For the past four years, Inez Sanders has worked off and on to obtain her General Education Development certificate, and, now, she's making a determined push to pass the test before Jan. 1, 2014.

“Now, I'm taking that step and I'm going to get it,” Sanders said on Tuesday, during a class held at Byrd Elementary School.

Her success would mean even more to her than previously. On New Year's Day, the GED Testing Service will formally unveil a new version of the battery of tests, which are expected to be more challenging and will be computer-based for the first time. They'll also be more expensive at $150, nearly double the current $80 fee.

Adult education administrators are urging all students to get their GEDs by Dec. 31, said Dr. Rosa Ishmal, who will retire Aug. 31 as the Aiken County School District's adult education director.

If necessary, students can take the GED as many as three times to pass all the tests before the end of the year, “but if not, they will have to start all over again,” Ishmal said. “The content is expected to be much more rigorous, and we'll be aligned with the Common Core standards, which requires more analysis and a deeper level of thinking.”

If the term “Common Core” sounds familiar, students and teachers in grades K-12 are experiencing the same transition. District administrators and teachers also agree about the higher K-12 testing expectations that will come in the spring of 2015 – about 15 months after the new GED tests come to the forefront.

Ishmal strongly recommends that anyone considering a GED call the District's Office of Adult Education at 803-641-2476 for more information. She anticipates many adult students will need assistance with computers used for the tests.

“We want to get information to the general public,” she said. “People do have time to come in and register, especially if they feel that they can get ready for the old test.”

Adult education instructors started training sessions on the new Common Core standards, with other workshops scheduled in the next few months.

A longtime classroom teacher, Jennifer Jeancake came out of retirement in 2006 to teach and advise adults interested in a GED. She remains passionate about adult education.

“It changes lives. It really does,” Jeancake said. “I like the current GED as a good, solid test.”

At least in her area of language arts, literacy and writing, the new GED doesn't seem to be much more difficult. Still, the specifics of the upcoming test remain a mystery to educators.

Terra Wells was going through her GED materials on Tuesday – just a few feet from Inez Sanders. Wells took classes to become a Certified Nursing Assistant two years ago and now has jobs at two facilities in Aiken. Now she wants more, while acknowledging the GED deadline is just months away.

“I'm 43 and experiencing a lot of changes,” Wells said. “It's exciting to learn and further my education. I want to go to a technical college for phlebotomy. That's my plan.”

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.