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Students prepare for changes to the GED

Mariah Ten-Hoven of Streamwood works on an assignment during her GED preparation class at Elgin Community College.
Mariah Ten-Hoven of Streamwood works on an assignment during her GED preparation class at Elgin Community College.

Maria Vega is pushing to get her General Educational Development test completed before the end of the year. If she doesn’t, she’ll have to start from scratch and pay more than double to take it in 2014.

She’s one of many students who hope to wrap up the five GED test sections before changes occur next year.

Vega, 44, of Sugar Grove, has a high school diploma from Mexico, but she wants to take the GED to help with her English proficiency. She said she hopes it will propel her to her ultimate goal.

“I would really like to be a nurse one day,” she said.

Vega is enrolled in GED prep courses at Waubonsee Community College’s Aurora campus. She has signed up to take three of her five required GED tests, and she hopes to get all five complete before the tests change for the first time in 12 years.

If GED students have their tests partially completed by the end of this year, they’ll have to start over completely next year. In 2014, the test will be administered on a computer, and the cost will increase from $50 to $120, plus $10 to receive the certificate.

Test-takers will have to complete four test subjects rather than five: science, social studies, math, reading and writing.

The 2014 version requires students to pass reasoning through language arts, social studies, science and math, and writing components will be integrated into all of those subjects. The U.S. Constitution still will be part of the test.

Jeri Dixon, dean for adult education at WCC, said the college is revising its curriculum to prepare for the GED changes. She said she has concerns about the new test’s accessibility.

“We’re really concerned about the cost of the test, the ability of our students to navigate the test – even go online and administer the test,” she said. “They have to have an email address or set one up. And they need a credit card or debit card.”

Ricky Poglajen, 18, of South Elgin is preparing for the GED by taking courses at Elgin Community College. He said he left high school his freshman year.

“Living this way is too hard without an education,” he said. “I already have a job, but I want to better myself.”

He said the credit or debit card requirement will be a problem for him if he doesn’t complete the test this year. But he’s not worried about getting it done; he has time scheduled to take the test in April.

Dixon said there are positive changes coming to the test, including that the new test will be better aligned with common core subjects.

“It’s definitely meant to keep up with what high school students are able to do when they graduate high school,” she said.

Sally Guy, adult basic education instructor at ECC, said online registration should speed up the process and be easier and more convenient to register. She said integrating the writing portion throughout the test is another positive change.

“More critical thinking skills – that’s what we need in our workforce, and that’s what we do in our jobs as adults,” she said. “You’re testing a person’s skill, but also giving an opportunity to put thoughts down they have to defend.”

Elizabeth Hobson, senior director of adult basic and secondary education at ECC, said while the new test is designed to be more rigorous, those who already have a GED don’t need to worry about the former test becoming obsolete.

“Their GED is still good as gold,” she said.

Dixon said the GED class enrollment at WCC has been relatively flat in the past few years, but Hobson said ECC is seeing a small uptick.

“Our enrollment is increasing right now, and I definitely attribute it to the word getting out about the test changing,” Hobson said. “People want to get in and get it finished.”

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