- Cullman, Alabama

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April 21, 2013

Earning GED opens path to new opportunities

Having two children as a young teen, Barbara Northcutt made the difficult decision to drop out of high school and begin working at a fast food restaurant to make ends meet. Now 39, and a mother of three, she took her General Education Development test recently and encourages others to do the same.

With the test fee set to triple, and the GED test’s format changing drastically in 2014, Norhtcutt encouraged anyone wanting to follow in her footsteps to act quickly.

“I guess I felt since I did all that it was too hard to go school and take care of kids so I got a job to help with the finances,” Northcutt, of Oneonta, said. “It’s always been a goal of mine to get my GED. Not just for myself, but for my three children who I watched graduate and I wanted to do that too. Your self-confidence will change dramatically. You’ll be able to further yourself in your career.”

Northcutt achieved her GED and is still enrolled at Wallace State, along with her husband Darrell, and he received his GED a short time after Barbara.

Starting January 2, 2014, the GED test fee will increase to $150 and its questions will become based on depth of knowledge which will feature problem-solving questions, as well as, become completely computer-based. Wallace State Adult Education Director Kelley Jones said it is both crucial and critical to consider taking the GED test now before the changes occur.

“We are trying our best to get the word out about the cost and test change,” Jones said.  “We started advertisements in 2012 on the radio and in newspapers about it; this is the last year to take the test in the way we know it. We’re changing our instruction in order to meet the new demand. So, to take advantage and take it now would be a very wise decision.”

Jones said that classes are offered throughout Cullman County, at night and during the day in order to prepare for the test.

“The starting point is here on Wallace’s campus with an orientation,” Jones said. “The test is given here twice a month on campus by appointment only, our classes are given year round, and online instruction is also available.”

One of the misconceptions many have is the GED is easy, and Jones said that is not necessarily the case.

“The current test is based on a 12th grade knowledge level, the new test is based on a 12.5 level,” Jones said. “A lot of people think the GED is an 8th or 9th grade level and it’s not. We have a lot of teenagers with the thought on their mind that the GED is easy, and its a sad situation when they realize that it is difficult.”

A greater demand for the GED test is being seen because more entry level positions are requiring a high school diploma or GED to gain that position Jones reported.

“We serve a population anywhere from 16 to our oldest student that is 72,” said Jones. “We are catching a lot of students that dropped out and right out of high school went and worked for decades. Now, if a plant closes, or they lose that job, many cannot get hired somewhere else without a GED. So we’re finding teens and also those in their middle years in the classes, but the instruction is still the same. It doesn’t matter when they start the instruction it is individualized.”

For those who have already taken part of the GED and are lacking on only portions of it, Jones encourages them to finish it now.

“We are trying so hard to make phone calls and get the word out to those who have already taken part of the test and only lack a few sections,” Kelley said. “Once January gets here, those scores are no longer valid and we want to make sure test takers understand that. A lot of them are coming back and getting it over with, some are in a position where they need to wait, but at least we are giving them the information to make that decision.”

“It’s kind of like a time clock is ticking and a lot of people don’t like being under that type of pressure, but it is a reality,” Jones said. “There is only a certain amount of time left to take the test as we see it now. People have to know, the test is not like it has been with just studying on their own, coming in and passing the test. There are some that are already be preparing for the new test, it is do-able, but it is just a different type of instruction and preparation to study and pass it.”

For more information on GED classes or taking the GED test, contact Kelley Jones at 256-352-8078, or visit or on Facebook at Wallace State Adult Education Program.

Lauren Estes can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext 270, or


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