Reading on the HiSET®: What You Need to Know

Reading on the HiSET®: What You Need to Know

Preparing for any test is bound to cause some anxiety. Here are some questions commonly asked by students preparing for the HiSET® Language Arts Reading test and answers that we hope will help test-takers feel more confident going into the exam.

What should I expect to see on the HiSET® Reading section?

The Reading portion of the HiSET® exam consists of 50 multiple-choice questions that are designed to assess your ability to comprehend, interpret, and analyze information presented in both literary and informational texts. You will have 65 minutes to read several text passages and respond to the questions for each.

The questions in this section assess your comprehension, inference and interpretation, analysis, and synthesis and generalization skills. The questions vary in degree of difficulty and require several types of thinking, including:

  • recall of basic information
  • inference of information beyond what is explicitly stated
  • analysis of the information you read
  • extension of your thinking beyond the scope of the text
  • synthesis of information (sometimes from multiple passages)
  • application of understanding through complex reasoning

A majority of the test (77%) assesses your ability to apply a skill or concept and to employ strategic or critical thinking.

What kind of texts will I be reading in this section?

The reading passages in this portion of the HiSET® are a combination of literary passages (about 40%) and informational texts (about 60%). Averaging between 400 and 600 words each, the subject matter and topics vary widely. There is no need to have prior knowledge or understanding of the subject to be able to answer the questions in this section. The skills being assessed are your reading skills, not general knowledge skills.

While some of the questions refer to only one passage, other questions require you to answer questions about each of multiple passages and also to make comparisons between the texts. These questions will generally be worded as “Use both ‘Passage 1’ and ‘Passage 2’ to answer this question” so that you know which two readings are being compared.

You may encounter nonfiction passages, literary essays, poetry selections, or literary excerpts. Regardless of the genre of text, employing your best critical reading skills will help you understand the passage and be able to answer the questions.

What skills do I need to have to do well on the HiSET® Reading test?

Aside from general reading comprehension skills, you should practice your analysis skills, ability to make inferences and to draw conclusions after reading a text, synthesis and generalization skills (e.g., can you summarize what you read and identify the main idea of a passage?), and interpretation skills.

While having an extensive vocabulary may help you answer some of the questions with more ease, for questions asking you to identify the meaning of a word, use the context clues within the text if it is a word with which you are unfamiliar. Those questions always include the line number where the word can be found so you can see how it is used in the text.

There are a lot of practice materials for the HiSET® available online, including those from Union Test Prep (UTP). Use these materials and other reliable ones to practice before you take the exam. Most of the online practice materials include the answer key and UTP’s site will also provide explanations as to why the correct answer is correct and explain why the other answers are incorrect. This enables you to check your answers and assess your readiness for the exam. If you have weaker areas, consider practicing those skills some more before you take the HiSET.

What are some general tips for acing the HiSET Reading test?

  • Read carefully but don’t worry about understanding every word. You need to understand the main idea of the passage, but if there are vocabulary words you don’t know, don’t spend too much time trying to decode them. Sometimes, if you just push on and keep reading, their meaning will become more clear.

  • Reading carefully includes reading the information provided before each passage, as well. Those sections can include information that may be helpful in answering the questions or in understanding the passage.

  • Read the entire question and the answer options carefully. Watch out for tricky words in the questions like not or except—they change the purpose of what you are looking for as the answer. Words like best, most, or least suggest other answers may also be correct, but you need to determine which answer fits the best, most, or least requirement?

  • You know how you test best. Some people find reading the questions first helps them focus as they read the passage because they have a sense of what they should be looking for in the text. Some people prefer to skim the passage first, then read the questions and go back to the passage to find the answers. If you have practiced and prepared ahead of the test, you know which approach works best for you. Use it.

  • Trust your answers. Don’t get into head games about “maybe #3 was ‘b’, not ‘a’—was it ‘a’?” Take your time, working as quickly as you can without losing focus. Trust your answers, but double-check your responses as time allows to make sure you selected the answer you intended to.

  • Try to leave no question behind. If a question causes you too much trouble or is taking you too long to identify the answer, skip it and come back to it, if you have time. When in doubt, make an educated guess and try to answer every question. Eliminate answer options you know are wrong and select from those that remain using your best reasoning skills.

Keep Reading