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Guide to Getting Your GED & High School Diploma in an Online School

Discover how you can prepare for the GED exam through online programs. Learn about the cost, available scholarships, the subjects you will study, what the exam will be like, and your options after passing.

Online GED Program Overview

Online GED (General Educational Development) programs can be a great option for those who don't have the time, money, or other resources to invest in an in-person class. These programs are typically done independently and can be self-paced or part of a structured format. Sometimes, they may be done live through an interactive learning platform. GED test prep programs are not required in order to take the GED exam, but they can be a good way to ensure you know the material you will be tested on and are as prepared as possible for when the test day arrives.

How to Enroll in an Online GED Program

Enrolling in an online GED prep course can be as simple as signing up. Depending on the program, you may have to pay a one-time purchase or registration fee. Some study materials will be freely available online without having to sign up, register, or download anything. While the material for GED prep courses is mostly similar, the requirements for passing the GED can vary by state, so be sure to confirm that the program you are enrolling in will prepare you for your state's passing standards.

The Cost of Online GED Programs

The price will differ with each program. However, it can range from $59-$129. Depending on the website, you can purchase 1 exam subject, which will lower the cost, or you may need to purchase the materials for all 4 subjects. Some sites may require you to pay the entire fee upfront or they offer monthly payment plans. Other websites offer study materials free of charge.

Are There Scholarships Available for GED Courses?

Unfortunately, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) requires applicants to hold a high school diploma or GED, so it cannot be used to obtain federal funds, such as grants, scholarships, or federal loans, for GED prep courses.

However, there are private scholarship options for GED test prep programs. Some websites may offer a scholarship in the form of free access to their test prep courses or materials. Other private institutions may offer a cash scholarship to pay for classes or the test. Here are just a few:

  • GED Academy GED Preparation Class Scholarship gives five recipients full access to their online prep materials for one year. Applications are submitted online; applicants must submit by July 15 each year.
  • Atmos Energy and the Dallas Public Library GED Scholarship awards assistance for test fees to students who are currently at an approved GED prep course and demonstrate financial need.
  • Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) Foundation TCSG GED Testing Fee Scholarship takes care of up to $160 in test fees for Georgia residents who have completed 40 hours of a state-funded adult education program.

The U.S. Department of Education has an Adult Education and Literacy program, where it provides grants to states so they can fund GED prep and other adult literacy assistance programs. A list of resources can be found on their website. Lastly, a program titled GEDWorks partners with certain companies to provide their employees with free GED preparation and testing. You can check to see if your company participates in this program by creating an account on the official GED testing service website.

How Long is a GED Course?

The length of a GED preparation program varies by site. Some websites simply offer study materials, such as videos and practice questions, so the course can be done entirely at one's own pace. Other websites have a more structured format that can last from six weeks to a couple of months. Some online platforms use software so teachers and students are meeting for a lesson in real-time; these sites can also have archived video lessons if you miss a live one.

GED Course Accreditation

GED courses are generally not accredited because they are not required in order to take the exam. Your state's department of education should have resources for approved adult education training. However, when it comes to studying online, there can be a lot of scams out there, so it is important to know what signs to look for so you can avoid them.

How to Avoid Scams

  • A GED certificate cannot be earned online. If a website is claiming you can earn a GED or high school equivalency certificate online by completing their program or taking a test, it is a scam. Only state departments of education award a GED.
  • Read reviews on the website. A good way to see if a course is legitimate is to read reviews by people who have taken it before. Reviews can usually be found on the course's website, or through a simple search. If there seem to be more negative reviews than positive, consider looking for a course somewhere else.
  • Compare a course's curriculum to what will be on the test. The official website for the GED, ged.com, lists what will be on the official test. While this website does offer its own prep course, if that is not an available option, you can use their test information to make sure the course you're considering has a matching curriculum. There may be some slight differences, but if it becomes common, you may want to look for another course.

Common Courses in Online GED Programs

GED test subjects are broken up into 4 categories; math, language arts, social studies, and science. Some test prep sites will allow you to choose which subjects to study, based on what you need more practice in for the exam. Others will cover all 4 subjects.

Depending on the program you choose, these subjects can be self-paced or may be taught live through an interactive online platform. Some websites offer practice tests after each course is taken so you can see how much you've learned, and review anything that's causing you trouble.

Mathematics

GED math courses typically cover basic mathematical concepts such as division, multiplication, fractions, algebra, and geometry, among other topics. Students may learn mathematical formulas, how to use math to solve real-world problems and develop their critical-thinking skills.

Language Arts

GED language arts courses usually cover topics such as grammar, vocabulary, reading comprehension and analysis, and writing. Students may learn how to identify themes, main ideas, and a story's purpose, as well as how to write concisely with little to no grammatical or spelling errors, and present and explain their ideas clearly.

Social Studies

GED social studies courses typically cover basic topics about U.S. history, world history, and the U.S. government and economy in order for students to gain an understanding of how the past has shaped the present. Students may learn about ancient civilizations, the discovery and formation of America, major wars, civil rights movements, and how the government and economy work.

