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Beginning in 1988, students will have to write an essay as part of the test for a high-school equivalency diploma, according to the commission that administers the examination.

The American Council on Education's commission on educational credit and credentials approved the change last month, calling the addition a response to "concerns throughout education about students' communication skills." The writing-skills portion of the General Educational Development (ged) test currently includes 80 multiple-choice questions on grammar, spelling, logic, and organization.

Richard Swartz, project director for research on the ged, said the writing exercise was added "to more closely reflect high-school curricula."

The ged, which was taken by more than 700,000 people last year, was started in 1942 as a way for soldiers who had dropped out of or never attended high school to earn a diploma.

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