Major changes are coming to the General Educational Development (GED) Testing service beginning Jan. 1.

Starting Jan.1, high school equivalency testing given in Arkansas will change from the GED to the Arkansas High School Diploma program. The program is receiving its first major changes since 2002.

Changed to align with current high school standards, the new testing will be set to meet career- and college-readiness expectations, according to GED Testing Services.

Two main changes are that the exam will go from paper and pencil to being given online, and the once-free service will now cost $125 whether students pass or fail.

Darla Melton, chief GED examiner for the Crawford County Adult Education Center, fears the new changes may make it more difficult for testers to pass, she said.

"I think the computer skills alone will make it scary for the older students," Melton said. "I think the cost will make it prohibitive for the other students, and I just think it’s going to be a lot more intimidating."

Testing material also will be more difficult and writing comprehensive, Melton said. She, along with others at the CCAEC, are encouraging those already in the process of receiving their GED to complete it before the end of the year, she said.

"If it’s not completed by December, everything they’ve done will be lost and they will have to start fresh," Melton said.

Current testing consists of five subject tests - writing, reading, social studies, science and mathematics, that certify the test taker has American or Canadian high school level academic skills when passing the grade requirements.

New testing will lose the writing subject, but all other subjects will become writing comprehensive and include their own essay section, Melton said.

Those looking to get their GED must take and pass a pre-test for each section before being allowed to take the GED, Melton said. When the new program goes into effect, there also will be a charge for the pre-test, though the cost has not yet been set, she said.

Others feel the changes will better prepare high school dropouts for today’s jobs and career training programs.

A new "March with Us" campaign to support changes to the GED testing and adult education programs was recently launched. Its website features a virtual wall for supporters to post comments to, and has additional suggestions for those who want to take action: sending a local letter to the editor or talking to local legislators.

According to the website, many of the changes - particularly the ones requiring better computer skills - are to better serve adult learners and help them become ready for job and career training opportunities after the GED credential.

The 2014 GED program will be based on what adult learners have identified through focus groups and research as being important.

Test sections will be mathematical reasoning, reasoning through the language arts, science and social studies.

New offerings will include: a more flexible, test-taker-friendly computer-based testing system; online registration and scheduling available 24-7; same-day score results; an online support system to help adults weigh their options for careers and college and provide them the tools and resources to work towards their goals; score reports that incorporate a personalized study plan with correlation to test preparation curriculum; and an analytics system that provides on-demand reports and information for educators and state policymakers.

It will be the only high school equivalency test to be aligned with state and national standards that indicate readiness for college and career training programs in January 2014.

In the meantime, Melton said the CCAEC is still enrolling students for the current GED testing and are still offering paper and pencils tests.

For more information contact the CCAEC at (479) 471-0019 or go to