The state Education Department is changing the test used for people who didn’t graduate from an Iowa high school, but want to get a high school diploma. The test, commonly referred to as the GED, was administered by a company called the GED Testing Service. Jeremy Varner with the Education Department says the new test — called the HiSET — was chosen through a competitive bidding process.

“Within the past few years GED Testing Service was change to a for-profit enterprise. When that occurred…at least two other vendors entered that market,” Varner explains. “So, it made sense for us to take a look at those assessments, have a fair and open selection process, a competitive vendor selection process, to figure out which assessment really best meets Iowa’s need.”

Varner says there were several reasons for switching to the HiSET test. “The biggest of which is that the cost to students will be much lower than what we have with the GED. The test will be $50, and so when that’s added to the state fee of issuing a diploma, the total cost is $60. Which is about half of what would be charged for the GED assessment alone,” Varner says.

Varner oversees the Division of Community Colleges for the state and says making the test available in more ways is another advantage of the new test. “The way the test would be administered by community college adult education programs seemed to best meet Iowa’s needs. And there are a lot of delivery options,” Varner says.

“It can be delivered paper-based or on-line, which is another access issue. It allows it to be delivered in a lot more places than it otherwise would be delivered.” Varner says around five-thousand Iowans take the test every year with most ended up with a diploma.

“We have an extremely high pass rate in Iowa, it’s around 90-percent,” Varner explains. “The reason for that is that students have to be prepared before they take the assessment. We have practice tests that we take and only students that are well prepared actually take the assessment.”

The current test is given in five sections, and sections can be taken at different times. Varner says anyone who is in the process of taking the current GED test must complete it by the end of the year. The changeover to the new test begins in January, and those who haven’t completed the old test will have to start over.

You can find out more about taking the test to get a high school diploma on the Department of Education’s website or by calling your local community college.