Online High School Diploma and GED Possibilities

Jan 14, 2022

Online High School vs The GED

Two of the most common ways to earn a high school diploma are online high schools and the General Educational Development or GED exam. Your educational background, time, and cost are three of the major factors to consider if you are choosing between an online high school and the GED. One option will require you to earn passing scores on a computerized exam, while the other will require you to complete a set number of credits.


The GED is a seven-and-a-half-hour exam that measures your knowledge and skills in math, language arts, science, and social studies. The GED is taken in person, on a computer, at authorized test centers. To be eligible to take the exam, you need to be at least 16 years old and not enrolled in high school.

The exam is divided into four different subtests, and to pass the exam, you need to score 145 on each part and have an overall score of 580. You can usually take all the tests in one day if you choose, or you can take the following sections in any order:

  • Reasoning Through Language Arts - The language arts test is designed to assess your reading and writing abilities. The test includes reading selections with questions that ask you to analyze themes, infer ideas, and draw conclusions. There are also questions that require you to revise passages and correct errors in grammar, logic, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling. The 150-minute language arts test is the longest section of the GED and it includes an essay question that you will have 45 minutes to complete.
  • Mathematical Reasoning - The GED math test covers arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. The 115-minute test includes questions on math topics such as percents, fractions, ratios, proportions, linear equations, and inequalities and area, perimeter, and volume of geometric figures. The questions use real-life situations to test your problem-solving skills. You are allowed to use an on-screen calculator and a formula sheet for most of the questions on the test.
  • Science - For the 90-minute science GED test, you will need to demonstrate your ability to read and interpret scientific information and use scientific principles to evaluate data and ideas. Test questions are based on reading passages, charts, tables, and graphs that present information on topics from life sciences, astronomy, and physical science.
  • Social Studies For the social studies test, you will need to interpret information from maps, tables, illustrations, and reading passages. Questions ask you to evaluate ideas, opinions, and the evidence used to support different arguments. The 70-minute test covers topics in U.S. history, civics, geography, and economics.

Is the GED Right for Me?

The comprehensive high school GED exam tests your abilities according to the requirements and standards set for high school graduates. If you typically do well on standardized tests and if you have several years of high school education, the GED is a possible option. You can try some sample questions and practice tests available on the GED website ( to gauge how well you would do on the actual tests. The official GED practice test, GED Ready, will tell you if you are likely to pass and, if not, it will show you which subjects you need to review. If you do need some preparation before taking the GED, adult education centers, which are located throughout most states, typically offer classes and tutoring geared toward helping you pass the four tests. Although the cost of the GED exam varies from state to state and the average fee is around $120.

Although the GED has been the nationally accepted high school equivalency exam for many years, some states have replaced the GED with the HiSET exam or the TASC Test. While they have different formats, the HiSET and the TASC tests cover the same content and measure the same knowledge and skills as the GED. States that use the HiSET and TASC exams award the same type of equivalency diploma as states that offer the GED.

Online High Schools

A growing number of colleges and universities, public school systems, and charter schools are creating accredited online high school diploma programs. Online high schools typically use your previous high school transcript to determine the number of courses and credits you need to earn a diploma. Many programs also have an initial assessment test you will take when you enroll. Course work and assignments are completed online and generally at your own pace. Some programs and classes may require you to participate in class discussions, while other online high schools may require you to take final assessment test either online or in person.

Is an Online High School Program Right for Me?

Accredited online high schools typically require the same number of courses and credits as traditional high schools. Programs that offer diplomas for students who pass a simple online test are generally diploma mill scams, and most colleges and employers will not accept those credentials. You need to research online programs to be sure they are legitimate before enrolling.

If you are a few credits away from fulfilling graduation requirements or if you are interested in a full high school education, an online program may offer you the flexibility and support you need to earn a diploma. Online high schools are generally tuition-based programs and costs and fees vary from program to program.

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