Students scrambling to finish GED before tougher test goes into effect

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Here's a heads-up for anyone finishing up their GED or planning to sign-up for the program. Starting January 1, 2014, a more rigorous version of the GED test will begin. It's been 11 years since the test was revised, and this time, the changes are considered the most dramatic yet.

Donna Keating has been a GED teacher in the Gulfport School District for four years. Now, she has to revise her curriculum to prepare her students for some major changes in the GED test next year.

"It's a lot of changes. It's scary," said Keating.

The new test is expected to be more challenging to align with the new Common Core National Standards. Common Core relies more on writing skills and content analysis. So instead of memorizing information, students will have to apply their knowledge to solve problems.

"I also know that in Social Studies and Science, they have open-ended questions where they have to write paragraphs. They don't do that now," said Keating.

Plus, students will take the new test on a computer instead of paper. That raises another concern for Keating.

"Part of what we teach is test-taking skills. I teach them how to circle words and look for key things that help them set the problems up. Naturally you can't circle something on a computer," said Keating.

Another change has to do with test scores. Let's say students pass some of the five subject tests. If they don't complete the rest of the test by the end of the year, come January 1, their old scores will expire and they have to retake all five tests.

"That is something that I'm really upset about, because I think the kids that are here now should be grandfathered in," said Keating. "It's going to slow them down to the point that they get frustrated, and may end up dropping out."

That's why students, like Ranysha Crawford, are scrambling to finish their GED by the end of the year.

"I really wouldn't like taking the whole thing over again, and it's going to be a new test. It's going to be much harder than the test we're taking now, so I'm just going to get this over with," said Crawford.

"Especially if it was hard for them in the beginning and they have to come back and start all over with a test they know is going to be more difficult, that's when we'll lose them too. It's going to be an adjustment," said Keating.

It will also cost more to take the GED test next year. Schools normally cover the fees for students. However, for adults, the cost will rise from $75 to $120.

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