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Tougher, more expensive GED process spurs rush

GED materials Waukegan Public Library. | Judy Masterson/Sun-Times Media

GED materials at Waukegan Public Library. | Judy Masterson/Sun-Times Media

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Need to complete your GED in 2013?

The College of Lake County offers GED programs and tests in Waukegan and Grayslake.

To take the test in Waukegan, call (847) 543-2121. To take it in Grayslake, call (847) 543-2875.

The deadline for the GED math test is Dec. 1.

To enroll in GED courses, contact CLC Adult Basic Education at (847) 543-2021.

The GED Testing Service is owned by the American Council on Education and administered by GED Testing Service LLC in conjunction with partner Pearson VUE, a computer-based testing company.

For more information, visit

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Updated: November 20, 2013 3:34AM

Years of study and the prospect of a better job are at stake for Sheryl Jenkins, who has just three more months to earn her GED diploma.

The 49-year-old Waukegan resident and thousands like her across the country must take and pass high school equivalency exams by the end of 2013, when current tests and scores expire. The new year will bring a more stringent General Educational Development process, one that demands computer literacy, a higher level of critical thinking and higher fees.

“I’ve passed all the tests but math,” said Jenkins, a longtime restaurant server who wants to move into hotel or restaurant management. “I’ve got to have a diploma to do that.”

There is evidence across the state of a rush to earn the GED certificate.

“A lot of our testing sites are seeing an increased registration and a lot of them are adding test dates, especially as we get close to the end of the year,” said Leann Arsenault, a GED testing clerk for Springfield-based Illinois Community College Board. While the agency hasn’t gathered GED testing numbers for 2013, it anticipates more test takers this year.

“People will be trying to finish up,” Arsenault said.

Last year in Illinois, 19,876 people took GED tests and 17,799 earned a certificate of completion, according to data gathered by the Illinois Community College Board. That’s 1.1 percent of the 1.7 million state residents age 25 and older who lack a high school diploma.

Jenkins, who left high school in her junior year after giving birth, has meandered since 2005 through the GED process, but suddenly she’s in a hurry.

On Wednesday, Jenkins studied different types of triangles — obtuse, acute, isosceles — with the help of her volunteer math tutor, retired chemist Steve Chamberlin of Waukegan.

“I’m feeling the pressure,” Jenkins said as Chamberlin praised her effort and suggested a mnemonic device: “acute is like a cute little baby.”

“We’re encouraging anyone who needs to complete the test to register right away with CLC,” said Michelle Vaughn, College of Lake County’s associate dean for community education, adult basic education, GED and English as a second language. Test takers in Lake County must have a minimum of 30 days residency. Residents of Lake and Cook counties will be able to register and take the test in either county in 2014, but the fee for the battery of tests will increase from $50 to $120, with an additional $10 fee for the GED certificate. Payments must be made in advance, by credit card.

Other changes in 2014 include doubling GED coursework hours, to eight from four per week. Students will be required to register online for classes and tests. Exams must be taken on computers — no more pencil and paper.

Going forward, instructors will also teach computer skills.

“Many of our adult learners struggle with computer literacy,” Vaughn said. “But seven total hours of testing time requires navigating the computer itself. You have to be able to click, drag, drop, scroll, cut, copy, paste.”

Next year GED tests in language arts, math, science and social studies will require more “on-the-spot reasoning,” and include questions that require short answers and extended responses, Vaughn said.

The department is busy training teachers for the new GED exams and working with community partners to set up testing at off-site locations. “We have to make sure as an adult basic education program that we are first equipping our instructors, that we’re ready internally first,” Vaughn said.

Nearly 12 percent of adults age 25 and older in Lake County, which has a population of roughly 700,000, lack a high school diploma.

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