How to Obtain a GED in California

The GED test provides an opportunity for adults who did not graduate from high school to show that they have the same level of knowledge and skills as 60 percent of graduating high school seniors.  If you pass the General Educational Development (GED) exam, you will receive a high school equivalency diploma that can be used to apply for post-secondary study or entry-level employment a variety of fields. Over 98 percent of colleges and universities accept the GED for admission and 96 percent of employers accept it for those positions requiring a high school-level education. A GED diploma can also be used to gain entry into the military. (American Council of Education (ACE))

The GED testing service is a program of the American Council of Education (ACE) a national organization that oversees GED testing and works to spread appreciation of GED credentials among educational institutions and employers.

Since its inception in 1942, more than 17 million people have earned their GED.  You can too by following some simple steps as outlined below!

Content of GED Exam

The GED exam is composed of five subject tests:

  • Mathematics
  • Language arts-reading
  • Language arts-writing
  • Science
  • Social Studies

GED Scoring

The GED test score provides an indication of a test-takers academic knowledge in each of the above-noted subject areas as compared to that of recent high school graduates. Starting with the 2002 test administration, performance on each of the five subject area tests is scored in two ways: as a “standard” score” ranging from 200 to 800 on each subject area test and as a “percentile rank” in the range of 1 to 99.

The standard score is based on the number of questions you answered correctly. Every question on the GED is worth one point if answered correctly and zero points if answered incorrectly. The Language Arts-Writing test is based on a combination of scores from Part 1 (multiple choice) and Part 2 (essay component).

The percentile rank indicates the percentage of graduating seniors who earned scores below yours. For example, if your GED test- score is 600 on the Social Studies subject test with a percentile rank of 50, this means that 50 percent of graduating high school seniors earned a score below 600.

Passing scores on the GED

According to ACE, a minimum passing score set by the GED Testing Service is a standard score of 410 on each of the five subject area tests and a minimum total standard score of 2250. These scores are accepted by California as acceptable pass rates.

These pass rates allow test-takers to make up for one area of weakness by strong performance in another; e.g. a lower score in science may be made up for by a high score in social studies and result in an overall passing score on the GED!

Preparing for the GED

You can prepare for the GED through in-home study, class-based instruction, or via distance learning courses.

At-home preparation

The GED Testing Service offered by ACE partners with several resources to help you prepare for the GED test at home:

  • GED connection: PBS LiteracyLink and KET, offer television programs via many PBS stations. For your local TV schedule, visit the PBS LiteracyLink web site, and enter your zip code in the top right corner of the first page, check with your local public television station or call KET at (800) 354-9067.
  • Official GED Practice tests: Contact a local testing center for  information regarding the short and long version of the official practice tests (OPT). This is a great way to become familiar with test content and measure how long it will take you to complete each section.
  • Keys to GED Success®. The 5 series Keys to Success books focus on those areas that past test-takers have reported as the most difficult in passing the exam. Each of the five books includes a practice test that will allow you to evaluate your skills and identify those areas where you need additional practice. Answers include complete explanations so you can learn test-taking strategies.

Test Preparation Courses

GED preparation courses are offered as part of continuing education departments in locations across the country.  There are four methods of identifying GED preparation classes:

  1. Call, write or email the contact in your state that can help you find preparation programs near you. For California this contact is :

California Department of Education
Adult Education Office
1430 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 322-2175

2. Search by your zip code for the GED Testing Center nearest you and ask for assistance with enrolling in a preparation class. Many GED testing centers maintain affiliations with test preparation providers.

3.  Visit America’s Literacy Directory at the Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS) web site. Enter your zip code to obtain a listing of classes in your area. The U.S. government also maintains a toll-free information number through LINCS where you may obtain information regarding classes in your area. Call (800) 828-8133.

4. Look in the local yellow pages under “schools.” Programs offered in community colleges may be listed under “adult education” or “continuing education.” Other options include performing a library search for literacy programs, high schools, and community colleges in your area.

Online Preparation

The GED exam may NOT be taken online. You will need to locate a GED testing center in your area to sit for the exam.  Online materials to prepare for the exam may be found on the ACE Web site.

GED Resource Materials

Use the links below to access sample questions for each subject area in the GED test battery. When you click on an answer, a pop-up answer will notify you whether your choice is correct.

Content areas:

  • Language Arts, Reading
  • Language Arts, Writing, Part I
  • Language Arts, Writing, Part II (Essay)
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Specific California requirements for the GED

  1. GED examinees who wish to take the exam in California must be residents of the state.
  2. Fee for the full battery of 5 tests is $150.
  3. Test-takers must be within 60 days of reaching age 18.
  4. There is no wait period to retake the test should you fail.
  5. Those who pass the exam will be award a California High School Equivalency Certificate. Those who are under 18 years of age will have their certificate mailed to them on their 18th birthday.
  6. Minimum score requirements are 410 on each subject test and 2250 on the full GED test battery.
  7. Test-takers must complete the exam within the time frame provided for each section of the exam battery.
  8. Retest fee are set by individual testing centers. Currently the fee is about $25. per subject area test retaken. Candidates may retake the test in the failed subject area before completing the entire exam battery.
  9. The GED exam is offered in English, Spanish and French.
  10. When you are ready to sit for the exam visit,

Register and Take GED Exam

Once you have gained some practice with the GED exams, the next step is to register and pass the GED testing battery. Fees vary by testing site and you will need to provide a government-issued photo ID (driver’s license or passport) along with social security card or student ID.

  • According to ACE the GED testing battery will take about seven hours to complete. It is recommended that you try and get good rest the evening before and eat a good breakfast so you are able to focus during the examination. Many testing centers will allow you to bring snacks to eat during breaks.
  • GED tests are offered in English, Spanish and French for California test-takers. Special accommodations can also be made for those with vision or auditory impairments. Contact your specific testing center for details. For further details regarding testing accommodations, visit Request Testing Accommodations.

After the test

If you didn’t pass one of the GED tests, don’t worry. California allows you to retake part or all of the tests with no waiting period!

For those of you who did pass: Congratulations! You now have the same educational and career opportunities as traditional high school graduates. You may request your GED transcript in-person or by phone from the testing center where you sat for the examinations.

Our list of California Trade Schools can help you find the next school to further your education after completing the GED exam.