The ETS High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) is a very new examination which was introduced in 2014 by Educational Testing Service (ETS) and Iowa Testing Programs (ITP). It is an alternative to the GED, an equivalency exam dating back to 1942 which until recently was used by all 50 states. Concerns over the 2014 revision of the GED prompted many states to seek alternative equivalency tests, and two new exams—the HiSET and the TASC—stepped in to fill this demand. As of December 2014, 12 states were administering the HiSET alongside or in place of the GED.
Function of the Test
The HiSET is a High School Equivalency Test which enables individuals lacking a high school diploma to demonstrate knowledge equivalent to that of a high school graduate. Successfully passing the exam earns the test-taker a High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED). The HiSET is also designed to help test-takers identify their specific strengths and weaknesses.
Twelve states were administering the HiSET as of December 2014, though new states have been adopting it regularly, so that number will likely increase in the future. The current twelve states are California, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee and Wyoming.
Because the examination was only introduced in January 2014, exact statistics are not yet available regarding the number of candidates who take the exam each year or what the typical passing rate is. In addition, the forthcoming "Phase 2" overhaul of the examination (see the Future Developments section below) is expected to significantly change the examination. However, ETS reports that they calibrated the HiSET such that 60% of actual high school seniors could pass the exam on the first attempt.
The HiSET is available in both English and Spanish-language versions as well as both computer-based and pencil-and-paper formats. Total fees for taking the exam vary widely from state to state. The base cost is $50 for the entire test or $15 for individual sections, but individual states may add extra fees. For example, the full exam costs a total of $95 to take in Missouri, but only $50 to take in Wyoming.
The HiSET is available year-round. Testing is generally offered at a variety of different sites, ranging from local schools and colleges to dedicated computer-based testing centers, and each test site may have different test dates. Candidates can find a test center and register for the exam by making a My HiSET account through the HiSET website or by calling ETS customer service.
Comprehensive HiSET scores reports are generally available within two to three weeks for paper-based tests and within six business days for computer-based tests. Individual states determine any rules regarding retesting. However, candidates may retake the examination for free up to two times within a 12-month period of their original test purchase.
Candidates with disabilities who require special testing accommodations must request these accommodations through ETS. Candidates must submit a HiSET Testing Accommodations Request form alongside medical documentation of the disability. ETS reports that the approval process can take six weeks or more, so candidates should begin this process well in advance of the intended testing date.
Candidates are expected to arrive around 45 minutes early at the testing center. For admission, identification containing a signature, birth date, and recent photo is required. Food and drinks are not allowed in the testing session. Scheduled breaks take place between subtests, and between the writing and multiple-choice portions of the Writing test. 
The HiSET is made out of five different subtests: Reading, Writing, Matehematics, Science, and Social Studies. Combined, there are 240 multiple choice questions and one essay prompt. Each subtest is timed. Altogether, they last around seven hours. 
- Sample Language Arts Question
- Questions 1-2 refer to the following passage:
- (1)A growing grassroots movement is taking place around the world. (2)Developed nations have spent the past half-century creating fast food products, which are designed more for ease and availability than for taste.(3)As people worry more over genetically modified crops, food safety, and the cost of shipping food across the nation, slow foods is making a comeback.
- Sentence (2): "Developed nations have spent the past half-century creating fast food products, which are designed more for ease and availability than for taste."
- A. food products, which are
- B. food products which are
- C. food product, which are
- D. food products, which is
- E. food products, are which
- Sentence (3): "As people worry more over genetically modified crops, food safety and the cost of shipping food across the nation, slow foods is making a comeback." What correction should be made to this sentence?
- A. remove the extra commas
- B. change is to are
- C. capitalize genetically modified
- D. make the items in a series parallel
- E. replace the period with a question mark
- Sample Social Studies Questions
Questions 1 and 2 refer to the following information
- In 1960, which of the following categories had the greatest disparity between percentage of both exports and imports?
- A. chemicals
- B. crude materials
- C. food and beverages
- D. machinery and transport
- E. mineral fuels and related materials
- Which category saw the greatest percentage decrease in imports between 1960 and 1970?
