How Tough Is Louisiana’s Math Exit Exam?

Published October 1, 2003

Bridget Green’s failure to graduate high school because she persistently failed to pass Louisiana’s Graduate Exit Exam (GEE) prompted local test critic C.C. Campbell-Rock to imply the GEE was a tough test to pass.

“I wish our public officials and even [the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education] would take a second look at the test,” the critic told Times-Picayune reporter Aesha Rasheed.

Blogger Kimberly Swygert at Number 2 Pencil did what Campbell-Rock suggested and took a look at the sample GEE test questions posted by the Louisiana Department of Education.

“This test is providing a massive wake-up call to a school system that inflates grades and doesn’t provide its students with the educational skills they need to go on to college,” she concludes in an August 13 post.

Swygert found Louisiana students don’t need to meet the “Proficient” achievement level to pass the GEE, which would require a score of 70-84 percent. They didn’t even need to reach the “Basic” achievement level, either, with a score of 45-69 percent. To pass the GEE, students need only reach the “Approaching Basic” achievement level, which requires a score of 35-44 percent.

How tough are the GEE math problems? In the sample questions provided by the state, students are required to:

  • Sum up positive and negative numbers;
  • Use simple geometry for proportional reasoning about triangles;
  • Interpret a simple graph;
  • Answer a question involving simple statistics;
  • Show they have “in-depth understanding” that the area of a rectangle is height times width.

“And the valedictorian couldn’t do this?” asks a bemused Swygert. “And critics are telling us to take another look at this exam?”

For more information …

Sample questions for Louisiana’s 10th-grade Graduation Exit Examination are available at the Web site of the Louisiana Department of Education at

Kimberly Swygert’s Number 2 Pencil blog is at