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Next year, Georgia will become one of the first states in the country to offer electronic testing for the General Educational Development exam, also known as the GED.

It may seem like an overdue evolution for the 68-year-old test, which more than 788,000 Americans took last year to earn high school equivalency in their state. But administrators say the upgrades are symbolic of the education reforms happening nationally.

By 2020, President Obama wants the United States to once again have the world’s highest proportion of college graduates. To reach that goal, school districts and colleges are changing policy and curriculum with the goal of ensuring more students are college and career ready.

Offering the GED electronically is an important part of that process, said Nicole M. Chestang, vice president and executive director for the GED Testing Service, which is a trademarked program of the American Council on Education.

“One of the things we recognized early on as we were planning for the next step of GED, is that we needed to think about how we could reach the 39 million adults who don’t have a high school credential, compounded by the 1.3 million who drop out annually,” she said. “We know we could reach more people if we had more efficient and effective processes.”

Right now, the test is only offered in pen and paper format, and organizers warn of fraudulent online programs that claim to offer high school equivalencies for a fee. The electronic exam will be offered only at official test centers in Georgia, Florida, Texas and California. It will be introduced in other states in stages over the next three years, Chestang said.

New versions of the exam will also be more challenging and will be designed to certify college readiness as well as high school equivalency, Chestang said. The questions will be designed to test new national curriculum standards, which Georgia and 39 states adopted this year that will go into effect by 2012. And the testing service wants to increase access to preparation programs

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