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Texans Will See Big Changes to the GED Test in January

Daniel Reese for KUT News
In January, Texans who drop out of school can start taking their GED test online.

Following a national trend digitizing high school equivalency tests, Texas will only offer the GED test online come January. The State Board of Education approved some final changes to the new testing process Thursday as the state prepares for the transition.

The test will be entirely online, which means students need to be more computer literate.

"There will be situations where students will have to use a cursor to move items, drag and drop items or be able to point at a particular area of a chart – things of that nature where it's not just clicking a multiple choice answer," says David Borden, executive director of the Adult Education Program at Austin Community College.

"A lot of them don’t have the skills," says Vernelle Elliot, GED prep teacher at Ascend, an Austin based GED test prep school. "They do as far as they know how to get on the internet or do their Facebook or email, but [they many not be skilled] as far as composing an essay or being fast enough on a keyboard with correct grammar skills."

Vernelle and Borden say when it comes to the GED, change is good: Moving to a computerized test means students are learning how to use technology for college or the workforce:

“They may not like it now they’re required to do more but down the road they’ll be happy they’ve got those computer skills," Borden says.

Another big change: The test will no longer just be multiple choice. Students will have to write essays and answer short answer questions.

"A student who is interested in going to college, they find they have a skills gap for college and spend a lot of time in remediation. So if test is at higher level it will be able to serve that student longer in adult education and have them be more college ready before they exit," Borden says.

But for students who have already begun working toward their GED, they only have a few more months before all that work is lost. Once the test changes, students who have incomplete GEDs will have to start over – which also means paying to take the test again. And this time, the fee could be higher. Currently, the cost of the GED depends on where students take the test. Now, the online test will have a flat rate.

Elliot says places like Ascend offer vouchers to help students pay for the test, “but we’re going to have to rethink that too because the costs are going up," she says.

The kicker is the state’s contract with the private company that administers the GED is also up at the end of the year. At Thursday's meeting, some State Board of Education Members expressed interest in vetting other high school equivalency test for Texans. Board Member Tom Maynard says the committee encourages healthy competition between testing companies.

“At the end of the day nothing may change but at least we will have properly done our due diligence and we can make a decision and go back to stakeholders and this is the decision we made," Maynard says.

The board will discuss the issue again in November.  Last year, 48-thousand people took the GED test in Texas.

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