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Getting a GED certificate

Getting a GED certificate

As most of you know, I am a Search&Rescue volunteer. I also did a number of extra certifications to be able to do my job better. Among other things, I earned a Wilderness First Responder (Medic) certification which got me interested in emergency medicine. I added a AHA CPR trainer certification and I am now going to college to get my EMT license. But I hit a road block.

Here’s the thing: In order to become an EMT you need a high school degree. I graduated with a German “Abitur” which kind of compares to a High School diploma. But that was many years ago and unfortunately, I didn’t have a copy of my graduation certificate. I contacted my school in Germany and asked for a copy but … they could find it anymore. Bummer.

My EMT training was in serious peril.

There was one thing I could do. Earn a GED certificate. A GED consists of a number of exams certifying “High School Equivalency” . But that’s a tall order – especially for someone who has never seen an American high school from the inside. English is not my first language. But .. what the heck. How hard can it be?

Turns out it is way harder than I imagined.

You have to earn a passing score in four subjects: Social Studies, Math, Science and Language. Social studies relies heavily on the proper understanding of the English language. It’s also relies on some background American historical information. Science wasn’t something I was concerned about. Math on the other hand was not something I was good at. Algebra and geometry never really became my friends. But what concerned me the most was the “Language Arts” test. Again – English is not my native language and I never studied it in depth. I learned it on the fly so to speak.

But I simply didn’t have an alternative. If I want to get my EMT license, I would have to pass the GED first.

So I purchased an online training and got going.

I picked “Social Studies” as my first hurdle. It took me two days to go through the course, I passed a number of practice exams and scheduled my first GED exam. I did the test online, which is a rather complicated process. They install software on your computer (Mac / Windows only), they run a number of checks, you need a web cam so they can keep an eye on you during the exam. They want you to show them your work space (please remove your wrist watch) and so on. When the proctor finally released the test and I saw my first question I was a bit shocked: The “real” exam was much harder compared to the practice exams. But I soldiered through and passed with “College Ready” score.

One down, three to go.

Next up: Science. The only thing I never learned was “evolution and genetics” .. you know heterozygotes, alleles, evolution and that stuff. But that was easy to understand and, after passing a barrage of text exams, I scheduled another online test. This time, the online test didn’t work at all. Technical problems left and right and a was finally kicked out of the system without further explanation. That p*ssed me off. I was all pumped up and ready to do the test – I spent 2 ½ hours trying to get the test set up only to see a failure message. Have a nice day.

Fortunately, I was able to schedule an “in person” exam at the local college the next day. That experience was .. “interesting” as there was some construction going on and the pungent smell of diesel exhaust was enhancing the exam experience. Anyway – the exam itself was again much harder compared to the practice tests. But I expected that. The previous exam experience had taught me to aim for a score of 90% or above on the test exams to have a good margin. I passed my science exam again with a “College ready” score. 50% done in less than two weeks.

But the real challenge would come next.

Math. My old nemesis. Quadratic equations. Algebra, Slopes. Geometry. What’s the volume of the cylinder? Shouldn’t be hard. The formula is right there. Easy. 32 cubic inch. Bummer. There is no 32 cubic inch in the answer block. So I am wrong. Ah .. it’s radius and not diameter. So it’s 53 cubic inch. Nope. Try it gain. You get the idea. This time I really had to study hard. I went through the online course twice. Practice exam score: 65% . Not good enough. I looked up YouTube courses to focus on my weak spots. Practice exam score: 75%. Not good enough. I studied for two to three hours every day for a week. Until I consistently hit 90% or better. Time to schedule the exam.

Online went south again. But this time, I didn’t wait to be kicked out and canceled after an hour of technical difficulties. The in-person exam at the university two days later was again .. interesting. No diesel fumes, but an hour or so into the exam they must have tried to tear down a wall. The bangs rippled through the rooms and made the exam so much more interesting.

I barely made it within the allocated time and when I left the test center, I wasn’t sure I had passed. They don’t tell you, you have to wait for the score on the GED website. For the first two exams, I had the score about 10 minutes after the exam. This time, it took about an hour. I was nervous. But I made it. “College ready” level. Yeah.

There was not too much I could do for the “Language Arts” exam. I focused on the essay part and read a number of well scored texts and studied the do’s and don’ts of good essay writing. I went through a number of test exams, found an inconsistency (and reported it) and scored ok.

The image is from an “onsego” test exam. The green answer is supposed to be correct but it isn’t. The text doesn’t say that Drake died in an accident (he actually caught a disease).

Time for the final exam. This time, online worked fine. And I passed – again with a “College Ready” score I had my GED certification. In less than four weeks.

My EMT college course is back on track.

Here’s what I learned (beside the stuff I had to get into my brain in order to pass the GED): The exams are harder than the tests. Almost all exams have a number of easy to solve problems, some intermediate questions and a number of tough ones. I have to admit: I had to guess sometimes, especially in “Social Studies” and “Language Arts”. The possible answers are so close that I couldn’t really tell which ones were the correct ones.

There is only one organization / company proctoring the GED – Pearson Education. All of their proctors and support stuff speak with a more or less noticeable Indian accent. They are, at times, really hard to understand. The “Online Exam” is a very convenient way to do the test. But it seems to be technically fragile. Sometimes everything works fine, sometimes it doesn’t work at all. If you think about cheating .. forget about it. If they hear so much as a paper rustling, you’re out. Your web cam records you (and all the sounds in your room) at all times during the exam. And frankly – I wouldn’t even know what I would cheat for? The math formulas are provided, so is a (online) calculator. Everything you need in order to answer the questions is provided.

All in all I paid about $300 for all test exams, study materials and the exams.

Training courses and text exams: https://onsego.com/ ( $$$ )
Math training: https://www.lightandsaltlearning.org/ ( free )

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