I wrote about my GED student Joe back in November, when I recounted our travails in trying to get him some extra time for the test, due to a learning disability originally diagnosed when he was nineteen. We weren’t able to get that accommodation. Joe retook portions of the test in December, without that time accommodation, hoping to bring his overall score up to passing. He needed 450 points. He earned 448 points.
Consequently, Joe is starting over this month. He needs to take all sections of the new, “improved” GED test, because none of his previous passing scores carry over. The new test is online, so he and our other students need to work on their computer skills, in addition to the academic and test-taking skills they need.
For example, the new test includes an essay portion, as did the old test. But the new test no longer requires the old five-paragraph essay, for which our students have practiced. Instead, it provides a reading of several paragraphs and then asks the student to analyze the reading. The student constructs a response of a couple of paragraphs agreeing or disagreeing with what he or she has read and types in this response. For the reading, the pre-writing, organizing, and the writing—for the whole process, in other words—the student gets 45 minutes.
Once again, these are by and large people who never learned to type and rely on public computers in the library for their email and other internet needs. Often they have learning disabilities and reading deficits. The students at the universities where I teach, in contrast, almost all grew up with computers in their homes and have owned their own computers for years. They have been typing essays and homework since they were little kids. Their reading, writing, and computer skills were handed to them as a birthright.
By the way, I never hear complaints like this among my GED students. They focus on their own failings and poor decisions beyond the most rigid and moralistic critic. They put their heads down and plow ahead. Fortunately, Joe is a determined and poised young man. “It wouldn’t make any sense for me to quit now,” he told us calmly. He’s planning to attend GED classes every day and begin all over again, from the beginning.