Which Is Better: GED or High School Diploma?

Posted on September 04 2019

Young woman studying for her high school diploma on her laptop.

Every year, American students choose alternative routes to completing their secondary education. They have many different reasons for taking a nontraditional path to earning a high school diploma. For example, working adults who left high school several credits shy of graduating may want to finish what they started. Others may be among the millions of homeschooled students across the country who want to enroll in specific courses. They could also be traditional high school students looking to graduate early — ready to enter the workforce or continue their education at a trade school, college, or university.

No matter the reason, finishing high school can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, allowing for personal and professional development.

Two primary routes are available to attain a high school diploma or its equivalent. Students can either attend an accredited online high school or sit for the General Education Development (GED) exams. But which is better: a GED or high school diploma?

Read on to review both options and determine which is best for you.


An Overview of the GED

The GED, administered by the American Council on Education (ACE), is made up of four examinations. To sit for the GED, students must be at least 16 years old, though several states require a minimum age of 17. In addition, students need to prove their status as a resident of the state.

The following four exams make up the GED:

  • Mathematical Reasoning: This test takes 115 minutes and consists of two parts, separated by a short break. Topics include basic math, geometry, basic algebra, graphs, and functions.
  • Reasoning Through Language Arts: This 150-minute test consists of three sections plus a 45-minute written essay, with no breaks. Topics include reading for meaning, identifying and creating arguments, and grammar and language.
  • Social Studies: This one-section exam takes 70 minutes, with no breaks. Topics include reading for meaning in social studies, analyzing historical events and arguments in social studies, and using numbers and graphs in social studies.
  • Science: This test takes 90 minutes, with no breaks. Topics include reading for meaning in science, designing and interpreting science experiments, and using numbers and graphs in science.

Each test receives a score between 100 and 200. The minimum passing score is 145, a score above 165 puts students in the “College Ready” category, and a score above 175 could earn students up to 10 college credit hours, according to the GED website.

In most states, each examination costs around $30, though they can be as little as $4 (Maryland) and as much as $40 (Georgia). Students can choose to take the tests one at a time or any combination of them in a single sitting.

The GED provides a simple path to a high school diploma for those who do not want to complete more coursework. However, for some people, this option can seem stressful. Those with test anxiety and those who have been out of school for a long time may prefer to enroll in courses.


Explore Alternative High School Options     

Even if students are not able to attend a traditional high school, there are opportunities to receive a quality secondary education, no matter where they are in the United States. Fully accredited online high schools offer virtual courses for students of all ages, allowing them to meet state credit requirements and select courses that suit their interests. These courses are often flexible in their starting times, and students can learn from trained educators rather than study for a test on their own.

Because accredited options provide students with high school credits equivalent to those they’d receive in a traditional classroom, they can earn their high school diploma without sitting for the GED exams. In addition, students have more opportunities to explore areas of interest and develop a deep understanding of those topics. Students will have direct interaction with highly qualified, certified teachers who can provide more context and help them apply their coursework to the real world.


Which Is Better: GED or High School Diploma?

When deciding between a GED and a high school diploma, it’s important for students to consider their goals and lifestyle. If they’re confident in their test-taking skills and understanding of the subject matter, a GED may make sense. But if they’ve been out of school for a while, or if they’re interested in exploring a variety of subjects, students may prefer to earn their high school diploma through an alternative route.

In addition, while the GED can show colleges that students have proficiency in several areas, it doesn’t come with the same weight that an accredited high school diploma carries. A diploma comes backed by high-level courses taught by experienced educators, showing a student’s abilities.


See How The American Academy Can Help You

If you’re ready to earn your high school diploma, check out The American Academy’s online high school diploma options. In this fully accredited online school, you can explore interesting, exciting courses and start them whenever you’re ready to tackle this challenge head-on.

Recommended Readings

Learning the Benefits of Homeschooling

Surprising Benefits of Online Courses

Tips for Succeeding as an Online Student


American Council on Education, About

American Council on Education, GED Testing Service

Kaplan Test Prep, What Is the GED?

National Center for Education Statistics, How Many Children are Homeschooled in the United States?

National Center for Education Statistics, Back to School Statistics 2018