Going back to school for a GED can be a nerve-wracking experience for many people. Knowing what to expect is key to getting the most out of the experience. There are two basic categories of GED preparation programs: open enrollment and content-specific. Both have their benefits, but often one works better for a person's learning style than the other.

Testing

Regardless of how the class is structured, the end-goal is the same -- pass all 5 GED content-area tests. The content-areas are science, social studies, math, reading and writing. Beginning in January of 2014, according the the GED Testing Service, all tests will be given online, with a paper-and-pen version available only in special circumstances. GED classes are offered mostly by community colleges as part of their Adult Education programs. Almost universally, GED preparation classes are treated as college classes, not as high school classes.

Open Entry/Open Exit

Some colleges, such as Treasure Valley Community College, offer open-entry/open-exit classes, which are conducted similarly to a study hall. Students enroll at any point during the term and can study any topic. These are usually computer-based tutorials with a teacher facilitating and providing additional assistance. In these classes, students study a wide variety of topics from any of the five tests. GED tests are given on a set schedule, but students can sign up to take any test they feel prepared to take.

Content Specific

In larger communities, classes may be offered in specific content areas. Portland Community College provides a multi-part assessment that determines into which classes and at what level you may enroll. In content-specific classes, everybody in the class is basically at the same stage in their learning and are all focused on one specific test at a time. The teacher generally has knowledge in that specific field and teaches the class as he would an entry-level college class. These classes usually are equivalent to the zero-level pre-college classes offered by many colleges.

Testing Only

Some colleges or testing centers provide access to the tests without the requirement of enrolling in any sort of class. GED Testing Service is the company that provides the only GED test recognized in all 50 states and Canada. They contract with local community colleges and other testing centers to provide trained staff to proctor the tests. Each test has a fee, usually separate from any tuition that a college might charge for a preparation class. This option is best for individuals that believe that they have enough knowledge to pass the tests without the assistance of classroom instruction.