History of General Education Diploma

General Education Diploma

During World War II, many students dropped out of high school to enlist in the United States military. After returning from the war, these young men had to compete for open positions in the job market, so the United States Department of Veterans Affairs enlisted the help of the American Council on Education (ACE) to produce a battery of tests that mimicked the high school academic standards.

General Education Diploma Testing Service

The General Education Diploma Testing Service (GEDTS), which is an arm of the American Council for Education (ACE), oversees the General Education Diploma (GED) testing program and produces and disseminates to state departments of education. The five tests in the GED battery take about 7 hours and 45 minutes to complete. Most of the tests use a multiple-choice testing format with a short essay component.  In 1947, the first group of military veterans passed the GED to acquire a high school diploma equivalency that measures aptitude in writing, reading, math, and social studies. During several conflicts up to the Vietnam War, servicemen continuously earned their GED. Since 1943, there has been a steady increase in the number of GED credentials and test takers in the United States. According to NPR Ed (2015), 401,388 people passed the GED test in 2012, and 540,535 people passed in 2013. On January 1, 2014, however, the GED test was revised and became computer-based, was more expensive, and was dramatically more difficult than its previous iteration in 2002. As a result, only about 58,524 people passed the GED test nationally in 2014. That resulted in a 90% drop in passing rate from the previous year.


There are many potential barriers that affect the successful transition of GED students into college. Students from low socioeconomic backgrounds have fewer resources to make the successful high school to college transitions. Low-income minority students attending poor urban schools with limited resources might receive poor treatment from teachers, counselors, etc. Some GED students come from a single-parent household, low-income families, or families that never attended college. Another barrier that GED students encounter is feeling apprehensive about attending college because of their past experience in a high school or adult education program that most likely has not been positive.  For some, family or friends may not value education enough to provide the proper support for the GED graduate heading to college. GED students often face challenges that far exceed the challenges of students who complete high school. Often they have excessive financial burdens, a result of finding work only at more menial jobs; their academic skills are poorly developed, so academic success is more difficult to achieve.

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