The General Educational Development Test (the GED) is the nation’s most familiar way to get into college without completing high school. The test, like other standardized examinations, has gone through changes periodically. In 1988 administrators added an essay section. In 2011 it became a for-profit enterprise.

But now it looks like the test may have gotten a lot more difficult. There was a “sizable decrease” in the number of people passing the examination. According to this story by Cory Turner and Anya Kamenetz at NPR’s Morning Edition:

Nationally, the GED Testing Service says while it has seen a “sizable decrease,” it won’t be able to release final 2014 numbers for several weeks. But here’s what we know so far:

In 2012, a total of 401,388 people passed the GED test.

In 2013, people rushed to take the old test in its final year, creating a bump: A total of 540,535 people passed.

How many earned a GED credential in 2014? In the general population: 58,524.

That’s a really dramatic decline.

It’s not necessarily an 89 percent decline. The article points out that the GED still doesn’t have pass numbers for the sizable portion of American state and federal prisoners who take the test every year.

It’s still likely to pretty a pretty big decline. That’s likely because the test got harder (though it also got more expensive and now must take place at a computer, both of which also would be likely to decrease the number of students who complete the test), dramatically so, particularly because designers altered the test to align closely to the Common Core State Standards.

In response, 16 states are apparently accepting other, alternative and easier, examinations to serve to represent mastery of high school content.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer