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The Evolution of the GED: Eight Decades of Student Success

December 22, 2022

The GED® has changed a lot over the years! Discover how the world’s leading high school credential program has grown during the past eight decades…and still going strong to bring brighter futures to students everywhere.

Serving the brave in the land of the free 

It all started during World War II when the GED credential was created to make it easier for veterans to pick up where they left off with their plans for education, careers, and personal goals. In 1942, the United States Armed Forces Institute (USAFI) launched the GED. Two years later, the GED test took on a more structured form thanks to the work of Everett Franklin Lindquist, who led testing programs at the University of Iowa at the time. The original GED test was modeled after the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. 

Soon enough, the American Council on Education® (ACE) was born, with the mission to “mobilize the higher education community to shape effective public policy and foster innovative, high-quality practice.” Hundreds of young soldiers were able to get their high school credentials and go on to college and jobs after fighting for the nation’s freedom.  

Opening doors for all Americans—and beyond borders 

A few years later, in the 1950’s, civilians could also participate in the GED program. That was a game-changer! Adults who were not able to complete a traditional high school education finally had a way to earn their diploma and proceed to accomplish further educational and career objectives. Shortly thereafter, GED testing was also allowed in Federal correctional and health institutions. 

The GED became so popular among civilians that the organization adjusted its name to encompass a broad variety of students. As of 1963, Veteran’s Testing Service (VTS) was officially known as GED Testing Service. The new name stuck all the way to today! In 1969, Canada joined the pack with Nova Scotia as the first province to offer GED testing to civilians. 

Aligning the test with everyday life 

So now we know all about how the GED Testing Service came to be. What about the test itself? It has also gone through several improvements over the years.  

The first test series (1942-1978) had five subjects and took 10 hours!  

  • Test 1: Correctness and Effectiveness of Expression  
  • Test 2: Interpretation of Reading Materials in the Social Studies  
  • Test 3: Interpretation of Reading Materials in the Natural Sciences  
  • Test 4: Interpretation of Literacy Materials  
  • Test 5: General Mathematical Ability 

The second test series (1978-1987) still contained five subjects but the titles were simplified to: 

  • Test 1: The Writing Skills Test  
  • Test 2: The Social Studies Test  
  • Test 3: The Science Test  
  • Test 4: The Reading Skills Test  
  • Test 5: The Mathematics Test 

After that, the GED test was updated to include a required writing sample, more critical thinking, and contexts that related better to daily life. In 2002 the test subjects were streamlined to:  

  • Test 1: Language Arts – Writing  
  • Test 2: Social Studies  
  • Test 3: Science  
  • Test 4: Language Arts – Reading 
  • Test 5: Mathematics 

Since 2014, the latest version consists of four subjects:  

  • Test 1: Mathematical Reasoning 
  • Test 2: Reasoning Through Language Arts (RLA) 
  • Test 3: Science  
  • Test 4: Social Studies 

Prioritizing student-centric innovation 

The 2000s paved the way for innovation across the GED program. Computer-based testing was introduced, which made taking and grading the test a much more efficient process. Test development was reoriented to reflect a shift in requirements that academic standards be more closely aligned with college- and career-readiness. Also, students could take advantage of College-Ready and College-Ready Plus Credit performance levels – along with a recommendation of up to 10 credit hours of credit for the highest test scores. Talk about opening doors to higher education! 

In the last decade, the GED Testing Service team has been more dedicated to students than ever. Thanks to multiple interactive prep options, students can take direct ownership of their GED journey. You’ve probably heard of or used tools such as: 

If you or someone you know got the GED credential recently through an employer, a non-profit or a health plan, it was likely through GEDWorks– a new benefit option for students to study for and take the GED test all the way to passing at no cost.  

Getting ready for tomorrow 

The rest is making history together! What’s next for GED in 2023? Get the latest updates in your inbox! Sign up for a free student account to begin your GED journey and we’ll keep you posted. 

 We also have a dedicated area for educators and admins with plenty of resources and news. 

 Curious to see the key dates in action? Watch our video: The Evolution of the GED 


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