Science

GED science courses cover basic topics in biology, chemistry, physics, outer space, and earth science. Students may learn about the earth's ecological system, from plants and animals to the environment, the solar system, scientific theory, and the make-up and functions of cells and organisms. Students may also learn scientific vocabulary in order to understand common terms used in science.

How to Take the GED Test

The first step to taking the GED test is to know where to take it. Avoid websites that claim you can take the test online. Although the test is given on a computer, the test can only be taken in-person at official testing centers. GED Testing Service allows you to create an account, select which parts of the test you need to take, and select a date and time that is available at a testing center near you.

What and What Not to Bring on Exam Day

DO Bring:

  • Government-issued photo ID (ensure the information on it matches exactly with the information the testing center has)
  • A copy of your confirmation email or letter

DO NOT Bring:

  • Cell phones or any other electronic devices
  • Calculator

What Is the Exam Like?

The exam is broken up by the 4 subjects:

  • Mathematical Reasoning
  • Reasoning Through Language Arts
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Each subject has its own exam, so you can take one exam at a time. If you need to, you can space out the 4 exams to ease any pressure you may feel.

Science and Social Studies will have 1 part with no break, Mathematical Reasoning will have 2 parts with no break, and Reasoning Through Language Arts will have 3 parts with one break between parts 2 and 3. The exams will have multiple choice questions and other types such as fill-in-the-blanks or long-response. The language arts exam will have a written essay portion. The math and science exams will provide an on-screen calculator.

Testing Accommodations

Accommodations can be made for those test-takers who require them. Accommodations are made for those with learning and cognitive disorders, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), psychological and psychiatric disorders, and physical disabilities and chronic health conditions, such as deafness or blindness. Those who need testing accommodations are required to apply for them before taking the test.

Getting GED Test Scores

GED Testing Service, or ged.com, will usually provide you with your scores the same day you take your test. An email notifying that your exam scores are ready will be sent, and then you can view your scores on your GED account.

If You Pass the GED Exam

Upon passing, you should receive a free electronic transcript and certificate via email. A printed certificate is also available with the cost of shipping. If you passed, but you want to retake any part of the exam to earn a higher score, you will have to submit a special request with an explanation and wait for approval.

If You Fail the GED Exam

If you don't pass the exam, you don't have to wait to retake it. You are allowed up to 3 tries, and you only need to retake the parts you didn't pass. If it takes you more than 3 tries, you will have to wait 60 days before trying again.

What You Can Do With a GED

There are a number of options available to you after earning a GED. You can apply for more jobs, enroll in a vocational school or community college, or apply to a university. If higher education is something you are considering, having a GED can also qualify you to apply for FAFSA, the national application for student aid.

Pursue Higher Paying Jobs

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals with a high school diploma or equivalent make a median of $177 more per week than those who have not completed high school, as of 2018. Many of these jobs have on-the-job training or apprenticeships so you can learn about the job while you do it. A few examples of these types of jobs include advertising sales agents, animal trainers, bus drivers, chefs, and childcare workers.

Enroll in Vocational School or Community College

A vocational school, sometimes also referred to as career college, technical college, or trade school, can be a great opportunity to learn a skilled trade in a relatively short amount of time. There are many programs designed for adult learners in areas such as dental assisting, fire and emergency medical rescue, automotive service technology, and information technology.

Another similar option is a community college. Community college allows you to earn a professional certificate or associate's degree. These programs can prepare you to enter the workforce or earn credits that can transfer to a bachelor's degree if desired. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with an associate's degree earn a median salary of $132 more per week than those with a high school diploma or equivalent, as of 2018.

Apply to a University

Many universities will accept applicants with a GED. Depending on the school, you may have to apply under special circumstances or attend community college first. Universities offer many types of degrees that can lead to higher-paying careers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with a bachelor's degree earn a median salary of $468 more per week than those with a high school diploma or equivalent, as of 2018. A few examples of bachelor's degrees include nursing, education, and marketing. After obtaining a bachelor's degree, you can move on to a master's or doctoral degree if desired.

GED Resources

If you are interested in obtaining a GED and want to know more, consider the following resources to gain more information:

  • GED Testing Service (ged.com). This website is where you can register for the GED exam, learn more information about test day, how to prepare, and what to do upon passing or failing; it also offers several exam preparation packages.
  • GEDWorks. A part of ged.com, this program works with companies to pay for their employees' GED prep and testing.
  • U.S. Department of Education (ed.gov). This website lists resources for finding adult education and literacy programs that it funds through approved grants.
  • Your state's department of education. It can provide information on adult education and GED test preparation.
  • Local community colleges or organizations that help adult learners. These organizations can also provide information and have programs that can help you prepare and register for the GED exam.
  • WellCare.com. This is a healthcare website that offers its members a benefits program to help them take the GED test.