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GED test overhauled; some states opt for new exam

WASHINGTON — The GED test, for decades the brand name for the high school equivalency exam, is about to undergo some changes.

On Thursday, an upgraded GED exam and two competing equivalency tests offered in several states will usher in a new era in adult education testing.

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The General Educational Development exam was created in 1942 to help veterans who dropped out of high school use college benefits offered under the GI Bill. This will be its first face-lift in more than a decade.

The revamped test is intended to be more rigorous and better aligned with the skills needed for college and today’s workplaces. The new test will be offered only on a computer, and will cost more.

Even before its launch, officials in many states have balked at the cost increase and at doing away with paper-and-pencil testing. At least nine states — New York, New Hampshire, Missouri, Iowa, Montana, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, and West Virginia — severed ties with the GED test and adopted one of the two new tests. Three others — Wyoming, New Jersey, and Nevada — will offer all three. Tennessee will offer the GED test and one other, and other states are expected to decide what to do in months.

That will leave test takers, educators, and states grappling with new questions: How do you best prepare students for the tests? Which is best, by price and quality? How will the tests be accepted by the military, employers, and colleges?

The advent of new tests has sent thousands of test takers rushing to complete sections of the old test left incomplete. Once the upgrade happens, the old scores of ‘‘partial passers’’ will no longer be accepted.

More than 700,000 people took the GED test in 2012. The average test taker is about 26, and many people seeking a high school equivalency diploma are poor. Nationally, about 40 million American adults lack a high school education.

The GED test has been owned by the nonprofit American Council on Education since its inception.

Molly Corbett Broad, the group’s president, said that she wanted the new test to help test takers get linked to resources that would help them plan.

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