How Do You Pass the GED?
And stick with it.

With many other questions and answers in mind, is meant to be a companion, not a substitute, for the official preparatory support provided by the
GED Testing Service and its MyGED program.

With you in mind, will do its best to be an ally in your quest to study for and pass the GED.

Is the New GED harder than the Old GED?

In a recent PBS NewsHour appearance, a representative of the GED Testing Service, which has administered the test in its newly computerized format since 2014, explicitly stated that the new GED is harder than its old paper-and-pencil predecessor.  In addition, an NPR news article noted a “sizable decrease” in the number of people passing the test, dropping from 540,535 in 2013 (old GED) to 58,524 in 2014 (new GED).

So the new GED is harder, right?

It’s hard to tell.

There are at least three reasons why it’s hard to tell:
1.  The rollout of the new GED was suboptimal.
2.  The sample size of new test-takers is small.
3.  The new GED is different from the old GED.

It’s easy to tell that the rollout of the new GED was suboptimal.  As of January 1, 2014, many well-known publishers (Steck-Vaughn, McGraw-Hill, Princeton Review, etc.) had yet to make updated GED preparation books available via such popular outlets as  Although students could directly access online preparatory materials through the GED Testing Service’s MyGED portal (for a fee), the dearth of published prep books was a “tell” that many, if not most, teachers and classroom prep centers (on which many, if not most, students depend) probably lacked other important support materials, including new software geared to the newly computerized exam.

Problems with the Mathematical Reasoning test were also a tell.  Initially, GED Math
test-takers were allotted 90 minutes, obligated to use an online calculator, and deprived of formulas for mean, median, distance, total cost, and several geometric shapes (square, rectangle, triangle, circle).  However, somewhere along 2014’s way, the GED Testing Service changed course and increased Mathematical Reasoning’s allotted time to 115 minutes, allowed test-takers to use handheld calculators (of the same make as the online version), and added the aforementioned formulas to the official Mathematics Formula Sheet.


The probable lack of support materials in the hands of teachers and classroom prep centers, coupled with the initial problems with the Mathematical Reasoning test, meant that students were ill-prepared to prepare for, let alone take, the new GED.  Under the circumstances, it is not surprising that fewer students took, let alone passed, the new GED.

There is no denying that the new GED is, in some ways, different from the old GED.
Unlike the old GED, the new GED is completely computerized.  Even scratch paper is now prohibited, replaced by erasable noteboards instead.  The price of the new GED ($120) is higher than the old GED ($50), too.  Whether it is covering start-up costs and/or computerization and/or a profit motive, the higher price of the new GED is hardly an incentive for attracting a higher number of test-takers.

Alas, a suboptimal rollout, a smaller sample size of test-takers, and “being different” do not necessarily mean that the drop in the new GED’s test-passers is the result of a harder test.  Because GED teachers and classrooms were not uniformly equipped with the necessary software, books, and support materials, how could students be expected to prepare?  Because the math test needed adjustments, how could the new vs. old GED performance of students testing in math be accurately gauged?  Because the cost and format of the entire test changed, how could the new vs. old GED performance of the fewer number of students testing in all subject areas be accurately gauged?

Obviously, the need for mid-year “adjustments” could easily be a sign that the new GED’s math test is harder than the old one.  On the other hand, an argument can be made that the new GED’s essay questions, though double in number, are now easier than the single old one.  In the old GED, a test-taker could be asked to write an essay on such questions as “Do you think that gun control laws deter crime?” or “What does it mean when it is said that the grass is always greener on the other side?”  In the first question, some might not know what the word “deter” means; others might not know enough to write about gun control, yea or nay.  In the second question, the demand to come up with concrete examples to fill an essay regarding an abstract aphorism could be even more daunting.

Thus, under the old GED, students faced with an open-ended essay question could draw a blank.  In the new GED, students are given a reading passage from which it is arguably easier to pluck three points from something other than thin air on which to build a
five-paragraph essay.

In one crucial way, large portions of the new GED are similar to the old GED.  Because reading dominates the Reading, Social Studies, and Science modules in the new GED, just as it did in the old GED, any student who can master such concepts of reading comprehension as main idea, detail, inference, and context while traveling through a reading passage still stands a good chance of passing these modules.

Still, is not an apologist for the GED.  In this site’s opinion, the rollout of the new GED was badly botched. is also not part of the Education-Industrial Complex; it is not making any money off of the new GED.  Frankly, this site was launched by a baby boomer to pass down knowledge before it’s lost.  As an even earlier generation once said, “You can’t take it with you.”


Moving right along, what would it mean if, all things considered, the new GED is indeed harder than the old GED?

That’s easy.  It would mean that students who pass the new harder version of the GED know their stuff, know how to persevere, and know how to learn for the rest of their lives.

That said, if had a say, here is what it would advise the
GED Testing Service to do:

  • Admit, because of a suboptimal rollout, fewer people are taking the new GED.
  • Take a cue from the Affordable Care Act, whose suboptimal rollout was subsequently
    overcome by an outreach effort that resulted in 10 million newly health-insured.
  • Reach out to make sure GED prep classrooms in community colleges, adult education centers, literacy councils, etc. have all of the software, books, and materials they need.
  • Reduce the cost of the GED from $120 to below the $100 barrier; make up in test-taker volume what you lose in the sticker price.
  • Make known all sources of financial aid.
  • Use social media on a daily basis to disseminate test information and success stories.
  • In short, put yourself out there to engage instructors and learners in a virtuous feedback loop instead of a they-said-you-said vicious cycle.

Is the New GED harder than the Old GED?
A.  Yes
B.  No
C.  Maybe
D.  All of the above
E.  None of the above