High School Equivalency (HSE) tests are the alternative solution for people who didn’t finish their high school education.

Today, in America there are three HSE tests, the GED, HiSET, and TASC exams, and all of these exams assess knowledge and skills at a level that compares to that of high school graduates.

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The HiSET® and TASC™ are relatively new tests (introduced in 2014) whereas the GED® test was created in 1942 and was taken by more than 20 million people in 78 years.

Although the GED exam remains the most popular HSE test, the HiSET exam is being recognized as perhaps the least challenging of the three HSE tests.

Currently, there are 23 states that offer students the possibility of taking the HiSET test, often alongside the GED and/or TASC exam, though not all testing centers are providing multiple tests. Please get informed to avoid disappointments.

In America, adults who left high school before graduation have another interesting way to earn a secondary education degree. They can earn a high school equivalency (HSE) credential.

This means that they can take an exam to demonstrate that they master knowledge and skills at a level comparable to that of high school graduates.

Doing so will help them create better employment options and the HSE diploma, just like a common HS diploma, also allows for a college education.

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So there are three HSE exams available in the U.S., the GED (General Education Development), TASC (Test Assessing Secondary Completion), and HiSET (High School Equivalency Test).

Once students have successfully completed one of these three exams, their states or jurisdictions will issue their high school equivalency diplomas or certificates.

The GED exam is a computer-adaptive diagnostic test that contains four modules (independent subtests) that cover the academic subject areas of Math, Language, Science, and Social Studies.

The HiSET and TASC exams are administered both on paper and on a computer, except in New Jersey where all three options are administered on a computer only. West Virginia requires TASC testers to take the exam on a computer as well.

These options also measure skills and knowledge at the HS graduation level and contain five modules as writing and reading are separate sections.

Most states still use the GED for their HSE programs but a number of states made the switch to one of the other tests. More and more states, however, offer multiple options and let students decide which HSE exam they want to take.

All three HSE exams are guarding who qualifies for the tests. The qualification rules are pretty strict and relate to a student’s level of education, age, and residency. In general, applicants need to be at least 16 years old, be officially withdrawn from their schools, and have permission from a parent or guardian.

For all three options counts, however, that taking practice tests will increase a student’s chances of success!

Institutions of higher education, government organizations, and employers recognize and accept the American HSE diploma in the same way as a regular high school degree.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these HSE exams.

The GED test

The General Educational Development exam, published by GED Testing Service, is the most widely-used and best-known HSE test. The cost varies by state, but in general, the cost is around $120 for the entire battery of four individual subtests though, in some states, the cost is considerably higher or lower.

The GED comes with four separate subtests in the academic fields of Reasoning through Language Arts, Science, Mathematical Reasoning, and Social Studies. The subtests take between 70 and 150 minutes to complete. Test-takers must, on each section, attain a 145 score on a scale that runs from 100 to 200.

Some states require state residency and test-takers need to be at least 16 years of age and not hold a high school degree or be signed up for another educational program. For 16- and 17-year olds, additional requirements apply. All these requirements also apply to the HiSET and TASC. As said earlier, the GED is available only in a computer-based format.

GED testing includes various types of questions such as multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, draggable, short answer, and students must also write an essay (extended response).

Most states administer the GED exam. The following states, however, do NOT USE the GED test: Indiana (HiSET); Iowa (HiSET); Louisiana (HiSET); Maine (HiSET); Missouri (HiSET); Montana (HiSET); New Hampshire (HiSET); New York (TASC); Tennessee (HiSET); West Virginia (TASC).

The HiSET test

The HiSET (short for “High School Equivalency Test”) has been available since early 2014. This HSE exam, like the other options, covers academic fields that are taught in high school. The minimally required age for this exam is also usually 16 though for applicants 16 and 17 years old, specific requirements apply.

The HiSET exam has five testing fields: Language Reading, Language Writing, Math, Social Studies, and Science. All five subtests include multiple-choice questions or require essay-style answers. The subtests may also be taken separately and will take between 65 and 120 minutes each for completion.

On the HiSET exam, test-takers need to reach an overall score of at least 45 out of a possible 100. Students must attain at least an 8-score (out of 20) on each of the 5 subtests and their essay score cannot be under a two (out of a possible six).

Except for the essay part, the HiSET contains only multiple-choice questions. Many answer options are including negative words like “least” or “except” so test-takers will be prompted to identify which answer is incorrect. When you study to get used to multiple-choice questions, be sure you can distinguish between “good answers” and “the best answers”.

The TASC exam

The Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) was also introduced in 2014 as one more alternative to the GED exam. Here as well, applicants need to be at least 16 years of age though for underage students (16 and 17) strict extra requirements apply.

The TASC exam includes five subtests in the academic fields of Mathematics, English Writing, English Reading, Social Studies, and Science. The subtests require from 50 to 110 minutes each to complete. The TASC passing score on each subtest is 500 (out of 800) and the essay score needs to be no less than two out of eight.

All three HSE options (GED, HiSET, and TASC) are rigorous tests but the TASC is considered to include the most challenging Math section so get optimally prepared! Using a calculator is allowed only on one part of the test so understanding math testing both in pencil-and-paper and computer testing is key, depending on what format you take the TASC exam. Please note that in West Virginia and New Jersey, testing is only available in a computerized format.

In some states, including New York State, students looking to earn a high school equivalency diploma may also take the NEDP, the National External Diploma Program. Check here for more information.

How to prepare for the GED, HiSET, and TASC tests

The three HSE exams are rigorous tests. All three options assess knowledge and skills at a level that compares to that of graduating high school seniors. Preparation is key and taking practice tests will help you identify your strong and weak points so you can use your study time efficiently by focusing on those areas that need it most.

