A very interesting observation arises from changes in how the GED examination is administered. Historically, using the paper-based GED examination, 72% of the students pass. Using an online GED examination, 88% of the students pass. CT Turner, director of public affairs for GED Testing Service, explains the reason for the improved pass ratio (“What the GED Can Teach CEOs” Fast Company, December 2013/January 2014, p. 28):
“‘They were able to focus better because the computer delivers one question at a time, and they weren’t overwhelmed by all the questions and the bubble sheets.’”
Now I admire anyone who pursues the GED in an attempt to compensate for prior missed opportunities. That person obviously recognizes the extreme importance of a basic education. If the computer-based GED examination tends to enable students to engage it with heightened focus and less anxiety, then more power to them.
Additionally, I am the first person to advocate taking a hardcopy process and digitizing it into a Web-based process. This achieves numerous efficiency and effectiveness gains. It means we are keeping up with our increasingly technological world.
While not in any way detracting from my above affirmations, I do have one concern. For those students with the anxiety issues, the computer-based GED examination does not eradicate all anxiety-inducing situations. It is not the real world.
In the real world, you will face real problems that attack you with arrays of complicated pieces simultaneously. This means you must be able to look at many factors simultaneously, perform some initial assessment, identify a response strategy, and prioritize your actions. To be able to do all that, you must have already achieved a level of personal and professional competency that allows you to engage problems without falling into anxiety traps. You must be able to recognize and cope with anxiety.
I am all for technological enhancements for process improvements. Let us just be certain that we are not endeavoring to make the examination so easy that we do a disservice to the student.