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The Definitive Practice Test Guide for the HiSET Test

About the HiSET

The HiSET exam is one of two popular standardized exams for high school equivalency accepted nationally. Passing the HiSET demonstrates knowledge and understanding on par with those who have earned their high school diploma. This credential can be important to employers, college admissions offices, or the military for those considering service.

The HiSET exam was created by Educational Testing Service and was introduced in 2014 as a substitute for the GED®. There are five sections of the HiSET:

  • Language Arts/Reading
  • Language Arts/Writing
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social Studies

The exam consists of 285 multiple choice questions and one essay question. Exam takers have a total of over seven hours to complete the five sections, although they can be broken up across multiple days. Preparing for the HiSET requires a solid understanding of what you will encounter in each of the sections.

Sections of the HiSET Test

Language Arts: Reading

The Language Arts: Reading section of the HiSET® test contains 40 questions about passages, 60% of which are literary texts and the remaining 40% are informational in nature. The passages range in length from 400 to 600 words and may include passage pairs on the same topic and/or samples of poetry. Graphs and other visual references may also be included. Questions about the passages assess comprehension, inference/interpretation, analysis skills, and synthesis/generalization abilities.

Language Arts: Writing

The HiSET Language Arts—Writing test is made up of two parts: a 50-question multiple-choice section and a one-question essay section. The multiple-choice questions ask you to use your knowledge of good writing practices—organization, language facility, and writing conventions—to revise previously written text. The essay you write will be evaluated in terms of subject development, organization, language facility, and writing conventions.

On the actual multiple-choice portion of the test, you will have entire passages in a box to read first. Then, the page will be divided with the passage text repeated in the left column, in a “stretched-out” format, and the questions in the right column, beside the passage part in question.

We can only provide simple multiple-choice questions and a clickable reference passage, but we have inserted the appropriate passage part into each question, for easy reference. You can always access the entire passage, as well, by clicking on the Read Text button.

To answer the multiple-choice questions, you are directed to find the answer that addresses these things:

  • grammar
  • clear expression
  • style and purpose of the writing
  • most effective organization

Note these things:

  • There may be errors in the passage that are not addressed by any question. Just ignore them. It will be this way in the actual test, as well.
  • There may be one or more errors to be corrected in any one question. Read the answer choices carefully to make an appropriate choice.

Our practice questions provide five to seven questions for each passage. You will be directed to read the entire passage before attempting the first question about that passage. The passage will also be available to you, for reference, in every question about it.


There are 50 questions posed in the HiSET Mathematics test, dealing with concepts related to four areas of mathematics, in approximately these percentages:

  • Numbers and Operations (19%)
  • Measurement and Geometry (18%)
  • Data Analysis, Probability, and Statistics (18%)
  • Algebraic Concepts (45%)

The questions will also assess skills in three categories of mathematical processes:

  • Understanding Concepts and Procedures
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Information
  • Synthesizing Data and Solving Problems

This test is described as “calculator neutral,” which means that calculators are not automatically provided and you may not bring your own. However, if a student requests a calculator, the testing site must provide either a four-function or scientific calculator, so you’ll need to refer to state standards for specific information.

A formula sheet will be provided for your use during the test, but it will not include these three formulas, so you should memorize and understand them before test day: the distance formula, the Pythagorean theorem, and the quadratic formula.


You will be presented with 50 multiple-choice questions on the HiSET Science test. Most of them require you to consider some sort of stimulus (graph, report, or other information) when searching for the correct answer. Topics include material from the areas of life, physical, and Earth sciences. Questions may ask you to evaluate procedures and conclusions in experiments described or to design an experiment to satisfy a hypothesis. You will also be required to apply the scientific skills of interpretation/application, analysis, and evaluation/generalization.

Social Studies

The 60 multiple-choice questions on the HiSET Social Studies test include concepts from four fields of study, in about the listed representation:

  • History (35%)
  • Civics/Government (35%)
  • Economics (20%)
  • Geography (10%)

In addition, you must use the skills of interpretation, application, analysis, evaluation, and generalization to find the correct answers.

What to Expect on Test Day

Taking the HiSET can be stressful, although it always helps to have a good understanding of what to expect on exam day—or exam days if you are taking the sections individually. If you have any specific questions, it’s a good idea to contact the testing center directly, as different sites may have different policies.

You should also plan to leave early on the day of the exam, especially if this is your first trip to the testing center. This will ensure that you have ample time to find your way, get registered, and familiarize yourself with the location before the exam begins.

What to Bring

On exam day, you will need to bring a valid, government-issued form of identification. If you haven’t already paid your exam fees, you should be prepared to do so when you arrive. It’s also a good idea to bring proof of completion of any state-required pretests or other documents (if necessary) and your exam confirmation email. These documents can come in handy if there has been any miscommunication or misunderstanding in your file.

What Not to Bring

Aside from the items that you should bring, it’s wise to leave everything else at home or in your vehicle. You will not need any testing materials, such as paper, pencils, or a calculator. Everything you need to complete the exam will be provided by the testing center. Electronics, such as smart devices and cell phones, are prohibited. No food or drinks are allowed in the testing room also, so be sure to eat and drink before you arrive.

Best Ways to Study for the HiSET

Take Practice Tests for the HiSET

One of the best ways to ensure that you pass all of the sections of the HiSET is by taking many practice tests of the exam. Practice tests give you an idea of the type of content covered in each section and the difficulty level of the questions you can expect. It also helps you to familiarize yourself with the format of the exam and identify areas where you need additional studying.

Use Alternative Study Methods

Many test takers find it to be very beneficial to incorporate alternative study materials into their preparation for the HiSET, such as flashcards and study guides. Viewing the material in multiple formats can often improve retention and result in better scores.

Simulate the Testing Experience

The HiSET is a timed exam, which means that your performance relies not only upon your knowledge, but also how well you perform under pressure. One of the best ways to prepare for the HiSET is by simulating the entire testing experience, especially if you are taking multiple sections in one day. This process can help you to understand how you will need to pace yourself when taking the exam and how many sections you can take in one sitting before mental fatigue sets in. Then, you can schedule the sections in a way that ensures optimal performance.

HiSET Tips and Tricks

If you don’t know the answer, guess.

If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s better to guess than to leave it blank. There is no penalty for guessing and you may get it right.

Answer the questions you know first.

Even though some versions of the HiSET are computer-administered, you can move back and forth between the questions. It’s a good idea to go through all of the questions first and answer the ones you know, then you can go back to the more difficult ones and spend some extra time trying to determine the correct answer.

Take the exam over multiple days.

Very few people—if any—can take all five sections of the HiSET in one day without seeing a decline in their performance due to fatigue. For best results, schedule the sections so that you only take one or two at a time. This method also lets you focus your studying on a more narrow range, which can help to boost your score.


1. What is a good score on the HiSET?

To pass the HiSET, you need to have a total score of 45 (out of 100), get a score of at least 8 out of 20 on each of the subtests, and score a 2 or above on the essay question.

2. When will I receive my scores?

If you take the computer version of the HiSET, you will receive unofficial scores for all parts of the exam except the essay immediately after taking the sections. The official scores, including your essay score, will be available online within three to five business days. If you take the paper version of the exam, the scores will be available within five to 10 business days.

3. How much does it cost to take the HiSET?

The costs associated with the HiSET vary from state to state. You can find information about the costs in your state online or by contacting your local testing center.

4. Can I retake the HiSET?

Yes, you can retake the exam or any of the sections if you have not met the minimum score requirement. However, the maximum number of attempts for each section is three within a calendar year, so it is crucial that you plan for additional preparation before scheduling a retake.

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