STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

The GED exam is getting an overhaul

The General Equivalency Diploma exam, better known as the GED test is harder as of today.

American Radio Works has done an impressive series on the history of the GED and what the new test will be like. Reporter Emily Hanford explains that while the military developed the GED in the early 1940's, they are now loathe to accept recruits with only a GED. They do not in fact see it as equivalent to a high school diploma. 

So is the GED test just too easy? Is that why people with the credential don't do any better in the labor market than people who drop out of high school? For many, it's not easy enough.In Michigan there are almost 20,000 people who took the test last year and just over 10,000 passed. The national figures mirror those results, with about 40% of test takers failing. 

Economist James Heckman says it's not about the test. Heckman is known recently for his work on early education but has been studying the GED for a very long time.

Among other things, Heckman thinks it's not that the test is too easy but rather that whatever made a person drop out of high school in the first place is likely keeping them from being successful. These people may lack "soft skills" or abilities like resilience that people who were able to stay in high school are more likely to have. 

Check out the whole series, Second Chance Diploma, over at American Radio Works(and tell us how you did on the sample test).

Related Content