The General Education Development test, or GED, is getting an overhaul next year. Starting in January, those seeking high school equivalency certificates will only be able to take GED tests on computers, and will not be able to use paper and pencils.

The current five sections of the test, which include one language arts reading section and one language arts writing section, will be reduced to four (reasoning through language arts, mathematical reasoning, science and social studies). Test questions will range from multiple choice, to short response to essays.

Here is a sample multiple choice question for the 2014 test:

SOCIAL STUDIES (multiple choice):

Excerpt: "There would be an end to everything, were the same man, or the same body, whether of the nobles or of the people, to exercise those three powers, that of enacting laws, that of executing the public resolutions, and of trying the causes of individuals."

Based on the excerpt, which important principle held by America's founders did Montesquieu help shape?

A. Wider participation in government is essential to democracy.

B. Government will fail unless it performs a variety of functions.

C. Divisions of powers within government are necessary to prevent abuses.

D. Government power should be shared among the different classes of society.


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(Option C is correct. The excerpt states the belief that concentrating all governmental power in one person or group would be very detrimental to a society.)

Source documentation: This excerpt is taken from "The Spirit of Laws," written in 1748 by Baron de Montesquieu, who had significant influence on the American founders.

Sample extended response and short-answer questions are available by visiting www.gedtestingservice.com/educators/itemsampler. Click the "View Item Sampler" image and fill out the request form, which will provide access to the main item sampler page. At the bottom, click the "View Now" tab.

Question 6 in the Science Section is a short-answer sample. Question 12 in the Language Arts section is an "extended response," or essay, sample.

Other details about the GED test and upcoming changes, including frequently asked questions, are available by calling 800-626-9433 or going to www.gedtestingservice.com.

The California Department of Education is seeking to amend its regulations to allow the state to pursue an alternative to the GED test, which could be administered either on a computer or with paper and pencil. More information about this is available by visiting www.cde.ca.gov/be/ag/ag/yr13/agenda201307.asp. Click on Item 6.

Theresa Harrington covers education. Reach her at 925-945-4764 or tharrington@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/tunedtotheresa.