Writing on the HiSET®: What You’ll Need to Do

Writing on the HiSET®: What You’ll Need to Do

The HiSET® Language Arts Writing section of the test assesses your ability to both revise the written work of others and to produce your own cohesive, focused writing sample. The 25 multiple-choice questions you will face require you to review drafts of reports, letters, or articles and determine which corrections, if any, should be made to improve the writing in terms of grammar, clarity, or organization.

The 85-minute Writing portion of the HiSET® is divided into two sections: 40 minutes to complete 25 multiple-choice questions and 45 minutes to write an essay response. Here is some helpful information about each of the sections:

Multiple-Choice Questions (25 questions, 40 minutes)

This portion of the test provides several passages and question sets, with about 5–10 questions about each passage. The full text of the passage is provided, then questions follow with portions of the original text underlined and numbered. Those numbered parts correspond to the questions about them.

These questions may ask you to correct or improve specific underlined portions of the text. You will need to determine if the underlined portion of the text is grammatically correct, if it expresses the idea clearly and appropriately, if it is well-organized, and if the wording used is consistent with style and purpose. There is always the option that “no change” is needed, in which case you would mark that answer option.

There may also be questions about spelling; for these questions, three words are provided and you must select the one that is misspelled. If none of the words appear misspelled, select the “None” answer option to indicate none of the words are misspelled.

Essay Response (1 essay, 45 minutes)

For the essay portion (45 minutes), there are several different question types you may face. One is that you are given two passages by authors with differing opinions about a subject. You’ll need to read the passages, noting the strengths and weaknesses of each, and then write an essay in which you add your own opinion to the conversation taking place about the topic. In this type of essay prompt, you will need to determine and explain your position on the issue discussed in the passages using specific reasons and examples from your own life to support your position. You will also need to use evidence from the passages to support your ideas and mention the arguments of people who may not agree with your position.

Another type of prompt may give you a quote by someone about a topic and you will be asked to explain the extent to which you agree or disagree with that statement. This means you will first need to determine what the quote says about the topic and then whether you agree or disagree with that idea and why. Again, use specific reasoning, experiences, and examples to explain and support your position.

A third type of essay question may give you a topic and ask you to write a letter of support or an op-ed for a newspaper about the topic, arguing a particular position. To be successful with this writing response, remember the style you are supposed to be writing in, as that will determine your diction and tone. And, as it’s an argumentative essay, remember to mention the counter-argument, why that perspective is incorrect or how people who believe it have misunderstood some important aspect of the topic. If you are assigned a position (“Write a response in which you support the idea that xyz.”), then make sure that you stick to that position even if you don’t really agree with it.

Regardless of the prompt, you will need to make sure that you develop your ideas thoroughly and cohesively (that is, that a reader will be able to follow your train of thought and come to the same understanding that you have). Your essay response should begin with an introductory paragraph that includes a clear thesis statement, then move to body paragraphs that are logically organized and include specific reasoning, examples, and details. The essay should then end with a concluding paragraph to wrap the whole thing up, leaving the reader with something meaningful to think about with regard to the topic. Effective transitions between ideas and between paragraphs are important so that your reader can follow your logic and understand your position. Use appropriate vocabulary and standard conventions of grammar in your response. Try to vary your word choice and sentence structure so that your writing does not sound monotonous or elementary. When you have finished writing, reread your work and check for spelling, punctuation, grammar, and flow.

Tips for the Multiple-Choice Section

  • Work quickly. If a question seems too hard or you don’t know the answer, don’t spend too much time on it. Move to the next question and then come back to the one causing you trouble.

  • Try to answer all questions, even if you need to make educated guesses.

  • Double-check and review your answers to make sure you didn’t accidentally skip a question and that the answer you selected was the answer you intended to give.

Tips for the Essay Response Section

  • Budget your time on the essay: allow time to brainstorm/plan/outline, write, and revise and edit.

  • Don’t skip the outline. Even a quick 1-minute outline will allow you to organize your thoughts and the main ideas you want to include in a way that will make sense to the reader and develop your position in a logical way.

  • Wrap it up. Even if time is running out, bring your essay to a close, even if it’s just a concluding sentence and not a whole paragraph. Don’t leave the reader hanging!

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