Passing the General Educational Development, or GED, is a positive step toward creating a career path. If you have dropped out of high school and want to pursue higher education, you'll most likely need this equivalency. The test itself is fairly intensive and long, so you'll need to be prepared before entering the testing room. Practicing for the test can be accomplished without formal training, but you'll need to be disciplined.

Purchase a GED preparation book or borrow one from the library. Review the introduction for helpful hints about the study habits, schedules and skills that are necessary to pass the exam. If you're committed to a study plan, go online and schedule an exam date. (See Resources.) You'll need to pay for any and all retakes, so shoot for a passing score (410 for all five tests, 450 average) on your first attempt.

Prepare a study plan. Think of your home-based preparation like a class in an academic setting. Set reachable and realistic goals regarding reading, tests, chunks of knowledge and advancement. You'll want to set aside at least 6 to 8 weeks to allow for full preparation. If you are fully employed or otherwise busy, you may want to prepare for a longer period of time. However, it's best to limit your preparation to 12 weeks, as you'll begin to lose retention after that time period.

Follow your action plan strictly. Make sure you're meeting goals, improving your test results and gaining new knowledge whenever you sit down to study. If you find you're not progressing, you may want to employ a tutor or a standardized-test expert to guide you through the process. Decide early in your preparation if you need outside help. If you wait too long, you may risk failing and having to restart the entire process.

Use a space in your home that is quiet, relaxing and conducive to focused work. Turn off your cell phone and computer and inform your friends, family and any roommates of your study times, so you can ensure comfortable and uninterrupted study sessions. Reward yourself for completing sections or improving on practice tests. Set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Do not set wild goals to make up for time lost--simply start where you left off and work diligently going forward.

Take at least four full practice GED tests before entering the official test. You'll want to be fully prepared for intensity of the long test, and for the wherewithal required to complete a marathon standardized test. Time yourself and figure out your weak areas. Take special care to review problem areas. Arrive at least 30 minutes early for your official exam; show up well-rested and with all required documents and test materials.