The History and Evolution of the GED Test [Infographic ]

The GED test has gone through several versions as educational needs evolved with society. Throughout these changes, it has remained an essential avenue for anyone who did not finish high school. Equivalent to a high school diploma, the GED certificate opens many doors one may have thought were closed forever.

This timeline indicates the dates of new versions of the GED test and the reasons for changes.

History of the GED Test
History of the GED Test

GED Test Timeline – Evolution of the GED test

To date, the GED test has been through five generations—1942, 1978, 1988, 2002, and 2014—and its evolution parallels the evolution of society and the labor market.

1942-Help For World War II Veterans

First developed in 1942, the test was a direct reflection of an industrial era, during which time a high school education was adequate for many jobs.

The GED was developed to help military vets with their transition into post-war society! It gave those who enrolled in the military before finishing high school, a way to demonstrate their knowledge. After passing the GED test, military vets were able to get jobs and go to college.

In 1947, New York became the first state to extend the GED testing option to non-veterans, and by 1974, all 50 states had followed suit.

1978-Getting a Job

Around 1970, all 50 states used the GED program. More than 40% of test-takers said their primary motivation was getting a job.

As the industrial age came to a close, changes in secondary education made reviewing the GED necessary.

The primary changes during this revision included creating a separate reading test and shifting focus from simple factual recall and rote memorization to applying more conceptual knowledge, utilizing critical thinking, and evaluating information.

1988-Popularity Growth

By the early 1980s, almost 15% of all high school qualifications were GED diplomas.

As the industrial era ended, a more information-based, technological shift occurred, and this evolution necessitated another GED overhaul.

With this shift, test takers’ reasons for taking the test also changed with a higher percentage citing a desire to enter postsecondary education (65%) than for strictly employment reasons (35%).

2002-Getting a Better Job

More than 65% of GED candidates said they plan to attain postsecondary education to get a better job.

This revision included more business-related topics to keep abreast of an evolving job market. It also increased the relevancy of reading passages, thus making them more adult-friendly and pertinent to the times.

2014-Getting a Career

The GED test is now computer-based. It measures problem-solving and critical-thinking skills and prepares students for a career, not just a job.

The current manifestation of the test itself was developed and is administered by Pearson after the company merged with ACE in 2011. ACE wanted to overhaul the test but realized that the approximate $40-50 million overhaul was not feasible by itself, so it sought a partner, and Pearson was the only company that agreed to partner with ACE for this huge endeavor.

Common Core Standards

This version was created to align with the Common Core Standards to better prepare students for post-secondary education and an evolving job market. Thus, the test is now strictly computer-based with questions that utilize drag-and-drop, fill-in-the-blank, and pull-down menus, which complement the increasing focus on computers.

The test itself evolved from being purely academic to containing more practical applications.

Lower Passing Score


Consequently, the test’s difficulty level increased to stay abreast of an evolving society and workforce.

To address this, back in 2016, GED Testing Service lowered the passing score from 150 to 145 per subject.

Before this adjustment, the average scores among those who passed the exam were 150 for math, 152 for reading/language, 153 for social studies, and 154 for science.

This adjustment was a direct result of research that demonstrated that individuals who passed the newest GED test were doing better in college than more traditional high school graduates and not due to the arguments that the test was, indeed, more difficult.

In addition to the lower cutoff score, the GED now utilizes tiered pass rates, which assess whether a successful test-taker may be college-ready without any remediation and who may be eligible for college credit through ACE’s Credit Recommendation Service.

The GED test will likely continue to evolve as secondary education evolves.


Since 1942—the year the GED test was first created, —19 million individuals have obtained their high school equivalency credential.
Nearly 70.2% of test-takers completed the entire test, and, of those, 85.3% passed and received their credentials. Overall, however, the passing rate for all test takers—whether or not they completed all four areas—was 59.9%.

Why is the GED test important?

In this day and age, not only is a high school diploma or HSE credential desirable for finding a job, it has become virtually essential.

The same goes for furthering one’s education. Without a diploma or GED certificate, it is quite challenging to find a decent job, and furthering one’s education is impossible.

For those who didn’t finish high school, or are too old to attend, obtaining one’s GED has several vital outcomes.

Reasons for obtaining one’s GED aren’t solely limited to getting a job or attending college or trade school. Whereas having a GED can improve options for obtaining a job, it may also improve one’s chances for a raise, promotion, or better job down the line.

Another reason to earn one’s GED is to instill a sense of accomplishment and pride. Improving oneself—whether through education or other avenues—increases self-confidence and self-esteem. It can also serve as a strong reminder that one can achieve his/her goals, whatever they may be.

Obtaining one’s GED can also set a good example if one is a parent. Of course, all parents want their children to do well in school and succeed in life, and being a good role model and showing them the importance of education can go a long way.

Where to pass the GED Test 

The current test takes approximately seven hours to complete; however, test takers need not complete the test in one day. Each section can be scheduled separately at any of the 3,200 official GED test locations across the United States. The cost of each subject’s test varies among states.