Big changes are coming to the GED test that allows adults to gain a high school credential.

The test is moving online and being revised to better align with the new Common Core standards being introduced in schools across the nation.

The GED is a critical point of access for those who didn’t gain a high school diploma but need it for employment or further education. The test has been updated three other times, in 1978, 1988 and 2002, according to a report in Education Week.

The changes are necessary to keep the test from becoming irrelevant, but they are causing confusion and anxiety. Those who have started taking the test but not yet passed all segments will need to finish by the end of the year or start over.

The new test will have four sections — math, social studies, science and language arts — instead of the current five, because reading and writing have been combined. To make them align with the new Common Core standards, they will require analysis of literature and solutions to math problems based on real-life examples.

A big change for some students will be the switch to exclusive computer testing, which will also allow for quicker results; testers will know within hours if they have achieved the required 600 points to earn the GED credential. A separate score will offer indications of the test taker’s readiness for college or career.

Some states are going with alternative tests for a variety of reasons, but Oregon is sticking with GED to assure portability and sustainability, according to Marque Haeg, Oregon’s statewide GED director.

Hague said the state is reaching out to the approximately 16,000 people who have started the testing process and need to pass all five segments this year or start over next year.

One result is increased testing activity. Kellie Smith, director of tutoring and testing at Central Oregon Community College, said the number of test takers climbed from 96 in February to 246 in May, presumably as people sought to finish before changes take effect. She said the rigor of the new tests will gradually increase over several years to be equivalent to 12th grade.

Increasing rigor may be a challenge for test takers, but it’s critical to keeping the test relevant and meaningful. Employers and admissions offices need to know that a GED credential is keeping pace.