GED vs SAT: ELI5 The Difference

GED and SAT are standardized assessments conducted throughout the US and Canada. These assessments gauge the extent to which a person understands the high school coursework and where they stand academically.

If you want to take up further studies and wish to join college, you may have to take either one or both tests depending on whether you have a high school diploma and the choice of your college. Your score on these tests will demonstrate your eligibility to join a particular college or university.

Therefore, it is imperative that you understand the differences that make these tests different from one another. In this article, we have broken down every aspect of these tests so you get a clear understanding of these assessments before you decide to appear for them.

What’s the exam all about?

The General Equivalency Test (GED) is an assessment that proves that a person has a competency level comparable to high school education. 

Whereas, the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) is an assessment that students must take if they wish to attend college for further education.

What’s the purpose of taking the test?

People without a high school diploma may find it difficult to get a well-paying job. The main purpose behind taking the GED test is that you can prove that you are academically advanced to the level of a high school diploma. GED is an acceptable test score that allows you to apply for better jobs or further studies in case you don’t own a high school diploma.

SAT, on the other hand, serves as an entry-level assessment through which you can showcase your high school knowledge. It allows you to get admission to a college or university if you meet their eligibility criteria.

Are there any eligibility requirements?

GED: If you want to take the GED test, you must meet a few eligibility requirements – 

  • You must be at least 16 years old when you appear for GED.
  • You must not be enrolled in any high school.
  • You should not have a high school diploma.
  • You must get approval from your school district to allow you to appear for GED if you’re under 19 years.

SAT: There is no specified age limit or minimum qualification required to appear for this examination. Generally, students in the age bracket of 17-19 years form the major chunk of people taking the test. 

Which subjects do you have to study?

GED: If you decide to appear for the GED exam, you must prepare yourself in four subjects i.e., mathematics, science, social studies, and language arts. The language section tests your reading and writing. So, you must prepare accordingly.

SAT: It tests a candidate’s aptitude in mathematics, critical reading, and writing. The math section will test your knowledge of algebra and functions, geometry, statistics, probability, and data analysis. 

The critical reading section is divided into 3 sections comprising sentence completions, critical reading, and reading comprehension. And finally, the writing section will have multiple choice questions as well as an essay section to test your writing skills.

Who owns and conducts the exam?

GED: The GED trademark is owned by the American Council of Education which is based in Washington DC, USA. The GED Testing Service conducts the exam and is a joint venture of the American Council of Education.

SAT: This examination is owned and developed by a non-profit organization in the US known as the College Board. The Educational Testing Service conducts the exam on behalf of the College Board. 

How is the exam scored?

GED: Each module in the test has a total score of 200. Hence, the maximum score a student can attain in GED is 800.  The passing score for GED is at least 145 in each subject. But, a score between 165 – 174 in every single module is considered a college-ready score. 

SAT: The two sections of the SAT exam are scored on a scale of 200-800 points. The maximum score you can achieve is 1600, which is the perfect score. If you score 1200 points or more, it is considered a good score. 

Remember, that SAT scores are received as percentiles, i.e, your score is compared to scores of other candidates who have appeared for the test. Also, there is no designated passing score for the SAT exam.

Is the exam paper-based or online?

GED: This test is available as a paper-based test as well as an online test. If you’re appearing for the digital exam, you will be monitored by a proctor, similar to a physical test center.

SAT: As of 2022, SAT is a paper-based test held at educational institutions like high schools and colleges across all states in the US. However, beginning in 2024, SAT will be conducted as an online exam for all US-based students.

What’s the frequency of examination?

GED: Unlike SAT, you can take the GED test any time of the year as one can schedule it practically every week of a month. 

SAT: The examination is conducted seven times in one year. You must check out exam dates and decide to appear for it on a date that works for you.

What style of questions are asked?

GED: This test comprises different styles of questions like multiple choice, short answer questions, fill-in-the-blanks, essay writing, and other question formats.

SAT: Most questions are multiple-choice questions. You will be given four choices and you must select the correct answer. In addition, there are thirteen questions in the math section that are not multiple choice and require candidates to bubble in the correct answer.

What is the duration of the examination?

GED: As this test is broken down into different sections, each has a different time limit. The allotted times for each section are mentioned below- 

  • Social Studies – 70 minutes
  • Science – 90 minutes
  • Math – 115 minutes
  • Language Arts – 150 minutes (you get a 10-minute break in between)

SAT: This is a 3-hour long test, without considering the breaks. If the student is appearing for SAT with essay writing, they get a total of 3 hours and 50 minutes to complete the test.

How much does it cost to take the test?

GED: The cost of appearing for this test is different in each state. So, you will need to check the cost of the GED test in your state on their official website. 

SAT: The registration fee for SAT exam is $60. You have to pay additional fees depending on extra services you may require. 

A Quick Summary

Full formGeneral Equivalency DiplomaScholastic Assessment Test
What is it about?Proves that a person has a competency level comparable to high school education.Students must take if they wish to attend college for further education.
PurposeAllows you to apply for jobs or further studies in case you don’t own a high school diploma.Allows you to get admission to a college or university
EligibilityYou must be at least 16 years old.You must not be enrolled in any high school.You should not have a high school diploma.You must get approval from your school district to allow you to appear for GED if you’re under 19 years.No age limit or minimum qualification required
SubjectsMathematics, Science, Social studies, and Language ArtsMathematics, Critical reading, and Writing
Who conducts itGED Testing ServiceEducational Testing Service
Total Score8001600
Passing Score145 in each subjectNo defined passing score
Paper-based or OnlinePaper-based and OnlinePaper-based
FrequencyCan be taken any time in a year7 times a year
Style of QuestionsDifferent styles of questions multiple choice short answer questions fill-in-the-blanksessay writingother question formatsMost questions are multiple-choice questions
DurationSocial Studies – 70 minutesScience – 90 minutesMath – 115 minutesLanguage Arts – 150 minutes3 hours (without essay writing)
3 hours 50 minutes (with essay writing)
CostDifferent in each state$60

Wrapping up,

We hope the above write-up has helped you understand the differences between the two exams. Knowing the differences is crucial to deciding which one you should appear, depending on your purpose. 

SAT and GED are equally popular examinations that students take to open better opportunities for the future. While GED helps improve an individual’s self-esteem by opening new job opportunities and providing access to further education, SAT, on the other hand, opens doors to getting admission to various colleges and universities in the country to help build a fruitful career.

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