The GED test will be updated in 2014 and students who have not finished testing by then will see their scores expire in December.
About every 10 years, the General Educational Development test is updated, Ann Waynar, Iowa Central Community College Adult Literacy coordinator, said.
"It's a high school equivalency test. That means that the GED students need to meet the same educational standards a high school graduate would," Waynar said. "So, naturally, the GED test changes just as high school curriculum changes."
The test was last updated 11 years ago, in 2002, Waynar said.
"There are people who have been testing on this 2002 version, but haven't finished," she said. "Before the test changes, we want them to come back and finish because their test scores will expire after December 2013."
One of the biggest changes with the GED test starting in 2014, Waynar said, is that it will be a computer-based test.
"In addition to being able to pass language arts, math, science and social studies, they will also need to have computer skills to key in their essays, for example, instead of hand-writing their essays," she said. "And also have some mousing skills, say, how to use a drop-down box or copy and paste in a Word document. We'll have to make sure our students coming in are prepared to have those skills."
Waynar said this "won't be much of a jump" for younger GED students.
"For some people who did not get those computer skills when they were going through the school system, that will be a struggle," she said.
If their scores expire before they finish in December, GED students will have to start over in 2014.
"We don't want them to be caught in that bad place where you might have to start all over with your GED testing and your fees," Waynar said. "It's to their advantage to get in here and finish what they started."
The change also impacts people who are considering starting or about to start with their GED testing.
"We have people who have not tested before but now they're interested, so we would tell them the same thing," Waynar said. "Start now and be sure that you finish by December so you don't end up having to start over when your scores expire."
Iowa Central has GED classes in eight of the nine counties it serves. Last year, more than 400 students began their GED in those eight locations, according to Waynar.
"We have them in churches, libraries, some of them are on Iowa Central campuses," she said. "We try to make it as accessible as possible, vary our schedules to make it work for adults who have families and jobs. so we can work around their schedules to get to class and accomplish their goals."