GED program has changed for 2014. Not all states are on board with the new changes at this point. Some are offering other options, some are not changing from the old test, and many haven’t committed one way or the other. Updates will be made to this article in the next several months as decisions are finalized by many states. 

For many homeschoolers, a GED may not be the most preferred option; however, the path toward obtaining your General Educational Development (GED) is hitting the highroad. A promising new GED is in the works right now. The new release date is scheduled for 2014…more about that later.

More than 18 million people have received a GED credential since the program began. One in every seven Americans with high school credentials received the GED test credential, as well as one in 20 college students.

The Overview

The GED examination consists of five divided skill areas:

  • Language Arts, Writing
  • Social Studies
  • Science
  • Language Arts, Reading
  • Mathematics

These five tests measure a student’s knowledge and skills that should have been acquired after four years in high school. One plus to the test is that the student does not have to memorize facts, details, dates, or exact definitions because most of that is contained in the questions. The student is responsible for being able to read and understand the material that is presented and then to answer questions about it. All of the questions on the test are multiple choice with the exception of the Writing Skills test. The student is given a brief statement, short passage, map, table, or diagram, and then answers one or more multiple-choice questions about this material.

Students must pass each section with a score of 410 or higher, and the combined total score must be 2250 or higher to earn the GED diploma. Most students find the writing, math and science sections the most challenging.

The chart below outlines the test sections, time allowed, number of test items, and a percentage description.




Time Allowed

Number of Test Items


Test 1

Language Arts, Writing Part I

75 minutes


Organization 15%
Structure 30%
Usage 30%
Mechanics 25%

Language Arts, Writing Part II

45 minutes

1 essay

Essay on given topic
approximately 250 words

Test 2

The Social Studies Test

80 minutes


World History (25%)
U.S. History (25%)
Civics and Government (25%)
Economics (20%)
Geography (15%)

Test 3

The Science Test

80 minutes


Life Science (45%)
Earth & Space Science (20%)
Physical Science (35%)

Test 4

Language Arts, Reading

65 minutes


Literary Text (75%)
Nonfiction Prose (25%)

Test 5

The Mathematics

90 minutes


Number Operations and
Number Sense 20-30%
Measurement and
Geometry 20-30%
Data Analysis, Statistics
and Probability (20-30%)
Algebra, Functions,
and Patterns (20-30%)

The Naysayers

Many people are under the assumption that the GED is not highly regarded by employers or colleges. The American Council on Education (ACE) reports that nearly all employers throughout the nation are prepared to offer the same benefits, wages, and opportunities for advancement to GED graduates, as they are to standard high school graduates. This is one reason the GED is referred to as a “high school equivalency” test.

There are many who adamantly disagree with this notion, but do admit that a GED does open pathways to postsecondary schooling and training opportunities. Naysayers base their feelings on the fact that only “dropouts” take the GED. Domenick J. Maglio, Ph.D. Neo-Traditionalist, says a student who receives a high school diploma has satisfied the expectations of numerous teachers, peers, and other authority figures. As if that alone makes one fit for a diploma. He goes on to say that student has demonstrated the ability to meet minimum academic standards on many tests, but can also conduct himself in a reasonable manner in many different circumstances. Mr. Maglio states that employers know passing a test does not correct poor attitude, attendance, work ethic, interpersonal skills, and perseverance. Mr. Maglio is clearly out of touch with reality. A homeschooler, who is clearly not a dropout, does attend school regularly, takes many standardized tests, and usually has a higher work ethic and excellent attitude, as well as advanced interpersonal skills.

Mr. Maglio is mentioned only to point out what you might face at some point, and to reassure the homeschooler that a GED is a valid and good option for many different reasons. Regardless of how someone else feels about the road taken to obtain a diploma, what matters most is how the student feels.

The Subject Areas

Language Arts: Writing

Part I

The “Language Arts: Writing” test portion is divided into two parts, of which the first covers sentence structure, organization, usage, and mechanics. Students read text from business, informational, and instructional publications and then correct, revise, or improve the text according to Edited American English standards (or equivalent standards in Spanish and French versions).

