GED Scoring Change Provides Opportunity for Career Pathway Alignment

The GED Testing Service  has lowered the passing score on its subject area high school equivalency tests from 150 to 145. This change, which will be retroactively applied, provides states a unique opportunity to raise the GED’s profile in career pathway systems by aligning assessment with policies that award credit for prior learning.

According to data in multiple states, GED-passers needed less college remediation than their high-school-graduate peers, meaning the test was gauging not just high school equivalency but also college preparedness. States will need to amend their current policies to accept the GED Testing Service’s new passing score of 145. States also have the ability to retroactively award high school equivalency certificates to tens of thousands of test takers who scored between 145 and 149. However, there’s greater opportunity than just lowering the cut score.

The GED Testing Service is now encouraging states to adopt a three-tiered range for passing scores, whereby a score of 145 indicates high school skills, 165 indicates college-ready skills, and 175 indicates college-level skills.

GED Performance Changes Infographic (Education Week)

Source: Education Week (

States and local areas should allow GED-passers to use a score of 165 in a subject area as proof of college readiness and not require yet another college placement exam. Aligning assessments in this way would eliminate barriers of time and money that prevent people from entering their preferred postsecondary programs.

To achieve even greater impact, states and local areas should adopt a credit-for-prior-learning policy that allows GED-passers to use a score of 175 in a subject area to earn college credit for that subject (three credits for math, social studies, or science; and one credit for language arts). These “dual enrollment” options for regular high school students are proven motivators and momentum builders, rewarding college-level work done at the secondary level. GED students should have that same option to jump-start their postsecondary education while completing the high school equivalency. 

Additionally, states and local areas could go for the trifecta of career pathway construction by also implementing the Pell Grant “ability to benefit” provision, allowing individuals to complete the high school equivalency while concurrently enrolled in postsecondary coursework.

Adult education programs are currently writing strategic and operational state plans for implementing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. With new data strengthening their understanding of the GED test, states should act now to build stronger career pathways for older youth and adults who are looking for a pathway to opportunity.