Demand up for GED test prior to changes

MARIETTA – More people are taking the GED test locally, apparently in an effort to earn their high school diploma equivalency before the test becomes more difficult and more expensive.

“The tests have been filling up monthly,” said Marty Clark, GED administrator at the Washington County Career Center. “You can’t blame people. It’s $40 (now), and the level of difficulty goes up (significantly) after Jan. 1.”

In 2014, the general equivalency diploma test will cost $120, rise from a 10th-grade to a 12th-grade level, align with the Common Core curriculum standards and be offered only on computer.

Clark, said he scheduled 11 tests for this year, but has already added four more dates because of increasing demand. By this time last year, 85 people had taken the test at the career center. So far, 108 have done so in 2013.

Some people have been coming from farther away than normal, if the testing site near where they live is already full, Clark said.

“I’ve had people from down near Pomeroy,” he said.

Marietta resident Sherry Dodd passed her GED test in May. The single mother of two wants to use the certificate to improve her job prospects, and she’s now enrolled in the health/wellness program at Washington State Community College. She wanted to pass the test this year, in part, because of the coming changes.

Dodd called the 300 percent price increase “outrageous” and said she was concerned that the more difficult test would include “some things I couldn’t do.”

Another part of the urgency was that if she only passed a portion of the test this year, she couldn’t retake only the parts she struggled with in the new year.

“It would have canceled out what I already passed, and I would have had to start over,” Dodd said.

Dodd received help preparing for the test from the Adult Basic Literacy and Education program in Washington County. A.B.L.E. lead teacher Julie Stoffel said she’s been recommending some participants sit for the test earlier than she would have if the changeover wasn’t looming.

“Typically, what would happen is they would stay in the class until we think they’re ready to take the test,” Stoffel said.

That may mean a student has to retake a portion of the test.

“It’s not really been a problem,” Stoffel said. “People are able to narrow their focus that way.”

The current test is aligned with the Ohio Graduation Test, which students first take in their sophomore year. There are advantages and disadvantages to raising the difficulty level, Stoffel said.

“If someone wants to go into some type of higher education program, it’s going to make them more competitive when they take the Compass test,” Stoffel said. On the other hand, “people are going to have to stay in our program longer.”

The science and social studies sections of the new test will focus less on reading comprehension and more on knowledge of the subjects themselves, she said.

Generally, getting a GED is a stepping stone for a person who wants to go to college or get a better job, Stoffel said, so longer prep time could be a deterrent. The higher price would also be an obstacle to many people, she said, noting there isn’t currently a local entity to help with the cost.

“We’re attempting to find some sponsors that are able to pay for it,” Stoffel said.

Originally, the deadline to register for the current test was Aug. 7, but that was pushed back repeatedly, Stoffel said.