Diploma versus GED

Diploma versus GED
Newly named Bremerton High school graduates toss off their caps at Friday night's ceremony at Memorial Stadium.

Passing the General Educational Development (GED) tests can result in a commonly considered credential equivalent to a high school diploma. However, the requirements are very different, and the results may be too.


Diploma versus GED

Diploma Type GEDHigh School Diploma
Advantages-Faster to complete
-Ideal for those past high school age
-Quicker path to a vocation
-Life experience
-Prepares students for postsecondary study
-Accepted in the U.S. and abroad
Disadvantages-May not be accepted abroad
-Test is more difficult than most expect
-Time to complete


The General Educational Development test (GED) is designed for adults over the age of 16 who haven’t earned a high school diploma and aren’t currently enrolled in high school. For current students considering leaving high school early, the GED test can also provide an alternative to graduation.

However, unless extreme circumstances force an individual out of high school, it typically makes more sense to earn a diploma. At a minimum, all students should need to meet with a school counsellor before choosing to drop out and pursue the GED credential.


Passing the Test

Although the GED test represents less time commitment than a high school diploma, it’s not academically easier. The test is graded on an equivalency scale compared to current high school students. To pass, test takers must perform on a level comparable to or above 60% of high school seniors.

Made up of four subject area tests, the GED tests include the following subjects:

  • Reasoning through language arts (RLA)
  • Mathematical reasoning
  • Science
  • Social studies

In addition to multiple-choice and short-form answers, the test also includes extended response question-and-answer formats. Individuals considering taking the GED test need to study. Adult education centers across the country offer test-prep courses, and students may also purchase study books or find free practice exams and questions online. GED online classes are another option for preparing for the test.


Finishing a Diploma

For people who are no longer an appropriate age to enroll in high school, pursuing the GED credential is the best path. However, students who can still earn a high school diploma need to consider their options carefully. Most students only have 2-3 years of coursework remaining when they qualify to take the GED exam. Although this timeframe is certainly longer than a couple of months required to prepare for the GED tests, there are other advantages to earning a high school diploma.

The high school offers various valuable life and educational experiences outside of the classroom, from hands-on study experiences to extracurricular clubs and activities. Furthermore, high school provides social development opportunities that will aid individuals through college and the workforce.

Finally, although passing the GED test requires strong foundational academic skills, it doesn’t offer the advanced educational opportunities available in most high schools. The knowledge gained in these courses can help graduates be much more prepared for postsecondary study than a test ever could.


Using the Credential vs. Using the Diploma

Earning a high school diploma may more likely prepare students for the academic challenges of college. However, obtaining the GED credential doesn’t mean that postsecondary education is no longer an option. According to the American Council on Education (ACE), the national organization that oversees the GED exam, about 95% of U.S. colleges and universities accept the GED credential in place of a high school diploma as of 2011.

On the other hand, students considering studying abroad may find fewer international universities are willing to accept the credential. Students interested in enrolling at postsecondary institutions may want to contact the admissions departments to determine whether a high school diploma is required for matriculation.

Because earning the GED credential can be faster than finishing a high school diploma, it’s a good choice for individuals interested in accelerating their paths to the workforce. Recent studies reported by the ACE show that as of 2011, approximately 96% of U.S. employers accept the GED as equivalent to a high school diploma.