Close this search box.

What is a GED?

The GED is a credential that serves as an alternative to a traditional high school diploma. Individuals can earn this credential by taking the GED exam and passing all 4 sections.

Many individuals do not receive their high school diploma and realize they need a high school diploma (or equivalent) for a job, to go to college, or other reasons. This is where a GED comes in.

Summary: Find out what the GED is and learn about other aspects of this certificate. If you want to begin studying for the exam, use our GED prep test to prepare.

What Does GED Stand for?

GED stands for General Education Development. Currently it is only referred to as “GED.” However, previous GED meanings included:

  • General Education Diploma
  • General Equivalency Development

What is a GED?

The GED is a credential you earn by passing an exam. A GED credential is an alternative to a traditional high school diploma.

The GED was first designed to allow returning World War II veterans to receive a high school equivalency certificate to help them start a job or get into college.

The GED is simply another way to earn an alternative high school diploma equivalency credential. The GED is readily accepted when applying for:

  • Most employment or civil service opportunities
  • Acceptance to a post-secondary institution of higher education

It is important to note that students can also take the HiSET or TASC which are other high school equivalency exams. However, the GED is the most common exam for students looking to obtain a high school equivalency certificate.

The GED is crafted to determine if a test-taker’s academic skills match that of the average high school senior. The GED is organized into four sections, all of which follow the traditional core academic areas that are taught in high school.

What is the GED Test?

The GED was overhauled in 2014. At that time, the GED was revised to include four subject areas – which is one less subject area than the GED’s previous version.

However, the newly modified GED requires test-takers to apply deeper reasoning skills to complete the test’s questions. Most GED test-takers (remember, each state differs) have the option to complete each test section separately – in any order or, to take all the sections the same day.

You can find a breakdown of the exam in the table below:

Science90 minutes – No Breaks
Mathematics115 minutes – Scheduled Breaks
Social Studies70 minutes – No Breaks
Reasoning Through Language Arts150 minutes – Scheduled Breaks
45 minute essay
Total425 minutes

To sit for the exam, there are some general requirements. Some of those requirements include:

  • Age
  • Residency
  • Photo Identification Needs
  • Prep Course Completion
  • Not Enrolled in High School

In addition to those requirements, it is important to check if your state even accepts the GED. You can review all of that information with our GED requirements guide.

Each of the above sections is graded individually. The sections are graded on a scale from 100 to 200. You will need to score 145+ on each section to receive your GED degree.

You can learn more about GED scores with our in-depth guide.

Difference Between a GED and High School Diploma

Many people want to know how a GED differs from a high school diploma. A high school diploma is generally regarded as the minimum educational level for most jobs, and for acceptance into post-secondary colleges and/or professional schools.

One earns a high school diploma while attending a public or private school or while being homeschooled. The coursework that must be completed to earn a high school diploma generally takes four years to complete.

Candidates who want to earn their GED degree can prepare for it in a couple of months. The test can even be taken by candidates who are past the standard high school age.

When earned, a high school diploma or GED becomes a representation of one’s educational achievements – at least up until that point in time.

A high school diploma or GED acts as a stepping-stone that opens doors towards one’s personal and professional future.

Many people want to know how a GED differs from a high school diploma. To compare the two, consider these facts:

  • Over 20 million people have a GED credential
  • Over 500,000 people each year pass the GED exams
  • More than 60% of GED test takers are interested in pursuing additional education past their GED programs
  • 98% of colleges and employers accept the GED credential
  • GED grads earn approximately $9,000 more per year versus those who do not have a GED or high school diploma
  • Most GED grads spend significantly less time preparing for their GED than they would have spent in high school classes

An image showing a GED diploma certificate

Earning Your GED Degree

For test-takers to ensure they pass their GED the first time, it is critical to spend ample time preparing before sitting for the actual exam. This is especially true for GED test-takers who have not been a student in a long time.

Studying for the General Education Development examination is best accomplished by using resources readily available to you. Our GED practice exams are a great place to start – they are 100% free.

The amount of time required to appropriately prepare for the GED depends on the student, the subject material, and the amount of time out of school.


From a technical perspective, a high school diploma, a high school equivalency diploma, and a GED credential clearly differ from one another.

The biggest difference is how each is earned. A high school diploma typically involves 4 years of studies while a GED can be completed within a couple of months.

From a practical, real-world perspective, all three High School Equivalency (HSE) credentials are remarkably similar as each is widely accepted by most future employers, the military, and institutions of higher education.

GED Degree FAQs

In theory, yes. A GED is a high school equivalency diploma and is on the same level as a high school diploma.

However, the GED certificate may not be viewed on the same level by everyone.

It takes most individuals about 3 months to earn their GED. However, it can be completed quicker if you are already prepared and able to take and pass the test sooner.

Yes, almost all colleges in the United States accept the GED.

Dave Evangelisti
Dave is our founder and CEO. He has 20+ years of experience in the testing and test prep industry.