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A New GED Test Means New Challenges For Students And Instructors

This month, a new — and some say more challenging — GED test rolled out. After 70-plus years, paper is out, and online is in.

Forty states, including Texas, are offering this revamped version. Students and instructors in one Fort Worth test-prep class are having to adapt.

Lula Telford is preparing to take the GED test for the third time. The difference this time around is that she has to use a computer. The 59-year-old says that may be a problem. She admits she's not tech savvy.

“It seems harder to me now than it was before,” Telford says. "Maybe not, but it seems like it is to me and maybe because, like I say, I’m older. But it’s a lot more challenging, a lot more challenging to me.”

That's why Telford is enrolled in a free GED test-prep class at Fort Worth’s Eastside Workforce Center. Classes like this are meant to prepare students for the new test and help those who aren’t computer literate.

Planning for the future

Telford’s a former school cafeteria worker who left her job after falling in the kitchen. She suffered nerve damage in her right leg and says her doctor hasn’t cleared her to work yet. Telford says she’ll start job hunting again as soon as her doctor gives her the OK. That’s why a GED would help.

“It’s really important for me, especially at my age,” Telford says. “My memory is not the way it used to be, but I’m really hoping and praying that I can get it because that’s always been a dream of mine.”

Telford’s not alone.

Many students preparing for the new test are anxious about their future. They want new jobs or have plans to return to school. Sharee Davis, one of the instructors, says the biggest challenge she sees so far is technology.

“Some people have computers at home and smartphones and know how to use this technology,” Davis says. “A lot of students that we get, they come in and they don’t even know how to turn on the computer. They’ll push little buttons and kind of mess with it. It’s like ‘oh no, on, the switch is right here.’”

More critical thinking

The other big change with the new test? There’s more writing. The old test had mostly multiple choice questions. The new one has short answer and essay questions. Students are tested in four areas – language arts, math, science and social studies. The entire test costs $135.

“Now it’s more or less you have to think cognitively,” says Jalon T. Harris, a part-time adjunct professor for Tarrant County College. “You have to reason. You have to use prior information, prior experiences.”

Davis says she thinks the revamped test is a step in the right direction, but it’s not without its challenges.

“It is gonna be a paradigm shift. It kind of puts us all on our toes,” Davis says. “It kind of reinvents the way we teach and present info and makes sure we’re aware of it.”

Davis now shows her students more instructional math videos from YouTube, for example. That way students who have have access to a computer or mobile device can learn how to look them up on their own. She’s also getting students to talk and write about their future plans, to think critically about what they want to do if they pass the GED exam.

Crystal Jordan who has never taken the GED test before says she’s excited about the online prep class. Jordan’s 25 and a former stripper who’s trying to rebuild her life. She says she dropped out of school in the 8th grade and put her baby up for adoption. She scored high on a recent GED pre-test, which has motivated her to stay on the education track.

“I like the fact that it’s on the computer. It’s more personalized cause I don’t have to slow down at everybody else’s pace,” Jordan says. “I’m a very quick learner. I catch on to things really fast.”

She wants the GED process to move fast, too. She says she plans to take the test in the next couple of months and enroll in community college in the fall.

How well would you do on the GED test? Answer this sample question taken from the GED Testing Service site.

Sample Social Studies Questions:

Directions: Choose the one best answer to each question.

Questions 1 and 2 are based on the following information.

The history of the world is filled with stories of people migrating. Migration is the movement of people from one place to another as they seek a new home. Famine, overpopulation, limited resources, war, and religious and political persecution “push” immigrants to move to another country. Hopes for employment and a better life “pull” immigrants to new places.

Millions have migrated to North America since the 1600s. Spanish, French, English, and Dutch immigrants were the first European settlers to establish permanent colonies. They settled in lands originally populated by people from Asia. Many people from Africa were driven from their homes at this time to be enslaved to work in colonies in the Americas.

Throughout the 1800s, immigrants looking for employment came to North America from Japan, China, and southeastern Europe. In the 1970s and 1980s, Southeast Asians, Latin Americans, and Caribbeans migrated to North America. Many of these immigrants fled from war-torn countries, political persecution, and economic difficulties.

Question 1: The government of a country may restrict the number of immigrants allowed to enter that country. These restrictions on immigration are most likely based on what belief?

  1. An economy can support unlimited numbers of people.

  2. The “push” factors justify most immigration.

  3. Immigrants enrich the culture of a country.

  4. A country has a limited number of jobs and services.

  5. A government should not interfere with the migration of people.

Question 2: Based on the information, which is an opinion rather than a fact about immigrants to North America? Immigrants…

  1. traveled long distances to find a better life

  2. migrated to find employment

  3. learned to live in a foreign culture

  4. escaped from political persecution

  5. found a better life

Click here for the answer.

See more sample test questions.

The Texas Education Agency has more information about the new test, including frequently asked questions.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.