What you need to know about the HiSET Test

Student taking the HiSET®  High School Equivalency Test.

The HiSET® test is one of three tests of high school equivalency that are used in the United States. The others are the General Education Development (GED) exam and the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC). States vary in which tests they offer and will accept for certification purposes. You can see where your state stands, here.

The HiSET® test consists of five subtests, with the listed number of questions and allowed time:

  • Language Arts—Reading: 50 multiple-choice questions—65 minutes
  • Language Arts—Writing: 60 multiple-choice questions; 1 essay question—120 minutes
  • Mathematics: 55 multiple-choice questions—90 minutes
  • Science: 60 multiple-choice questions—80 minutes
  • Social Studies: 60 multiple-choice questions—70 minutes

There is no penalty for incorrect answers on this test, so it is in your best interests to attempt an answer for every question.

What are the costs?

The basic fee for each of the five subtests is $10, but some testing centers and employers are willing to cover costs. Be sure to check with yours to see if assistance is possible. According to Educational Testing Service (ETS), who produces the test, the HiSET® is the least expensive of the three currently used high school equivalency tests.

What should I bring?

You will need to take a photo ID to the testing center, along with a copy of your appointment confirmation. Most likely, you’ll need to pay for the test when you schedule it, so it won’t be necessary to bring payment with you. Paper, pencils, and a calculator will be furnished, but check with your testing center to be sure nothing else is required.

Note: Be sure to find out your state’s rules for calculator use on this test.

How is it scored?

If you take the computer version of the HiSET® test, you will receive unofficial scores for all tests except the writing essay at the conclusion of the testing session and an official copy, along with your essay score, will be sent to you within about a week.

To pass the HiSET test, you must obtain a score of 8 out of 20 on each subtest, 2 out of 6 on the writing essay, and a total scaled score of 45 out of 100 on all five subtests. Certain states may have additional or different passing requirements. See this source for details in your state.

What kind of job can I get?

The possession of a high school diploma, or its equivalency, is required for many jobs today. In fact, some employers will even pay for equivalency testing for their employees who do not have a diploma. Employers may require a diploma or equivalency just to employ an individual or to clear that person for additional training. Having at least high school level skills is the basis for employment and advancement in many industries.

Am I eligible?

The states that administer the HiSET® test have varying requirements for administration. Some may have an age requirement or may ask you to prove you are not in school. You may take any subtest up to three times in a calendar year. Check this resource for state-specific requirements.

Why does it matter?

Passing some sort of high school equivalency test is often the key to your future in education and in the job market. Many times, it opens the door to both pathways in your future. You often need to prove to employers and institutions that you are ready for that next step, either a job or continued learning.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 27% of jobs in the current market do not require a high school diploma or equivalency, while 39% more are available to candidates with those qualifications. Add a total of another 29% if you have some college, an associate’s degree, a post-secondary nondegree award, or a college bachelor’s degree (usually 4 years post-high school. Since your ticket to post-high school study is that high school diploma or equivalent, you can bump your job options up by 39%–68% by getting it.

What salary can I expect?

Salary averages also rise with your level of education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly salary in the U.S. for a person in an occupation not requiring a high school diploma or equivalent is around $20,000. Contrast this with salaries for high school grads and equivalency holders, which average $35,000 or more. Add an associate’s degree and you could earn $58,000 a year. A bachelor’s degree could mean a $68,000+ annual salary.

When is it available?

The HiSET® test is administered in a variety of locations across the U.S. in states that accept the test as proof of high school equivalency level skills. Check this site for information about testing sites in your area.

Time Allowed

The entire HiSET® test takes about 7 hours to complete, but you don’t have to do it all in 1 day. You may schedule each of the five subtests as you wish. Here are the approximate times each requires:

  • Language Arts—Reading: 65 minutes
  • Language Arts—Writing: 120 minutes
  • Mathematics: 50 minutes
  • Science: 80 minutes
  • Social Studies: 70 minutes
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