Is ABE The Same As GED?

Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs and the GED (General Educational Development) testing program are both targeted toward adults looking to earn a high school diploma or a credential that’s equivalent.

GED preparation is part of Adult Basic Education, but ABE programs cover much more than just that.

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However, these two programs are quite different. Here, we’ll look a little deeper into the differences between ABE/GED® programs.

ABE-Adult Basic Education

Adult Basic Education programs are non-degree-bearing programs that offer education and training for adults.

In general, ABE (Adult Basic Education) will build the skills and knowledge of adults ages 16 and up, so they can be successful in the workplace through three main areas: reading, writing, and math.

It is the purpose of ABE instruction to raise the students’ level of competency, so they can be promoted to HSE (High School Equivalency) preparation programs or HSD (High School Diploma) programs.

ABE programs also enable students to earn elective credits that may transfer to Adult High School Diploma programs.

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ABE programs help adults strengthen their reading competencies, enhance their basic life skills, and may also prepare them to take the four GED subtests successfully.

Adult Basic Education programs often help migrant workers or individuals who never completed high school. These programs are established to help adults get ready for postsecondary education and achieve a rewarding career.

What Do ABE Programs Cover?

ABE programs may be targeted at improving students’ literacy levels, boosting their knowledge and competencies, or passing the U.S. citizenship test.

This sort of program is typically developed to support adults with the transition to postsecondary education. Usually, they include educational programs in these fields:

  • English as a second language
  • Family literacy
  • Citizenship test preparation
  • High school equivalency diploma instruction
  • GED preparation, ABE/GED

English As A Second Language

English-as-a-second-language (ESL) programs are for people whose primary language is not English.

In these courses, they can enhance their basic English literacy competencies and learn about American traditions and customs.

Family Literacy

Family Literacy programs aim to enhance literacy development within the homes of families. These programs focus on building the literacy skills of multiple members within households.

There are programs, especially for parents who lack fundamental English skills, and there are also programs that focus on specific areas of language proficiency or computer literacy.

Citizenship Test Preparation

These programs provide students with the skills and knowledge to successfully take the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Test. To pass the GED test, a few states, such as Arizona and Illinois, require test-takers to pass a Constitution/Civics Test as well.

These programs also include ESL (English as a Second Language) instruction to help students pass the INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service) interview. Instruction includes topics like U.S. laws and citizenship responsibilities and how to access key resources.

High School Equivalency

Often, ABE programs offer instruction on topics that are commonly taught from 1st to 12th grade in traditional schools. HSE (high school equivalency) programs are for persons 16 years old or older who are not attending school. Holding a high school equivalency isn’t a bad thing. Even many doctors are GED graduates, and they’ve studied hard and long to get there!

HSE programs generally include coursework for non-readers or those with limited reading skills (usually non-native English speakers) in the fields of English, social studies, science, and mathematics.

GED Prep Courses

Many adult schools and community and/or technical colleges provide ABE/GED prep courses. These classes usually cover the four subject tests of the GED test: Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies.

Some states use an alternative HSE (high school equivalency) test, the HiSET exam, that comes with separate writing and reading subtests, so five in total. A number of states offer both options. To learn if your state uses the GED or HiSET, or both, check out this page.

Usually, these programs include full-length GED practice tests so students can discover which areas require improvement and which fields are well-mastered. State regulations vary slightly, but in general, GED applicants need to be at least 16 years of age to qualify for these programs. Check here to learn more about age requirements by state.

It used to be that GED testing was only possible at official, state-designated GED testing facilities, but recently, we’ve also seen the introduction of the online proctored GED test.

ABE Provides Free Educational Opportunities

So ABE (Adult Basic Education) programs are serving students 16 years old and older who are not attending school and who are looking to improve their basic command of English writing, reading, speaking, and mathematics.

ABE courses offer free educational opportunities that lead to better basic literacy, better employment, and access to postsecondary education and professional training programs.

It is generally known that today, the fastest-growing employment sectors require some sort of postsecondary education, also for entry-level positions.

So, therefore, it is essential for our future competitiveness, stability, and security, to get more people ready for postsecondary educational programs, so they can contribute to the economic needs of their communities and/or regions.

Enhanced Values

Adult education is different from child education as it encompasses practices in which adult learners engage in sustained and systematic self-educating activities leading to enhanced skills, knowledge, values, and attitudes.

ABE may refer to any form of learning, training, and education that adults are engaged in that’s not offered in traditional schooling. It may encompass anything from basic literacy courses to personal fulfillment classes for lifelong learners.

Adult Basic Education programs help adults with transitioning to postsecondary education programs, so they will be ready to start fulfilling careers in high-demand employment fields.

