HiSET Test

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The ETS High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) is a very new examination which was introduced in 2014[1] 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.[2] 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.[3][4] As of December 2014, 12 states were administering the HiSET alongside or in place of the GED.[5]

Function of the Test

HiSET Study Guide

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.[6]

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.[5]

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.[7]

Test Administration

HiSET Flashcards

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.[8] For example, the full exam costs a total of $95 to take in Missouri,[9] but only $50 to take in Wyoming.[10]

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.[7]

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.[7]

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.[7]

Test Format

Test Environment

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. [11]

Test Structure

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. [12]

Sample Questions

More free HiSET practice test questions.


The HiSET comprises five subject exams as shown below.

Distribution of questions on the HiSET exam[13]
Section # of
Time limit
Score range
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.[14] 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.[14] Essays are each scored on a scale from 1 to 6 by at least two trained scorers.[14]

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.[7] ETS believes that 60% of real high school seniors could pass the HiSET on their first try.[7]

Future Developments

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.[1] 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."[15] 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.[13]

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