SCC Basic Skills program, GED testing experience changes

By Lauren Williams Staff Writer

March 14, 2014

Sampson Community College’s GED program, known as Basic Skills, as well as the GED testing the college offers, has recently undergone numerous changes, many as a result of the national move in education to the Common Core curriculum.

Both the GED test and the local GED program of study have been adjusted to be “more like the Common Core curriculum,” said Donnette Pope, the GED examiner for Sampson Community College.

Candy Taylor, director of the college’s Basic Skills Program (ESL, GED), added that the adjustments to the program have included pushing students to perform at a higher level and asking them to do more analysis.

According to information from the GED Testing Service, “the shift to the Common Core standards is happening nationwide at this time. By shifting the test now (effective January 2014), but keeping the passing standard for high school equivalency matched with performance of graduating high school seniors of 2013 who have not yet had instruction in career-and-college ready content, we enable adult test-takers to still achieve a high school equivalency diploma on the same basis as their current high school graduate counterparts, and yet provide them with performance feedback and information on their skills relative to career-and college-readiness.”

“It’s testing what students should know that’s equivalent to a high school diploma,” Pope said, adding that “doing it this way, by all states following Common Core standards, it (the GED test and results) is measurable across U.S.”

Students who go through the college’s Basic Skills program and are ready to take the new 2014 GED test will also encounter a variety of other changes, including a new scoring scale and four test sections — reading and writing, science, math, and social studies — instead of five, which they now have to take on the computer as all GED testing has become computer-based through provider Pearson VUE.

Even scrap paper will no longer be provided; instead students will scribble on erasable note boards if needed.

The transition to computer-based testing will make for a “better testing experience,” according to the GED Testing Service, which has also listed 24/7 registration, freedom to test at one’s own pace, and a less stressful testing format as additional benefits.

“I’m excited about the computer-based testing; it’s something new,” said Pope, adding that she likes that it “encourages the development of basic technology skills.”

“It’s a 21st century test,” Taylor added.

Still, Taylor noted, there are some concerns with the new testing format, including how older students seeking their GED diploma will be able to handle it.

“I think it will be good for students who have just left school and are knowledgeable about computers,” she said, “but for older students who want to write by hand, they’ll need to sharpen those (computer) skills which they can do through Continuing Education.”

Another change — the cost of the GED test to the students.

“Now it cost $30 per test,” pointed out Pope, mentioning that students can take just one test section at a time; they don’t have to take all four test sections at once which would cost a total $120.

To help students in the local program with the increased cost, “we’re starting a local campaign,” shared Taylor. “It’s called ‘Pass Three, The Fourth Free.’ If they pass the first three tests, we’ll help with the fourth, and those funds come from Clinton Rotary Club, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and college faculty and staff who have given to the SCC Foundation.”

Still “it’s going to be hard for a lot of students. I’m afraid we’ll have them ready but then they might not have the money so they’ll put it off and put it off and forget things they learned,” she added. “They’ll have to see the value in it.”

Students can still participate in the Basic Skills program (books included) at no charge.

Alber Lopez is one of the college’s Basic Skills students who sees that value; he began the college’s Basic Skills program in January, placed on the GED level during initial placement testing, and is planning to test in a couple of the GED sections in just a few weeks.

“It’s a challenge,” he acknowledged on Thursday, mentioning that he came to the U.S. from Mexico 12 years ago and that it has been some 14 years since he was last in a classroom.

“I will do my best and keep going,” he continued, adding that he is primarily interested in an animal science career and has taken note of Sampson’s many farms and farm-related companies.

“We want to help prepare them for the next step, college or a career,” said Pope.

“Yes, it’s a stepping stone,” Taylor agreed. “We want them to look towards a career, not just a job…We want them to go into careers where they can earn life-sustaining wages for their families and we’ll help lead them down the right path to do that.”

For students pursuing their GED, the previous 2002 Series scores expired at the end of 2013 and cannot be carried over to the new test. In order to take the new test, students must have valid identification like a driver’s license, military ID, or passport.

According to Taylor and Pope, over 7,500 students have received their GED at Sampson Community College since 1967. On average, around 900 students participate in the college’s Basic Skills program each year, with some 250 graduating per year, including many Tarheel ChalleNGe cadets.

Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at