ABE programs offer education and training to support individuals in their efforts to secure rewarding employment in specific occupational sectors and to help them advance to higher levels of employment in those sectors.

As said above, Adult Basic Education (ABE) usually includes programs that will enhance students’ basic skills in the fields of reading, writing, and math. ABE courses aim to move students successfully through high school and college, so they can attain positions in high-demand employment fields.

ABE programs are designed to support adults who have an academic skill level below high school completion or who want or need to improve their knowledge and skills.

Life-Changing Opportunities

ABE programs aim to advance a student purposefully and quickly toward a college degree or certificate program. These programs offer life-changing opportunities for adult learners not only to succeed as students but also as employees, citizens, and parents.

Just consider you would, as an adult, arrive in a foreign country without having the skills to communicate with your neighbors, not understanding the culture, let alone knowing how to pass that country’s citizenship test.

Well, that is exactly where ABE programs come in. ABE programs ensure that everyone has access to education and training in the basic fields of English reading, writing, listening, and math skills that are required to become respected and well-functioning members of their communities.

ABE classes typically cover English reading, writing, and math but generally also include some sort of career skills, for example, computer and keyboarding training.

Nowadays, for adult learners, understanding how to work with a computer and a keyboard is an important skill for practically all careers. There is practically no position out there that doesn’t require basic computer skills.

Adult Basic Skills Education

ABE programs provide education and training for just about everyone. From young adults to middle-aged and elderly persons, from public sector employees, new immigrants, and families to the unemployed or even prisoners, everyone can benefit from these courses.

Usually, ABE programs are wholly or partly sponsored by local or federal government grants and are offered at a number of venues such as public schools, nonprofit organization offices, college campuses, or even correctional facilities.

Though ABE course offerings may differ from state to state, they usually include classes in English reading and writing (ESL), math, and basic numeracy skills (addition and subtraction, and multiplication and division).

GED preparation courses, on the other hand, will also include instruction in the academic fields of social studies and science.

It Starts With Reading

As we know, reading and writing in any language go hand in hand. So if we want adults to be strong in writing, we first will have to improve their reading skills. And what we also know is that adult learners typically present many competencies and knowledge based on their past education and experiences.

ABE courses also help native English speakers that need to enhance or re-learn basic things like phonics or decoding. But there are also other learners that may benefit most from learning new or better reading comprehension strategies, for example, scanning and/or skimming, to be able to deal with higher-order texts.

ABE courses may also be beneficial for adults struggling with learning issues such as dyslexia, spelling obstacles, or mastering high-frequency words. For these learners, ABE courses can make a huge difference.

ESL (English-as-a-second-language) courses are essential for persons who never learned to write and read in their native tongue or for individuals who come from countries where the language has a different alphabet or uses a writing system that’s different from the English one.

Job Application Skills Training

ABE courses may also focus on teaching students the necessary job application skills. They will learn how to draft a GED resume and a cover letter while using the correct language, spelling, and grammar. They will additionally be educated in various soft skills required for success in job interviews.

Some positions require applicants to master specific technical vocabulary skills to advance to higher positions, and ABE courses may provide this as well. This may often be required for adults looking to advance their careers in the medical/hospital fields.

Computer Literacy

In the modern-day employment market, having well-rounded computer skills is essential. Most prospective employers require job applicants to be able to work with computers.

Unfortunately, we often see that for quite a few adult learners, having access to a computer is only the first hurdle. So there are many ABE programs that teach computer and keyboarding skills in a computer lab. This is crucial, particularly for learners from low-income communities.


Many adults return to school when they’re looking for a career change or to advance their existing careers. Usually, positions with more job security and higher salaries require applicants to hold at least a college-level degree.

This often means they’ll have to go back to school to prepare for the GED (General Education Development) exam, as the GED diploma allows them to enroll in credit-bearing college courses.

Many ABE departments offer GED prep courses (often at no cost) that cover the four subtests of the GED test, Reasoning through Language Arts, Mathematical Reasoning, Social Studies, and Science.

There are four scoring levels on the GED test, which is measured on a 100 to 200 scale:
– Below passing score: 100-144 range
– High school equivalency score: 145-164 range
– College-ready score: 165-174 range
– College-ready + credits score: 175-200 range

If adult learners pass the four subtests of the GED high school equivalency exam, they have demonstrated that they command the same level of skills and knowledge as high school graduates.

The GED test is a computer-based series of standardized tests that measure general knowledge and reasoning skills at a level that compares to that of graduating high school seniors.

The four subtests are pretty challenging, and the passing standards are set in a way that some forty percent of high school graduates would not be able to pass the tests on the first try.

Last Updated on October 25, 2023.