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Online GED tests await those who don't finish in 2013

Students who have taken only part of the General Educational Development Test to establish high school equivalency — better known as a GED test — must finish by the end of 2013 or they will have to take an entirely new and different test.

The new version will be all digital — no more pencils and paper — slightly harder and slightly more expensive.

Rogue Community College has mounted a big push to reach more than 1,000 students who haven't completed the GED, but many letters have been returned because the recipient has moved on, says Linda Renfro, RCC's dean of workforce and college preparation.

Testing has increased by 10-to-20 percent this year, she adds, as students seek to finish work on the old tests.

If they wait beyond the end of this year, students who have failed part of the five-part test must retake all five tests and pay the full price of $155, says Marque Haeg, the state's GED administrator. The old test cost $140.

New to the 2014 GED are college and career endorsements. If you score high on the tests, you get the endorsements, which allow you take credit-earning classes without taking non-credit remedial courses first, he notes.

The math portion and other parts of the new test are slightly tougher than the present test, which dates to 2001, he says. The five tests cover writing, reading, social studies, science and math.

The new test is "normed" so that 60 percent of high school seniors would pass it. To prepare for it, students may take official sampler tests at many sites online.

Students who put off finishing all five tests usually have anxieties over facing the math or writing segments, says Haeg, adding that it would be to students' advantage to face the music and get it over with.

The GED allows students to apply for a range of financial aid and Pell Grants that are available to most students, says Renfro. It also helps workers who have lost jobs in the downsizings of the recession and who are now applying for jobs that require high school diplomas. Many older students lack computer skills, especially word processing, but RCC has been helping students during prep classes.

Benefits of the computer-based system include around-the-clock, one-stop, online registration, payment and scheduling, flexible testing appointments and instant test scores on all but the writing exam, Renfro says.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.