High School Equivalency Diploma: The Complete Guide
Earning a high school diploma - or one of the other available Certificate of High School Equivalency credentials - is considered the minimum level of education one needs to find employment - jobs that would be unavailable without the High School Equivalency (HSE) Credential. Additionally, a high school level diploma/equivalency credential is a must-have if one is to gain admission to a professional school or any institution of higher education.
A high school equivalency credential is a valuable tool for those who, for whatever reason, did not earn a high school diploma more traditionally. High School Equivalency credentials offer employment opportunities that are only available for those who hold a high school equivalency credential or high school diploma.
For those who want to earn this equivalency certificate, it is essential to be aware of the fact that each state’s Department of Education (DOE) independently determines the requirements for that state. Its task includes defining the criteria each student must meet to earn a high school equivalency diploma for that particular state. For easy access, the federal government provides a consolidated index for each state's educational authority.
The three primary high school equivalency diplomas are:
The GED – The General Education Development Credential
The GED is the acronym for the General Education Development test – the exam that leads to a GED high school equivalency credential. The GED exam was initially created to help veterans complete their education after returning from WWII. The GED was (and remains) a vital government-developed education tool that was designed some seventy-odd years ago to help veterans who had enlisted before they had the chance to complete their high school education.
The GED test was overhauled in 2014 and now includes four subject areas. The GED testing centers offer physical modifications for those with a disability. Additionally, the GED exam is available on audio, in Braille, Spanish, or French, for Canadian residents.
Each state is responsible for establishing state-specific criteria; however, most states' standards have requirements regarding -
- The Age of the Test-Taker – this varies by state
- The Existence of State Residency Requirements
- Acceptable Photo ID’s
- Preparation Course Minimum Requirements
- The Test-Taker’s High School Enrollment Status – determine if a test-taker must be out of school for a pre-set time
When investigating the above-noted information, double-check that your state recognizes the GED as an acceptable High School Equivalency credential. Learn more about how to get a GED.
GED Exam Preparation
It is crucial for those planning to take the GED exam to recognize the importance of carving out enough preparation opportunities to optimize their GED exam efforts. Those GED exam candidates who have been out of school for many years will find this particularly helpful. The amount of prep time needed by each test-taker depends on -
- The test-taker’s knowledge and aptitude, when the exam is taken
- The length of time since the test-taker has participated in a classroom learning environment
- Certain subjects, for specific individuals, among others
The good news, there are many online, no-cost preparation tools and techniques available to support GED exam takers as they reach to earn this high school equivalency credential. Check out Test-Guide's free GED practice tests.
- Science: 40 questions
- Social Studies: 44 questions
- Mathematical Reasoning: 49 questions
- Reasoning Through Language Arts: 65 questions + essay
The following insights help GED test-takers understand the nature of the test and its administration.
- The GED exam consists mostly of multiple-choice questions/answers. However, the reading, science, and social studies sections require an essay or a written response.
- Most states permit test-takers to take each section of the exam one at a time, and in any order.
- Students who pass the GED test are now eligible for Federal student-aid eligible.
- Most states permit GED test-takers to take two additional re-tests with little resistance. A fourth attempt at the GED exam generally must follow a pre-set waiting period.
- The total allowable time for all four sections of the GED is 7 hours and 5 minutes.
- The cost of each subject section is approximately $30.
Each GED section is scored independently from one another. The GED scoring range for the four subject sections is 100 through 200 points. While each state has the authority to set minimum score standards, the general rule is that a score of 145 is a passing score. (Confirm this with your state's DOE). GED scores that range from 175 to 200 (a perfect score!) indicates a great aptitude for college coursework.
The TASC – The Test Assessing Secondary Completion Credential
The TASC (the Total Administrative Service Corporation) test is recognized as a National High School Equivalency Exam, an alternative high school equivalency credential that was developed initially by McGraw-Hill. The TASC offers a state-of-the-art testing platform that, like the GED, assesses a test-taker’s aptitude as compared to the average high school graduating senior. To be eligible for the test, TASC test candidates must be older than 16, not enrolled in high school, and seeking a high school equivalency credential.
