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Computer-based GED testing sends scores soaring
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A new, computer-based method of GED test-taking has helped send scores soaring and the number of GED graduates continues to increase throughout the state.

"Our scores are averaging, across the state, 10 percent higher than they were on paper-based testing," said Sandra Lipkowitz. Lipkowitz is the executive director of the Reading Education Association of Dawson County, and a GED test administrator at the Dawson County Adult Education Center.

From August 2012 through February 2013, 24 students at the Dawson AEC location have earned their GEDs, out of the 39 who have attempted the test. Regionally, 273 students have taken the GED exam, with 140 passing. (The region includes Gainesville, Oakwood, Dawsonville, Commerce, Homer and Dahlonega.)

Lead instructor at the Adult Education Center, Sharon Clark, said that she was initially skeptical of the computer-based testing.

"The test hasn't changed, meaning it's not any less difficult," she said, "but I think that the student's ability to move through the test without having to wait on the other test-takers to finish helps them to maintain momentum and focus."

Lipkowitz talked about how one test-taker finished in all five portions of the GED in under five hours.

"There are 497 minutes allowed for all five tests, which is just over eight hours," Lipkowitz explained.

Clark attributed the faster test-taking times to a myriad of factors, including that the students are now in separate cubicles. "Once a student settles into the 'testing zone,' it's very important to keep distractions at a minimum," she said. "Since each student is sitting at a separate cubicle, it's easier for him or her to focus on the screen and not be distracted by peripheral movement."

Clark said that she also believes the computer-based testing makes it easier for students to compose and edit the essay portion of the GED. "Those students who are worried about essay planning are relieved to learn that a dry-erase board and markers are available for their uses. The boards can also be used for calculations on the math test."

Lipkowitz gave the AEC teachers glowing praise and the credit for the rise in GED test scores.

"Our teachers are pulling for these students so much," she said. "The students call them. They get their scores right away, except for the writing, and they call their instructor as soon as possible. Sometimes before they walk out of my door," she laughed.

"The teachers and volunteers here care so much about these students, and they're pulling for them so much. And I think the students feel it. They're making the students feel valued and like they're important."

More students are flocking to the Adult Education Center, especially after the announcement was made that the GED test will transition in January 2014. "Over the years, many students have taken parts of the GED ... but they didn't finish all five test, or they may have taken all five tests but did not have the required total average for attaining the GED," Clark said. "Now, with the knowledge that the GED 2002 will end this December, they are coming back to finish the 2002 tests. Once the 2014 GED test rolls out in January, all partial scores will be erased."

Because of this, the AEC has noticed an uptick in students, with Clark saying that there are currently 199 students enrolled in the programs. "Since the start of Spring Semester in January, we've had 50 new and returning students enter the program," she said.

Clark advised any student who needs to complete the 2002 GED to register for summer classes, as she expects fall classes to be fill up quickly. "We may add testing dates as needed," she said, "but we may not be able to accommodate procrastinators."

The last testing date for the 2002 version of the GED is Dec. 20, 2013. Clark said that there will be two testing dates per month up until that point. "That's 18 testing opportunities between now and then," she said. "If the demand is heavy, we may add some dates, but even with added dates, time is running out."

The differences between the 2002 test (when the GED was last revamped) and the upcoming 2014 test include a change in multiple-choice questions (there will be four answer options instead of five), and the essay item will be removed and replaced with both a short answer and an extended response item.

Short answer and extended response questions are not used in the current version of the exam, with a greater emphasis placed on reading comprehension and workplace-based editorial as opposed to the current test which focuses on literature.

There are currently five tests that make up the GED, but there will be four in the new 2014 version, including: Reasoning through the Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies.

More information on the changes between the current version of the GED and the upcoming version can be found online at gedtestingservice.com.

Additionally, Clark suggested that anyone interested in the computer skills necessary for taking the computer-based GED test, they should visit gedcomputer.com, and click 'Prepare' on the top of the home page.

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