How to Pass the HiSET® the First Time

How to Pass the HiSET® the First Time

The HiSET® is a high-stakes test for those looking to earn high school equivalency certificates. One of three testing options to prove you have the same skills and knowledge base as high school graduates, the HiSET® will earn you a high school equivalency credential. Successful performance will also put you on a more level playing field with high school graduates when seeking employment or furthering your educational opportunities.

There are five categories of tests in the HiSET exam suite: Language Arts—Reading, Language Arts—Writing, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies. Like any high-stakes exam, there are things you can do to increase your chances of passing the HiSET® with some preparation ahead of time.

You Choose: Computer or Paper?

This multiple-choice test, plus essay, may be administered by computer or on paper, depending on where you sign up to take the test. There is no difference between the two test formats except for how it is administered. Knowing your comfort-level with technology versus paper and pencil may impact which administration format you choose and help you feel more comfortable when you sit down to face the exam.

Timing Is Everything

Each section of the test is timed. The Language Arts—Reading section includes 50 multiple-choice questions to be completed in 65 minutes; Language Arts—Writing has 60 multiple-choice questions plus 1 essay response to be completed in 120 minutes (2 hours); Mathematics includes 55 questions to be answered in 90 minutes; the Science section offers 60 questions and gives you 80 minutes to complete them; and the Social Studies section contains 60 questions to be completed in 70 minutes. In total, the testing suite takes approximately 7 hours to complete. Please note: times are for administration in English. If you select administration in Spanish, the times may increase slightly.

If you get nervous when taking timed tests or having to complete a task in a set amount of time, help set yourself up for success by practicing working against the clock. Set a timer when you do practice questions online or on a worksheet. Practice writing a short response in a set amount of time so that you get used to working with the pressure of the clock.

Content Review

The HiSET® is intended to assess your skill level in the areas of reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. The questions reference terms and materials with which you should be familiar. To brush up on your skills before you take the test, do some practice questions. Use online resources, including Union Test Prep, to find practice questions, worksheets, and tutorials that will help you review the materials before you take a test assessing your knowledge of those materials. Allow yourself plenty of time before your scheduled testing date to review the materials. Don’t plan to cram the night before and expect to do well on the test.

Format Practice

Practicing with the format of the test can be as valuable as practicing the skills assessed by the test. In the case of the HiSET®, most of the test is made up of multiple-choice questions. These can be tricky even though many people figure, “Oh, the right answer is right there—I just have to pick which one it is!” But that can be easier said than done when the test-makers include distractor answers or word questions in a way that can be confusing. So practice answering multiple-choice questions, analyzing how to read the question, and selecting the best answer from the answer options.

In addition to the multiple-choice questions, the Writing portion includes an essay question. Practice writing a coherent, well-developed, multiple-paragraph essay with a timer set. Although you have the stress of a timed writing situation, give yourself 2 or 3 minutes to outline your ideas and put them in a logical order, considering what details you will elaborate on in each paragraph, before you begin writing. As you become more comfortable managing your writing time, make sure you also include time to reread your response and to edit it as necessary to fix any sentence structure issues, missing words, or confusing language, which can often crop up during the stress of a timed writing assessment. Also, make sure that you have thoroughly addressed the prompt and not wandered off-topic during your response. Check online resources, including, for more test-taking tips and suggestions.

The Importance of Breathing

Finally, remember to take your time and to trust your answers. Don’t get caught up second-guessing yourself or your responses. Take your time (keeping an eye on the clock), and use your best test-taking skills to excel on this exam. Read all of the directions, questions, and answers carefully. Don’t spend too much time struggling on any particular question—if it’s causing you stress or anxiety, mark it as one to come back to, and continue working through the test questions about which you feel more comfortable and confident. Just don’t forget to go back to those you skip. You can do this!

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