Understanding and Interpreting the GED Test Score


If you plan to take the GED Test soon, you’ll want to know how the exam is scored and what score you’ll need to earn your GED, the common term for the General Education Development credential.

The GED Test is actually a series of five tests, or a five-test battery, with a total of 7.5 hours allowed for all the tests. The test series covers social studies, science, language arts-or reading and writing, and math. The math tests cover basic number operations, basic algebra and geometry, along with analysis of charts and data. All tests are multiple-choice except part two of the writing test, where an original essay is required.

About GED Test Scores

Passing scores for the GED Tests may vary slightly from place to place. But overall, most locales have adopted the scoring standard set by the American Council on Education, the administrative agency for the GED.

The standard scores for the GED tests range from a minimum of 200 to a maximum of 800 on each test. To pass, 60 percent is required. This means you’ll want to score at least 410 on each GED test to pass it, and achieve an overall score of 450 for the five-test battery. The score for any single test can’t be less than 410, but the average of all the scores must be at least 450. These means if some scores are lower than 450, other GED tests need to be well above 450 so that the scores for all five GED tests average out to a minimum of 450.

Essay Scoring

The original, two-page essay is scored differently, and accounts for about 40 percent of the overall Language Arts-Writing Test score. Scoring is based on the written response to a prompt. The score arises from a combination of measures, including essay effectiveness, organization, idea development and how focused your essay is to the prompt. The essay is also measured on appropriate English mechanics such as grammar, punctuation, your choice of words and sentence structure. Basically, this means that the score is a twofold result:

  1. How well can you make your point, remain on-topic, focused and create an impression with your words and ideas?

  2. Do you have a good basic command of the language and its structure? Is your use of language proper?

What’s the pass/fail rate?

Almost half of the people who take the GED fail the first time. The most common reason for failing the GED is not studying the right things. The better prepared you are for the GED test, the greater your chances of doing well.

You may want to take an authentic GED practice test first, which will give you an idea of your scores and help you identify areas for study – before you take the actual test. Practice tests are also a good way to acquaint you with the timing of the test and how the test is structured.

What’s the most difficult part of the test?

Difficulty is based on an individual’s abilities, skill strengths and weaknesses. But most people say the math and writing portions of the test are hardest, and scores reflect this opinion since the overall passing rate is less for these tests. So it’s important to understand both test expectations in these areas and how these sections are scored. You’ll want to really examine and understand your skill strengths and weaknesses in these areas.

How does the GED score compare to a high school diploma?

The GED tests are standardized and normed using a national random sample of graduating high school seniors. To pass the GED tests, a candidate must demonstrate a level of skill that meets or exceeds that demonstrated by 60 percent of graduating high school seniors. In other words, 40 percent of graduating high school seniors wouldn’t pass the GED tests. So once you pass the GED Test, you have an excellent credential. It’s reflective of high school proficiency and more, since what’s tested is the ability to apply knowledge, and not just remember it. The GED test requires that you show what you know, not what you should know.

Taking the Test

Once you’re ready, you’ll take the GED test at an official test center. You may want to contact your test center early, to ask for a clear definition of scoring for your locale or state. The centers are located in all major cities across the U.S. and Canada. For a list of test sites please visit: http://www.passged.com/test_state.php#1

Beware: Even though some companies and schools claim to offer the GED Test or a GED online, it’s not possible. The GED is not given online, only at official test centers. International testing is also available. However, practice tests can be ordered online and are probably available in your local bookstore.

Getting Your Score – and Using It!

Once you’ve taken the test, you’ll receive your scores in the mail. If you pass some parts and fail others, you can retake only the portion, or portions, you failed. You won’t be required to take all the tests again. But before retaking a test, be sure and study – take a class, relearn and practice skills. You’ll also want to check with your testing center to determine if there’s a waiting period before retesting and if your center limits the number of times you can retake tests.