How To Write A HiSET Essay

Last Updated on April 13, 2024.

The HiSET English Writing subtest includes 50 multiple-choice questions, and you’ll have to write an essay.


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After you have completed the first multiple-choice section, you’ll have 50 minutes to produce your essay.

In this post, we look at how to write a HiSET essay and how you can achieve an optimal score on this part of the HiSET English Writing subtest.

So when you’ve finished the first part of the HiSET® Writing test, it’s time for writing your essay.

You’ll be given two passages but before you can give your opinion, you should understand these texts through and through.

When writing your response, please take note of specific criteria on which your work is evaluated. The most important criteria that are taken into account are the following:

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  • You must produce a well-written introduction
  • Your conclusion must be effective and strong
  • Your sequence of ideas must be logical
  • You must demonstrate an understanding of English grammar (spelling, punctuation, etc.)
  • Your essay must be clear and properly organized
  • The central thesis and supporting ideas must be clear
  • You must demonstrate an understanding of alternative/opposing points of view
  • Your tone and style must be formal

Your essay will be graded by two readers who each will award maximally three points so your essay score can be 6 points max. To pass the HiSET exam, however, the result of your essay needs to be at least 2.

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Thesis Statement

Don’t get intimidates by words like “thesis.” The thesis of your essay is just a central position. The thesis informs about your essay’s main idea; it’s about what you want your readers to understand. It gives your readers an idea about your opinion on a given subject.

Your thesis could, for example, be something like “Every student should get funding for a college education” or “All governments in the world should do more to protect the environment for generations to come.”

Your thesis relates to the general topic that is discussed in the two passages that you receive.

You should ask yourself, “What’s my opinion on this topic?” It’s not about taking a position that your essay readers need to agree with.

You must simply make your position clear and explain how some examples are supportive of your position. If you manage that, you will easily reach a score of 4 or even higher. So is the HiSET easier than the GED exam? Check out this post for details.

Let’s take a look at the steps needed to produce a good HiSET essay and attain a great score.

5 Steps to Produce a Great Essay

If you want to complete your within the given time (50 minutes), it’s key to keep an eye on the clock! Let’s see how you can organize your time to not run into problems:

  • 1 – Spend max 5 minutes on reading passage 1
  • 2 – Spend max 5 minutes on reading passage 2
  • 3 – Spend no more than 5 minutes on planning your 5-paragraph essay, pre-writing your thesis, and supporting ideas
  • 4 – Write your HiSET essay in 30 minutes max
  • 5 – That leaves you 5 minutes for revising and editing your essay

Now, this may not seem like a lot of time for writing your essay, but keep in mind that there’s no need to write a long essay! The thirty minutes in the planning steps above should be plenty of time to write a 5–6 paragraph essay.

Your introduction and conclusion can be relatively short paragraphs, and mistake #1 that students usually make is that they don’t spend enough time planning their essays.

When you’ve got a good plan in place for each paragraph, you’ll see that the actual writing won’t take up so much time. It’s all about setting up a good plan, right?

If you are well-prepared, you’ll see that you have plenty of time to produce a well-written essay! Check here -> for an overview of which states use the HiSET exam and the cost in each state.

Essay Structure

Let’s see how you can break down your 5 paragraph essay, and if you want, you can add a 6th paragraph right before your conclusion. You’re free to do that. Keep in mind that the following is merely a suggestion. Here is how your 5-paragraph essay should be structured:

1st paragraph: Introduction. Here, you will introduce both of the given passages, and you need to summarize them. Here, you state your thesis and indicate in what two major ways you’ll support or strengthen your point of view.

2nd paragraph: First Idea. Here, you state the first supporting idea. You need to provide evidence from the given passage. You could as well provide an example from your personal life for additional support.

3rd paragraph: Second Idea. Here, you will state the second supporting idea. You should give evidence from the given passage. Also here, you can use an example from your personal life for further support.

4th paragraph: The Opposing Side. In this section, you can acknowledge that there are people who believe contrary to your thesis. Explain something about their position, and then refute their position through logic or, even better, with additional information from the given passages.

5th paragraph: Conclusion. In this paragraph, you should re-state and explain your thesis and make clear, again, why your point of view is correct. This 5th paragraph doesn’t need to be so long; usually, two sentences are sufficient!

Please note that this scheduling idea is only a suggestion. In case you can write no more than four paragraphs, you have the option to combine Paragraphs 4 and 5. In your HiSET essay, you can discuss any opposing sides or arguments in your conclusion.

If you aim to write a 5 or 6-paragraph essay, writing not even 4 paragraphs is not wise. In itself, the length of your essay doesn’t matter so much, but, in general, 2 or 3 paragraphs will not be enough, both in length and time, to develop and defend your thesis appropriately. If you want to learn more about taking the HiSET at home, go to this page.

Revising and Editing

Bear in mind that spelling mistakes, grammar irregularities, and punctuation errors will distract the reader’s attention from your thesis and main ideas. So it is critical to re-read and revise your essay at least once and, if possible, even twice to correct inaccuracies.

So it is imperative to stick to your schedule and make sure you’ll have enough time to make your essay great! So before your time is up, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there enough “logical flow” in my essay? Does the sequence of ideas make any logical sense?
  • Is my thesis convincing enough? Did I make my point clear?
  • Are the examples that I used presented in a logical way?
  • Did I use transition words in the correct way?
  • Aren’t there too many grammar and/or punctuation errors?

So stick to your schedule and be sure to make all necessary changes before you run out of time!

Make Your Essay Successful

  • In order to make your essay successful, be sure to include your thesis statement in the first paragraph of your essay. Your thesis statement is just a 1-sentence statement in which you clearly state your position. Here, it must become clear how you think about the issue discussed in the given passages.
  • Be sure to use evidence and supporting details from the given passages. You must make it clear that you understand the information provided in the passages, and you should refer to that information. For each idea you bring up, you should refer to or cite at least one supporting statement or fact from the provided passages.
  • It’s always good to provide examples from your personal life. If you can, provide one example from your experiences or personal life for each of your presented ideas. It won’t hurt to stretch reality a little as long as you make sure what you describe is something you really (perhaps partially) have been through and that it feels real and organic.
  • Include an acknowledgment of the opposing argument(s). Sometimes, it is good to do this in an additional paragraph, but you can also do this, for example, at the beginning of the last paragraph. You can choose a strong opposing argument that has some merit or that some people believe. Then, explain, or prove why this still is not convincing to you or why you think it is logically flawed.

In the final paragraph of your essay, restate your thesis. In your final paragraph, you should not only restate your thesis but also summarize your argument. If you stick to these guidelines, you can be sure to reach a great score on your HiSET essay!