Students who have not completed high school for any reason will have a chance to get their GED (general education diploma) with a new test beginning in January.
Andrew Merrill, the GED coordinator at the Provo-Orem campus of Stevens-Henager College, outlined some of the differences in the new test.
"They are making it more of a high school diploma equivalency," he said. "More colleges are accepting it, which is a great change."
The test more completely reflects the evidence of readiness for college and gives an assessment of the student's academic strength and weaknesses.
"That is really nice as well," Merrill said.
"It also includes the use of technology," he said. "In today's world, technology is everywhere. To be able to use it, that is a huge indicator of being able to apply for a job or to do work as your job."
The test itself utilizes technology.
"It is more drag and drop," Merrill said. "You are selecting from a drop down menu to answer a question. It is a very practical application of it. It is kind of nice the way they are using technology in that regard."
"If you don't have basic computer knowledge it is going to be very difficult to pass," he said.
More students are expected to be looking for GEDs, as projections indicate that 60 percent of jobs will require some form of college education by 2018, Merrill said.
The GED program has been around for 70 years and this is its fifth revision. It is more application based, Merrill said.
Because of the changes, students who come to Stevens-Henager to prepare for the GED may need to plan more time.
"Right now we are able to take our students through a program," he said. "Most spend about a month." Then they go to the UVU testing services to take the test. The time is expected to increase.
"Because of the change, it will take about three or four months," he said. "There is a lot more content to teach the students. They will actually need to know the content."
"That is a good change but it is going to be a longer prep for our students," he said.
Stevens-Henager will also need more computer access for the students to be able to have more practice time.
Test takers will need to demonstrate more reasoning in their answers with the new version.
"They will give extended responses, read different arguments and not just write their own opinion, but assess the strengths and weaknesses of both arguments," he said. "It will be more challenging. You will actually have to know the stuff instead of just basic recall."
Not only do they have to know their stuff, they have to demonstrate it, over an extended period. The test takes about seven hours.
Stevens-Henager has had about 50 students take the preparations and GED test since June, with a near 90 percent pass rate on their first try.
"We currently have about 60 active students going through our program," Merrill said. One student who recently earned her GED is Leslie Garside from Spanish Fork.
"My husband passed away three years ago," she said. "I stayed home with my kids adjusting to a new life. Then it was time for me to go back to school to continue to take care of my children.
I went there looking to go back to college. We discovered along the way my high school was not finished. I took the GED to finish quickly to finish school."
Merrill said she went through the program in about 10 days, shorter than average. She was pleased with the results.
"It turned out quite well for me," she said. "I am in college now. In just a few weeks I had gone through the review. You can go as fast or as slow as you want. They helped me set up appointments to go and take it. I was able to pass it all and start college.
"I am studying medical specialties. I have really enjoyed it so far. I'm excited to learn and do that."
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