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North Hills Monthly

Changes to GED Test Make it More Challenging

Sep 30, 2014 01:54PM ● By Jill Cueni Cohen
The GED® test has been around since 1942, when it was developed as a way for returning World War II soldiers to get a high school equivalency degree. Since then, the test has undergone a series of alterations that reflect the changing times and the evolution of secondary education. The GED’s most recent change took place in January, and included doing away with the paper version of the test in favor of current technology, one of the many profound deviations from the way the test has traditionally been administered.

According to Jaime Tracktenberg, program manager for Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, the test itself has gotten more complex. In fact, test-takers are strongly advised to take advantage of free prep classes before shelling out up to $120 for the four-section exam ($30 for each section if taken separately). This is double the price of the old test.

“It’s a computer-based exam, so it has to be administered at a licensed testing center,” explained Tracktenberg, noting that Goodwill is the number one testing center in the state. “So far this year, we’ve administered 794 exams. There are not many testing centers in Allegheny County, but you can take it anywhere in Pennsylvania.”

GED prep classes are offered through Goodwill’s Literacy Initiative. Danielle Blanchard-Krane, literacy coordinator, explains that students get placed in a class with other people who have similar skill sets. “It runs the gamut from people learning to read to those who can do almost college-level work,” said Blanchard-Krane, adding that the minimum age is 17. “Students are usually in their mid-20s to early 30s, but we’ve also had students in their 70s.”

Tracktenberg said that the GED exam is a path toward getting a better job, and the recent changes are designed to get students to think on a deeper level. “People think it’s for dropouts and there’s a stigma attached, but if you can pass this test you’re doing pretty well, because 40 percent of graduating seniors can’t pass it,” she revealed, noting that people who come to Goodwill’s Lawrenceville testing center without having taken prep classes usually don’t pass.

“Even if you know a lot about history and science and you can read well, you won’t necessarily pass,” she warned, noting that students can take online practice exams at to become familiar with the types of questions on the test. “They’ll score you and let you know if you’re ready, so you have a better idea before you spend the money.” The GED prep classes are conducted days and evenings at eight locations throughout Pittsburgh.

“The new test is not more difficult per se, but you have to have a deeper understanding of the material rather than just being able to recognize presidents or know history terminology,” added Blanchard-Krane. “For instance, you might have to have an in-depth understanding of the branches of government. It’s not just base knowledge; it’s deeper thinking.”

Blanchard-Krane says that the multiple-choice questions are now accompanied by other types of questions, including short answer, matching, and some of the math questions require graphs. There are writing sections on the science and social studies portions. The test itself takes approximately seven-and-a-half hours to complete, so she recommends taking the prep classes up to a year before.

“Everyone wants to know how long it takes to get ready for the GED, but what you put into class is what you’ll get out of it,” advised Blanchard-Krane. “Be present, because it’s not easy to crush four years of high school into a couple of weeks. We’ll help you get there, but you have to want it. It’s not easy, but with studying, practice and attending classes, it’s definitely doable.”

Register for the exam at For information about GED prep classes, call 412-632-1841. For other inquires, contact

Testing is held at Goodwill’s Workforce Development Center at 118 52nd Street, Pittsburgh, PA, 15201.