- A. chemicals
- B. crude materials
- C. food beverages
- D. machinery and transport
- E. mineral fuels and related materials
- Sample Language Arts, Reading Questions
- Questions 1 and 2 refer to the following passage
- When I read of the hard times among the Denver poor, I feel like urging them every one to get out and file on land. I am very enthusiastic about women homesteading. It really requires less strength and labor to raise plenty to satisfy a large family than it does to go out to wash, with the added satisfaction of knowing that their job will not be lost to them if they care to keep it. Even if improving the place does go slowly, it is that much done to stay done. Whatever is raised is the homesteader’s own, and there is no house-rent to pay. This year Jerrine [the writer’s daughter] cut and dropped enough potatoes to raise a ton of fine potatoes. She wanted to try, so we let her, and you will remember that she is but six years old.… Any woman strong enough to go out by the day could have done every bit of the work and put in two or three times that much, and it would have been so much more pleasant than to work so hard in the city and be on starvation rations all winter.
- The writer of this letter is suggesting that women should own land and farm rather than
- A. cook in a restaurant.
- B. open a bed and breakfast.
- C. do laundry for others.
- D. teach in a one-room schoolhouse.
- E. become a nurse.
- Stewart mentions her daughter's potato crop. She does this to show
- A. that child labor is acceptable.
- B. that no schools exist for her daughter.
- C. that women work just as hard as men do.
- D. the laziness of her daughter.
- E. how easy it is to raise crops.
- Sample Mathematics Questions
- Mrs. Patterson's classroom has sixteen empty chairs. All the chairs are occupied when every student is present. If 2/5 of the students are absent, how many students make up her entire class?
- A. 16
- B. 32
- C. 24
- D. 40
- E. 36
- In a game of chance, 3 dice are cast simultaneously. What is the probability that all three will land with a 6 showing?
- A. 1 in 6
- B. 1 in 18
- C. 1 in 216
- D. 1 in 30
- E. 1 in 36
- Sample Science Question
- All living organisms on Earth utilize:
- A. Oxygen
- B. Light
- C. Sexual reproduction
- D. Neurotransmitters
- E. A triplet genetic code
The HiSET comprises five subject exams as shown below.
|Distribution of questions on the HiSET exam|
|Section|| # of
| Time limit
|Language Arts - Reading||40||60||0 to 20|
|Language Arts - Writing||Multiple Choice||51||75||0 to 20|
|Essay||1||45||1 to 6|
|Mathematics||50||90||0 to 20|
|Science||50||80||0 to 20|
|Social Studies||50||70||0 to 20|
Each correct answer to a multiple choice question is worth one raw point. Scaled scores between 0 and 20 are then calculated from the raw scores for each section. Scaled scores are adjusted for the difficulty of questions. Essays are each scored on a scale from 1 to 6 by at least two trained scorers.
To pass the HiSET, candidates must score at least 45 out of 100 on the multiple choice sections of the exam, including scores of at least 8 on each of the five individual subtests. Candidates must also score at least 2 out of 6 points on the essay. ETS believes that 60% of real high school seniors could pass the HiSET on their first try.
A new version of HiSET referred to as "Phase 2" is under development. It is intended to align more closely with the Common Core State Standards. ETS does not appear to have announced an official launch date for the new exam, but it has stated that "[t]he timing will align with the Common Core State Standards changes that will be implemented throughout K–12 across the nation beginning in 2015–2016." In addition, ETS expects to revise the HiSET examination further when the "Next Generation Science Standards for Today's Students and Tomorrow's Workforce" have been approved and adopted by states.
Answers to Sample Questions
Language Arts: 1;B 2;D Social Studies: 1;D 2;B Language Arts, Reading: 1;C 2;E Mathematics: 1;D 2;C Science: 1;E
- ETS: ETS's HiSET™ Test Offers Affordable, Accessible High School Equivalency Assessment December 5 2014
- GED: History of the GED® test June 14 2014
- Education Week: More States Dumping the GED, Choosing Alternative Tests December 5 2014
- Education Week: New GED Tests Stir Concerns, Draw Competitors December 5 2014
- ETS: California Becomes the 12th State to Approve ETS's HiSET® Program for High School Equivalency December 5 2014
- ETS: Why Take the HiSET® Exam? December 5 2014
- ETS: HiSET ™ Test Taker Bulletin 2014 December 5 2014
- ETS: HiSET® Requirements by State or Jurisdiction December 5 2014
- ETS: Missouri HiSET® Requirements December 5 2014
- ETS: Wyoming HiSET® Requirement December 5 2014
- http://hiset.ets.org/take/test_day/policies/ HiSET Test Day Policies] 17 November 2014
- HiSET Test Content 17 November 2014
- ETS: HiSET ™ Information Brief December 5 2014
- ETS: How the HiSET® Exam is Scored December 5 2014
- ETS: Frequently Asked Questions — HiSET Program Administration December 5 2014