Part II

This part of the “Language Arts: Writing” test requires the student to write an essay on an assigned topic in 45 minutes. Persons who finish Part I early may apply the remaining time to their essays. A passing essay must have well-focused main points, clear organization, and specific development of ideas, and demonstrate the writer’s control of sentence structure, punctuation, grammar, word choice, and spelling. There is no minimum word count. The essay should be long enough to develop the topic adequately. Assigned topics are always an opinion or perspective that does not require special knowledge.

Social Studies

This test covers American history, world history, civics and government, economics, and geography.

Students read short passages and answer multiple-choice questions. Some passages come from such documents as the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Many questions use graphs, charts, and other images, such as editorial cartoons, along with or instead of written passages.

Questions involving economics as well as civics and government rely heavily on practical documents, such as tax forms, voter-registration forms, and workplace and personal budgets. Topics such as global warming and environmental law also are covered.


Questions cover life science, earth science, space science, and physical science. The student’s skills in understanding, interpreting, and applying science concepts to visual and written text from academic and workplace contexts is measured. The test focuses on what a scientifically literate person must know, understand, and be able to do. Questions address the National Science Education Content Standards and focus on environmental and health topics (recycling, heredity, and pollution, for example) and science’s relevance to everyday life. Students should expect to see tables, graphs, charts, and diagrams, as well as complete sentences.

Most questions on the “Science” test involve a graphic, such as a map, graph, chart, or diagram. Subjects covered include photosynthesis, weather and climate, geology, magnetism, energy, and cell division.

Language Arts: Reading

This test focuses on the student’s ability to read and understand texts similar to those encountered in high-school English classrooms. The test has five fiction and two nonfiction passages, each about 300–400 words long. The fiction passages include portions of a play, a poem, and three pieces of prose. The nonfiction passages may come from letters, biographies, newspaper and magazine articles, or such “practical” texts as manuals and forms. Each passage is followed by questions that assess reading comprehension, as well as the student’s ability to analyze the text, apply the information given to other situations, and synthesize new ideas from those provided.

Questions do not require the student to be familiar with the larger piece of literature from which the excerpt is taken, the author’s other works, literary history, or discipline-specific terms and conventions.


This test has two equally weighted parts, the first of which allows students to use calculators, while the second forbids their use. Students must use the calculators issued at the testing center.

Forty of the 50 questions are multiple-choice; the other 10 use an alternate format, requiring the student to record answers on either a numerical or coordinate-plane grid. Both portions of the test have questions of both types. The test booklet offers a page of common formulas as well as directions for completing the alternate-format items and using the calculator.

The test focuses on four main mathematical areas:

  • Number operations and number sense
  • Measurement and geometry
  • Data analysis, probability, and statistics
  • Algebra, functions, and patterns


Test Preparation/Free Practice Tests

Successful GED students use every piece of information they find to study and pass the exam. Numerous study guides, flash cards, and charts are available at stores such as Books-A-Million and Barnes and Noble as well as online sources like Amazon. Libraries should also have several resources, but you may want your own copy.

When looking for a study guide it is best to pull several choices from the racks, head to the Starbucks section of the bookstore, and get ready to spend quite a bit of time analyzing the different formats. Not all resources are created equal as far as the way they present the material. Some guides have a “teaching” section followed up by practice questions. Some guides go straight to questions only. Some guides have small print while others have larger print and a better layout. The student must carefully examine all choices in order to pick the study guide that meets his needs. Many guides come with a CD of pretests and posttests in addition to the ones in the guidebook.

Guidebooks are not the only way to prepare. There are lots of free practice tests and guides available online. Here are a few sources:

Disability Accommodations

What about a student having a disability that might affect his ability to take the GED in its standard format? You can apply for accommodations, which may include any of the following:

  • Audiocassette
  • Braille edition
  • Large print or screen-magnification
  • Calculator
  • Scribe
  • Extended time
  • Stop-the-clock breaks
  • Separate or distraction-reduced room

There are forms for you and your doctor to fill out since any disability must be documented. Make sure you submit your completed forms at least 60 days prior to the test. Keep in mind that just because you have a disability does not mean you will be granted an accommodation. GED Testing Service considers each request for accommodations on an individual basis. Here is a link to their site.

