GED takes test to next level in Arkansas

Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Osvaldo Vaquera, left, and Carina Tapia use workbooks provided by North Arkansas College to prepare for the GED test at the Eureka Springs Library annex.

EUREKA SPRINGS -- Taking a test is never easy. But taking the GED test for a high school diploma just got more convenient for Carroll County residents.

Starting this year, the State of Arkansas has joined the rest of the country in having people take the test on a computer instead of on paper. So instead of having to show up on a certain day, people can schedule taking a section of the test any time a GED-certified test center is open, for example, in the evening at the North Arkansas College library in Harrison.

And the test is scored right away, so people can take one section, find out if they passed, and move on to study for the next section. While the written test was free, there is a fee for the computer version, but in 2014, it's $16, or $4 per section, with the State of Arkansas covering the rest of the cost ($120).

"The state is really coming through for us," Nancy Wood said.

Wood is the instructor for free GED tutoring sessions held at the Eureka Springs Library Annex three mornings a week. Sponsored by North Arkansas College, the sessions are open to residents 18 and older with no other restrictions.

Of the 12 people that registered last fall when the program started, six took the GED at the end of 2013 and passed, Wood said. She now has half a dozen new people signed up, and encourages those who started last year but didn't take the test to return.

Sessions are drop-in, with no attendance or other requirements. People can work individually using workbooks and texts provided, or can work on a home computer using four online programs that NAC has purchased.

People who aren't familiar with computers can get a basic introduction to computers at the GED sessions, Wood said.

"We've had people come in who had no computer experience," she said.

The new test does raise the bar, but prepares adult students for career training and college courses better than the previous version, Wood said. There are four sections instead of five -- reading and writing have been combined into one, and writing an opinion essay has been replaced by writing short responses to information provided.

"This is the kind of writing you do for college," Wood said.

Writing is graded on correct use of grammar and conventions as well as content, she said. The new version also assumes a basic knowledge of science and social studies vocabulary in line with what most people today know.

People who have a high school diploma are also eligible to attend the tutoring sessions and brush up on a subject, if, for example, they are planning to take a college or technical course, Wood said.

People in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s have signed up for the GED program, Wood said. Some want to further their education or career, while others just want to have a high school diploma. She encourages anyone who's interested in getting a high school degree to come in and talk to her.

"I'm here," she said.

Last year, 220 people in the five counties the NAC adult education program serves earned their GED certificates, Wood said. The college holds a graduation ceremony with caps and gowns in May for everyone who passes the test during the year.

The Eureka Springs Library Annex is located at 192-B Spring St., next to the Carnegie Library. Register for the GED program any time between 8 a.m. and noon on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday between now and the end of the school term. For more information, call Nancy Wood at 479-981-0482.

GED stands for General Educational Development, and is the term used for a high school diploma or certificate issued by the state to residents who show mastery of subjects covered in high school. In 2012, more than 7,700 Arkansans took the GED test, with a pass rate of 84 percent.

Students 16 and 17 years old who are not in high school can also attend the sessions, but there are requirements for hours. Students under 18 should call the Carroll County Center of North Arkansas College in Berryville at 870-423-4455 for more information.

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