Navigating the GED Waters with a Learner

Navigating the GED Waters with a Learner

Val Rathjen, Community Learning Network

1 2 22 March 2022

Many CALPs have likely had at least one person in their community identify that they would like to get their GED. In fact, this can be a relatively easy way for a learner to acknowledge they have some skill gaps that they would like to address, without disclosing too much. That’s why the CALP’s first priority is to have a conversation with the learner and explore this goal a little further.

Cheryl Lovstrom, CLN Central RSS, wrote a fabulous Blog back in February 2016 – ‘GED or not GED? That is the question’ (https://calpca/blog/ged-or-not-ged-that-is-the-question.htm). If you’re new to the world of GED, then I’d encourage you to read this blog as it provides some great context for identifying whether the GED is the right road for a learner or not. 

For the sake of our conversation today, let’s say that the GED is the right fit, now what? 

When we talk about GED, we’re often looking at the following two options – GED Prep and Pre-GED Prep. The following excerpt from Advanced Education's CALP FAQ “What’s the difference between pre-GED prep and GED prep?” will help frame these for you:

"Many learners come to a CALP for help achieving a GED credential, and, as such, many CALP grant recipients advertise that they offer GED Prep programming. However, CALPs often discover as they get to know their learners that they are not quite ready to participate in GED Prep learning opportunities because they lack foundational skills like reading or math. Through the learner intake process, and getting to know learners better, CALPs learn which programming area (CCB or LFL), a learner should be categorized in.

Pre-GED prep learning opportunities focus on foundational level literacy or numeracy outcomes, and are at or below a grade nine level. They focus on preparing foundational learners to acquire the prerequisite skills to taking GED Prep. These learning opportunities are considered Literacy and Foundational Learning.

GED Prep is not foundational in nature, as defined in the CALP Guidelines, as it focuses on skill levels that are above grade nine. GED Prep learning opportunities fall under Community Capacity Building."

So how do we determine the right next step for the learner? Well, let’s follow these steps: 

Step One - Assessment, Assessment, Assessment! 

This is a perfect opportunity for CALP staff to help their learner identify the next step. 

There are different ways to approach assessing learners’ skills. You may want to use the GED book placement tests to establish a learner’s strengths and gaps, or if they identify that they are nervous about a particular area, i.e., Math, you may choose a different tool for that specific skill. 

The most common gap that CALPs see is in numeracy skills. If I’m honest, I would likely need to return to foundational math concepts and “remind my brain” about things like rational numbers, integers and quadrilaterals. NorQuest College has created a great Math Assessment tool that you can use to help you establish where the gaps may be - .

Reading skills may also need some attention, as much of the GED is about comprehension, critical thinking and being able to identify key information. You could use ReadForward ( a low stakes assessment for adults, if they pass the highest level (3A) they are ready to embark on their GED experience. Other options include, CARA, Canadian Adult Reading Assessment, which can help you determine the student’s instructional reading level and how a student processes print and text, and NorQuest College Foundational Literacy - (Within this link there is a link to Foundational Literacy Materials, which include two paper-based assessments to help assess a learner’s reading and writing.)

Taking the time to assess where the learner is starting is key to guiding them into success. We want them to achieve their goals by building from a place of strength, not ending up frustrated and discouraged because they started beyond their skill level. 

Step Two – The Right Learning Opportunity

Once you’ve assessed where a learner is at, you can direct them to the next right step. This may involve programming or tutoring that you will provide in your CALP, or maybe you need to connect a learner with a partner organization. 

Let’s explore the two options a little more:

Pre-GED Prep

The CALP Portal has a number of great resources available to support this learning. Rebecca Still, CLN Literacy Specialist, shared some additional recommendations for you to consider:

Adult Literacy

Numeracy Skills:

GED Prep

There are many GED books available; a popular one you may want to consider is the ‘Complete Canadian GED Preparation Handbook’. 

The GED books can be intimidating for a learner; they are about 3 inches thick (yikes). It’s a good idea to look through the book together with the learner and direct them to the placement exams that will help highlight the information they already know and where they will need to invest in strengthening their skills. 

Another resource you may want to check out was developed by Taber Adult Learning to serve Low German Mennonites and other low literacy adults - Alberta GED & Essential Skills ( ).

What will you do if your CALP is not equipped to help a learner prepare for the GED? 

I’d encourage you to build your awareness of what the options are in your community and beyond. For example, you may want to check out:

To give you an example of what’s possible when partners work together, check out this Forum post by Jane Brenner titled ‘Two CALPs and a Post-Secondary – working together in the interest of a learner’ (

Whew, that is a lot to consider. The great news is that there are lots of resources, partners and other CALP staff that you can connect with to build your own understanding and support your learners. Remember, you don’t have to figure this out alone, reach out to your Regional Support Staff or another CALP. You can do this!

Val Rathjen
CLN East-Central RSS


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