The TASC seeks to evaluate a test-taker’s knowledge and aptitude in five broad subject areas –
- Mathematics – 105 minutes, 42 multiple-choice questions, plus other tasks- 2 sections
- Science – 85 minutes, 48 items (49 on a non-computer exam), plus other tasks
- Reading – 75 minutes, 48 questions (49 on non-computer exam), plus other tasks
- Writing - 105 minutes, 50 multiple choice (m/c), plus other writing tasks
- Social Studies – 75 minutes, 48 questions (49 on a non-computer exam), plus other tasks
Each section is scored separately. Spanish test-takers are provided with a few minutes extra for the test. However, exam takers must score a minimum of 500 to pass each subject section, except for the writing section. Students must score a 2 (out of a possible 8) to pass. If the TASC test-taker passes all five TASC sections, they will receive the TASC high school equivalency credential.
The TASC Test’s interface is user-friendly and is often less expensive than other high school equivalency credentials and certificates. A student can take a TASC test as a pencil & paper option or online.
However, the TASC high school equivalency completion credential is only accepted by thirteen states at this time –
- New Jersey
- New York- NY does not accept the GED but offers the TASC Test free for residents.
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
TASC Exam Preparation
It is crucial for those planning to take the TASC Test to recognize the importance of carving out ample time to prepare to optimize their TASC Test efforts.
- The test-taker's knowledge and aptitude, when the is taken
- The length of time since the test-taker has participated in a classroom learning environment.
- Certain subjects, for certain individuals.
The good news, there are many online, no-cost preparation tools and techniques available to support TASC exam takers as they reach to earn this high school equivalency credential. Those TASC Test candidates who have been out of school for many years will find this particularly helpful. Check out these free TASC Practice tests from Test-Guide.com.
The cost of the TASC Test is set by each state but often includes a hefty discount when you pay for all testing sections at once (2 sections are provided free of charge). The TASC Testing fees include two re-tests as well.
The HiSET – The High School Equivalency Test Credential
Another option to earning one’s high school equivalency diploma is to sit for (and pass) the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET®). The HiSET exam is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Since the passage of the OCTAE (the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (2014), the HiSET now tests for college readiness as the questions are designed in accordance with the defined College & Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education prescribed in the OCTAE legislation.
Like the GED and TASC exams, the HiSET exam is designed to assess the test-taker’s knowledge and competency when compared to that of an average graduating high school senior. Most educational pundits agree that the HiSET is generally considered the most widely used high school equivalency credential.
As of now, there are 23 states (and five United States Territories) that have accepted the HiSET exam.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
Like the GED and TASC exams, states are given the authority to establish state-specific criteria; in the areas of -
- The Age of the Test-Taker
- The Existence of State Residency Requirements.
- Acceptable Photo IDs.
- Preparation Course Minimum Requirements.
- The Test-Taker’s High School Enrollment Status – determine if a test-taker must be out of school for a preset time.
The HiSET® exam includes five sub-sections. Most states allow test-takers to complete the subsections in the order of their choice; however, it is essential to double-check your state’s requirements. A HiSET exam taker, however, can choose to complete these test categories at their preferred pace.
- Mathematics – 90 mins, multiple-choice questions, calculator allowed
- Science – 80 mins, multiple-choice questions, includes graph & chart interpretation
- L.A. Reading – 65 mins, multiple-choice questions
- L.A. Writing - 120 mins, multiple-choice questions, plus other writing tasks
- Social Studies – 70 mins, multiple-choice questions regarding the information presented
The maximum total test time for the HiSET exam is seven-hour and five minutes.
HiSET Examination Fees
Each state sets the cost of the HiSET exam for exam-takers in that state. Here is a quick link from the ETS that will help find out what your state’s fees.
Preparing for the HiSET exam is a prudent way to optimize your performance on the HiSET.
One of the fundamental ways of improving your HiSET test efforts (and hopefully optimizing your score) is to take advantage of the ingenious and diverse tools available to each test-taker. For example, these HiSET® Practice Tests offer no-cost options for students preparing to sit for the HiSET exam.
Additionally, when preparing for the HiSET exam, it is crucial to learn as much as you can about the exam's content and format. The following links include information and guides offered by the HiSET test administrator – The ETS, the Education Testing Service.
The HiSET® Credential & Federal Agencies
For those students who successfully pass the High School Equivalency Credential – the HiSET - the HiSET® credential qualifies individuals for -
- The United States Military
- Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
- The Department of Labor Jobs Corp. Program