Test Centers/Fees

The cost of the GED for students varies depending on the state. The most reliable and up-to-date information regarding any given area’s current testing costs and policies may be found by contacting the local testing center.

Some areas do not charge for the test. Arkansas does not charge students who pass a practice test. In Connecticut, veterans and students under age 21 take the test free; depending on their local GED board. Students can also take preparation courses free and/or receive a free copy of the official preparation textbook. Students in Georgia who receive Medicaid can take the test free (paid by Medicaid).

In other states, the test-taker must pay for the cost of the test. There may be a fee for registering for the exam, and then a separate fee for rewriting any failed section. The student may retake a section until the expiration date of the exam, generally the last day of that year, or the next year.

Contact your local testing center for more specific answers.

The 2014 Test

In 2014, GED Testing Service will release a new assessment that will not only measure high school equivalency, but will also provide information about a student’s readiness for careers and college.

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There will be two levels of GED testing. One will be for students interested in high school equivalency and job readiness. The other will be for students who want to go to college. The hope is that students who pass the higher level test will then be able to pass college entrance exams at a level sufficient to avoid having to take any non-college credit, developmental (a.k.a. “remedial”) courses.

ACE recognizes a GED student must remain competitive with students who complete their high school requirements in the traditional manner. They go on to say evidence suggests that test-takers who demonstrate fluency with the skills measured in the new assessment will be better prepared for what they plan to do with their lives. One can assume that the new test will also put an end to “some” naysayers.

Onward and Upward

If your reason for taking the GED is to go to college, you are not alone. More than 60% of GED students say they intend to further their education. Ninety-eight percent of U.S. colleges and universities recognize the GED credential.

You may be required to take additional tests, such as the ACT or SAT, to qualify for admittance to a college or university. Some may even ask you to undergo further counseling and testing as part of their admissions process. You should contact the school’s admissions office to find out what requirements they have.

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Jackie, a former public and private school teacher, enjoys homeschooling her 16 year old daughter via Time4Learning's new high school courses and other supplementals. Jackie keeps busy writing study guides, educational articles, and literature units for various online education companies as well as acting as an online marketing consultant. She is a contributing author at 3 D Learners.

September 15, 2012


  1. KK says:
    Posted April 26, 2016 12:36 am

    Hey, I'm 16 and live in SC. I want to get my GED but all the research I've done shows that if I'm under 19 I need an official highschool withdrawal form. The issue is that I was pulled out of public school in elementary school. Is there a way to get the homeschool equivalent?

  2. Jamie says:
    Posted November 6, 2014 10:40 am

    Hi Courtney, from what I understand depending on the state you live in... you will need to get eligibility status from your local school's GED coordinator. I would just pay them a visit and go from there...

  3. Courtney Bennett says:
    Posted November 6, 2014 9:21 am

    I have been homeschooling for a long time now and its gotten so complicated I decided to get my GED. I researched and I now know that for my age all I need is the superintendents approval. The problem is I don't know if I call k12 (my homeschooling program) for the approval or the school district I live in. Any help with this?

  4. Jamie says:
    Posted January 15, 2014 4:57 pm

    I am guessing that this number is the "code." I don't have any experience with the GED. However, other standardized tests always require a highschool "code." Which is simply the number assigned to that highschool by the test board. It allows the machine that scores the test to admit this information. I did google it for the GED, but found no results. I would try to call someone from the GED testing center and ask for their help.

  5. Linda Herrera says:
    Posted January 14, 2014 7:01 pm

    We home schooled our daughter and she will be taking the GED. They tell me we need a "Home School Number" for the application. Do you know what they are talking about?

  6. Homeschooling High school English says:
    Posted August 23, 2013 7:01 pm

    [...] Homeschooler’s Guide to Getting a GED [...]

  7. John e says:
    Posted October 3, 2012 12:41 am

    Incredibly interesting article that answered many of my ged questions. I think I'll link to it!

    Related to this question is a NPR radio program about an economics professor named Heckman who studied GEDs and standard diplomas.

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