There are states that require test-takers to pass an official pretest before they are allowed to sign up for the official test. Most states, however, do not require students to do so.

Illinois, Arizona, and North Dakota require students to also pass a Constitution or Civics exam if they want to earn their HSE diplomas.

The states that require test-takers to first pass a pretest or sign up for a prep program are West Virginia, Tennessee, New Hampshire, Missouri, Maine, Louisiana, Kentucky, Iowa, Hawaii, Delaware, DC, and Arkansas.

Many students ask us what’s the fastest way to prepare for GED, HiSET, or TASC test. The simple answer is: take online classes. The online prep classes allow students to work on their own schedules. This website publishes free online classes and practice tests, so you can start right away.

However, you need to be aware that online prep classes require a good dose of self-discipline.

Here is  the perfect scenario:

  • You book 45-60 minutes for your test prep.
  • During the learning time, you watch 3 short video lessons.
  • To make sure you understand these lessons, take the practice test that comes with each lesson.
  • After 5-10 lessons you take a longer practice test to assess your knowledge.
  • If you have time to focus on your learning, learn daily. If not, try to learn 3 times a week.
  • Take regular breaks.

How to make most of the online prep

Don’t simply watch hours of video lessons without taking practice test questions. You will quickly forget what you’ve learned unless you take practice test questions to back up those concepts. For instance, when you’ve watched the Climate video lessons, make sure you complete the practice test that accompanies that module.

The GED college-ready and college-ready PLUS college credit scores (165-174 and 175-200 respectively) qualify test-takers directly for singing up for credit-bearing college courses without having to take additional remedial coursework or passing a college entrance exam such as the SAT or ACT at an increasing number of colleges and universities. In California, students may also take the state’s CHSPE exam (California High School Proficiency Examination) to demonstrate high school equivalent skills and knowledge.

Who qualifies for HSE testing?

The three American High School Equivalency exams are geared toward all adults who, for one reason or another, were not in the position to finish their regular high school curriculum.

Applicants cannot already have a secondary degree (high school or equivalent diploma) or be registered for some other school program. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve quit high school recently or that it has been many years since you quit school. The HSE exam is for everyone who doesn’t hold a high school diploma.

Requirements vary by state but in general, applicants must be 16 years of age or older. Test-takers are considered “underage” when they are 16 or 17 years old (in most states) and for these students, extra requirements apply. For the situation in your state, check out this post.

Organizations behind the HSE exams

The GED exam is created by the American Council of Education (ACE) in cooperation with PearsonVUE, a major publisher of educational resources. The GED, HiSET, and TASC are state-specific exams and qualification requirements vary slightly by individual state.

The HiSET exam is developed by Educational Testing Service (ETS), a nonprofit organization that promotes equity and quality in education for all. ETS provides innovative solutions to improve learning and teaching and expand educational opportunities.

The TASC exam is created by Data Recognition Corporation (DRC), a recognized developer of tests of academic performance such as the TABE (Tests of Adult Basic Education). DRC works with experienced adult educators and high school teachers for developing the TASC test.

Residency requirements

There are states that subsidize HSE testing (GED, TASC, and/or HiSET). In general, these states allow testing only for state residents. Most states that do not subsidize HSE testing are not requiring test-takers to be state residents. For the situation in your state, check out this page.

States that require test-takers to be residents are Wisconsin, West Virginia, Washington, Texas, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Montana, Missouri, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Delaware, DC, Connecticut, California, and Arkansas.

GED, HiSET, and TASC diplomas guarantee better job options

The fact of the matter is that quite a few students who quit high school or college prematurely are having a hard time securing a decent job nowadays. Unemployment figures are showing that over 15 percent of all unemployed persons do not have a high school or equivalent diploma while, at the same time, just under 5 percent of all college grad was not able to find a suitable job.

Holding a high school diploma is a prerequisite for practically all professional positions and postsecondary educational options. For most jobs, you must at least hold a high school diploma and if you want to enroll in college, the credential is required as well.

The fact of the matter is, though, that not everyone was in the position to finish their regular high school education, and high school equivalency (HDSE) tests are bridging that gap and offer adults without a common HS diploma one more shot at securing a credential that’s accepted in lieu of a high school diploma.

High school equivalency tests measure students’ skills and knowledge at a level that is comparable to that of graduating high school seniors. Most HSE tests are available in English and Spanish, and occasionally as well in French and Braille.

For some seven decades, the GED exam had been the only available HSE exam in North America but that changed in 2014. In that year, two alternative options were introduced, the HiSET and TASC exams, giving students more opportunities to demonstrate their skills and knowledge level.

The GED and HiSET exams are now also available in an online format. Click here for information about online proctored GED testing and to learn all about the HiSET-at-Home Exam, click here.

The HSE exam is a set of four subject tests that, when taken successfully, certify that the holder has academic skills and knowledge at the level of a high school graduate. The HSE is for people who are not any longer at the appropriate age for enrolling in high school.

If you don’t have a high school diploma, finding a reasonably-paying job will be hard. Today, practically all entry-level positions require at least a high school or equivalent degree.

People with a secondary education degree will make at least $9,500 more annually than individuals who don’t hold the credential.

If you want to enroll in college courses or attend some other form of postsecondary education, holding a high school or equivalent diploma is required, and lacking the degree puts limits on your earnings potential.

In the United States, we can find still some 30 million adults who never finished high school but they still have a chance to advance their academic education and work toward a rewarding career by earning a high school equivalency diploma.

Estimates are that more than 40 percent of adults who earn their GED (General Educational Development) diploma continue their education in some sort of postsecondary education program which will guide them toward higher earnings and better career options.


Last Updated on September 6, 2021.