The 2014 GED®: A new era in high-school equivalency assessment

In January 2014, a new and highly anticipated GED® assessment was launched. This version of the test, which had previously been the only high-school equivalency assessment available to students, represents a massive shift in not only the content and delivery of the test but also its overall purpose. For years, the GED® had been considered something of an “end point” for adults who desired to earn a high-school credential. With a new focus on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and College and Career Readiness (CCR) standards as well as an emphasis on task and text complexity, higher-order thinking skills, and technology skills, the GED® has morphed into a gateway for those seeking to enter postsecondary or workplace training programs.

The current GED® is offered exclusively in a computer-based format at approved Pearson-Vue™ testing sites. GED Testing Service™ (GEDTS™) adopted this new delivery system in order to measure concepts and skills that cannot fully or appropriately be measured by paper-based tests (Bennett 2002; Parshall, Harmes, Davey, & Pashley, 2010) as well as increase the precision and efficiency of the assessment process (Parshall, Spray, Kalohn, & Davey, 2001; van der Linden & Glass, 2000; Wainer, 1990). New item types include fill-in-the-blank, drag and drop, hot spot, cloze, short answer, and extended response in addition to the traditional multiple choice questions. In order to respond to the item types, test takers must have, at the very least, basic computer skills, including adequate keyboard and mouse skills and navigation abilities as test takers will use on-screen calculators to answer mathematical reasoning questions.

The second shift in the assessment is the move to standards-based testing. The 2014 GED® is built around the standards indicated in both the CCSS and the CCR standards for Adult Education (which were derived from the CCSS). According to GEDTS™, the assessment was aligned with the new standards in order to give adult learners an opportunity to compete directly with their current high-school counterparts as well as provide performance feedback and information on skills necessary for college and career readiness (GEDTS™, The Crosswalk, 2013). This change, of course, means that test takers are subjected to more rigorous content in each of the test modules so adult education programs must adjust their curricula to reflect the updated standards and requirements.

The movement away from using Bloom’s Taxonomy and toward Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) as a framework for test item development and analysis of the cognitive demands required of test takers represents yet another shift in the latest assessment. While Bloom’s Taxonomy, familiar to many in the realm of education, focuses on the activity of the test taker (e.g., applying, analyzing, creating), Webb’s DOK emphasizes the complexity of the cognitive processes that each of the activities requires on the part of the test taker. In short, the 2014 GED® does not assess an item’s difficulty but rather its complexity — that is, how many cognitive steps a test taker must go through to arrive at the correct answer (GEDTS™, 2013). Approximately 80 percent of the assessment is comprised of items that are written to DOK Levels One and Two (i.e., recall and application) while the remaining 20 percent assesses a test taker’s ability to engage in strategic thinking. The fourth and final level of Webb’s DOK, which measures extended thinking skills (i.e., the ability to investigate, which typically requires an extended amount of time to complete), is not included on the 2014 assessment due to the constraints required of a timed assessment.

Increased rigor, alignment to new standards, and the demands of computer-based testing have combined to create a new and challenging assessment for both adult learners and their instructors. The Ohio ABLE Professional Development Network (PDN) at CETE is committed to providing training and resource support to those individuals working to assist their students in gaining the skills and knowledge necessary to earn the revised credentials. By offering sustained professional development, compilations of valuable resources, coaching, and curriculum development support, the Ohio ABLE PDN aids adult literacy professionals across the state in their efforts to meet the challenges of the latest GED®. For more information on the 2014 GED® or the Ohio ABLE PDN, please contact ohiopdn@literacy.kent.edu.


  • Bennett, R. E. (2002). Inexorable and inevitable: The continuing story of technology and assessment. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 1 (1).
  • GED Testing Service™. (2013). Assessment guide for educators: A guide to the 2014 assessment content from GED Testing Service™. Washington, D.C.: American Council on Education. Retrieved from http://www.gedtestingservice.com/educators/the-new-assessment-downloads
  • GED Testing Service™. (2013). The crosswalk: College and career readiness standards for adult education and the 2014 GED® test. Washington, D.C.: American Council on Education. Retrieved from gedtestingservice.com/uploads/files/652b969a13a0126c909facc5aa166363.pdf
  • Parshall, C. G., Harmes, J. C., Davey, T., & Pashley, P. J. (2010). Innovative item types for computerized testing. In W. J. van der Linden & C. A. W. Glas (Eds.), Elements of adaptive testing(pp. 215–230). New York, NY: Springer.
  • Parshall, C. G., Spray, J. A., Kalohn, J. C., & Davey, T.C. (2001). Practical considerations in computer-based testing. New York, NY: Springer.
  • van der Linden, W. J., & Glas, C. G. (2000). Computerized adaptive testing: Theory and practice. Norwell, MA: Kluwer.
  • Wainer, H. (Ed.). (1990). Computerized adaptive testing: A primer. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Contributor: Katherine Bradley Fergus