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Test-takers rush to finish GED before switch

It’s not just busy; Stephanie Rooks calls it a bombardment.

Changes to the exam to earn a general equivalency diploma have caused the testing center at Gwinnett Technical College to be busier than usual throughout the year. And Rooks, the dean of the Adult Education Department at Gwinnett Tech, only expects more to register.

Adults are registering to beat a Dec. 31 deadline to earn their GED high school equivalency certificate before a new test goes into effect next year.

Through June, Gwinnett Tech recorded 1,820 test-takers, compared with 1,600 for all of last year. In October and November, Rooks said the number of test-takers doubled each week.

“It’s really out there that this is your last chance, you don’t want to lose all the hard work you put in,” Rooks said. “Getting a high school credential can make a big difference.”

The GED test measures the skills and knowledge that traditional high school seniors should know.

Rooks said the difference in income between people who have a high school equivalent degree and people without is $560,000 over the course of a lifetime. She also said 95 percent of colleges and universities accept GED requirements. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor say a person with a high school or GED diploma will earn $7,658 more annually than a non-high school graduate.

“It provides an opportunity,” Rooks said.

The new test is $40 per section, up from $32, but condenses five subject area exams into four, which are reasoning through language arts, math reasoning, science and social studies. Each section has either 40 or 50 questions and test-takers are allotted between an hour and five minutes and two hours. Rooks said she does not recommend taking the entire test in one day.

The questions are more difficult and aligned with new Common Core Curriculum Standards. Instead of taking tests with pencil and paper, students will have to take the exams on computers. Information on the GED Testing Service website said the changes allow adult test-takers to still achieve a high school equivalency diploma on the same basis as their current high school graduate counterparts, and yet provide them with performance feedback and information on their skills relative to career- and college-readiness.

The test last changed in 2002, and Rooks said Georgia used paper and pencil tests until two years ago.

The recent economic downturn has made the GED test more popular, Rooks said.

“We saw our population and students in adult education increase,” she said. “Employers were forced to make cuts, they insisted whoever they kept had a high school diploma. We saw more students becoming motivated by getting that piece of paper to keep my job or find another one.”

The Gwinnett Tech testing center is typically open the next three weeks from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Students must register online and make an appointment before they can take the test.

“Even if they do not make it here by (Dec.) 31st, we are fully prepared and ready to help students with new test,” Rooks said, referring to test preparation classes.

For more information, visit gedcomputer.com or call 1-877 EXAM GED to check appointment availability and schedule testing.