AUBURN, Maine — People who have started — but not finished — passing their high school diploma equivalency tests may want to get it done this fall.

On Jan. 1, 2014, there’ll be new, harder General Education Development tests. And that could mean anyone who has started work on their GED certificate but not finished by Jan. 1 may have to start over, Lewiston Adult Education Director Eva Giles warned.

To get a GED, a person has to pass five tests: reading, writing, social studies, science and math, Auburn Adult Education Director Bill Grant said.

Even if someone has passed four of the five tests, if they haven’t passed all of the tests by Jan. 1 they may have to start over, Giles said.

Lewiston and Auburn adult education programs, as well as others in the region, are about to launch public campaign encouraging GED candidates to complete their work.

The Maine Department of Education has sought requests for proposals for the new GED tests. Giles and Grant said they don’t know yet what the tests will look like, as that hasn’t been announced by the state.

Giles said they do know the new tests will be done online as opposed to the current paper exams. And they’ll be harder.

“The test will be aligned to more rigorous standards; it will be a more complicated test,” Giles said. “The problem for those currently working on their GED is the work they are doing now cannot be used in combination with the new tests; they will be totally different tests.”

Gail Senese, state director of Adult Education for the Maine Department of Education, said announcements of what the new tests will be and which company will produce them, are expected in mid-September.

She agreed with Giles that the new tests will be more difficult. She said she hopes people who have passed some parts of the tests won’t lose those scores, but they could.

The high school equivalency diploma tests are being updated, Senese said, because the existing exams “are the 2002 version.”

Just as high school students are facing increased rigor to be ready for college or a career, so to are adult education students.

Courses to help people prepare for and take GED tests will continue to be free. The costs are paid for by taxpayers, Senese said.

Statewide, about 2,500 people are working on their GEDs and about 400 people working on adult high school diplomas.

Lewiston typically has 150 students a year who graduate with GEDs. There are at least that many or more who have started, but not completed, the GEDs, she said.

In Auburn, anywhere from 35 to 60 students work on and graduate with GEDs a year, Grant said. The number “is like a small Maine high school,” he said.

Students range in age from 17 to the 80s, Giles said.

“They are folks who did not complete high school for a lot of reasons,” Giles said. The older generations had to leave school to go to work. For others, high school was “not a good match” and they left. Still others are refugees from other countries learning English and working on their high school education, she said.

“Many working on their GED are individuals trying to balance children, work and school,” she said.