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Exam information

What you need to know about the TABE Test

The most important thing to know about the TABE is that you cannot fail it. Its purpose is to determine your academic strengths and identify areas in which you need more work. Preparing for this test will make sure you remember all you know and ensure you give an accurate representation of your abilities when you take the test. This is especially important if you have been away from the school environment for a while.

The TABE is a widely used test for adult learners that has several purposes.

  • Scores from the TABE are often used to determine placement level in adult education programs, such as classes to prepare for GED testing.

  • Many adult education instructors use the TABE results to inform instruction, pinpoint areas where adult learners need additional practice, and monitor the progress of their students.

  • There are also some career training facilities that use the TABE to determine the most appropriate path of training. The basic test assesses skills in reading, language, and mathematics.

You may hear this test referred to as the “TABE 11 & 12.” The numerals 11 and 12 are simply designations for the two different versions of the same test, with the same level of questions. This feature is utilized when a person retakes the same level of the test to determine progress since the last TABE administration.

Note that TABE 11 and 12 were approved to replace TABE 9 and 10 in 2017 and made available in 2018, so make sure your preparation is for the right version of this test. The content is largely the same but there have been changes to better reflect current educational standards. The main differences introduced in the TABE 11 and 12 are:

  • All tests are available on a computer.

  • Math is all contained in one test and no longer divided into Math Computation and Applied Math.

  • The locator test is more predictive of the appropriate testing level.

  • The test is more aligned with high school equivalency exams

The TABE has five levels: Literacy, Easy, Medium, Difficult, and Advanced. These levels are designated on the test by L, E, M, D, and A. Achieving well enough to qualify for the A level test means you are nearing readiness for high school equivalency studies (GED, HiSET, etc.).

A short “Locator” test for each of the three subject areas is administered prior to the actual TABE testing session to determine which level of that test you should take. When you retest on the TABE, you may be tested at the same level, or the test administrator may give you the next higher level to better assess your growth and better plan for future studies or training.

Based on the results of the Locator or your previous TABE scores, you may be assigned to take different levels of the TABE in each of the three subject tests: Reading, Language, and Math.

Union Test Prep’s TABE practice tests and other study materials contain various levels of TABE preparation, from levels E through A. If you have difficulty with particular skills, contact your adult education personnel for further practice materials.

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Exam facts

Answers to all your questions about the TABE Test

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What are the costs?

Many institutions and facilities administer the TABE at no cost as part of their adult education or career placement programs. Some schools include the cost of the TABE testing in their admission fees. At others, there is a charge for each administration, which tends to range between $15 and $55. You will be told if you need to take this test and what the cost will be.

What should I bring?

Your local education agency can be more specific about any items you need to bring to your TABE testing session. Most testing facilities require some sort of photo ID and some utilize a preparation packet that must be filled out and turned in on the day of testing. Additionally, the type of test you take (computer or written) will affect the need for additional supplies, such as pencils. Local officials can also tell you what is not allowed inside the testing room. Prohibited items usually include personal belongings, cell phones, and any sort of books or notes.

How is it scored?

TABE scores range from 300 to 800. There is a specific range for each level of the test and it is a little different for each of the three subjects. For instance, the range for Level L of the Reading test is 300-441. If you score a 441, that is not the right level for you and you will be given the next highest level, which is E, to fully evaluate your skills. The idea is to find your appropriate level of instruction, study those skills, and retest to try for a higher score and to move up to the next level. This may take several attempts.

What kind of job can I get?

You may have amazing skills and talents that would make you an outstanding employee, but if you don’t have a high school diploma, or its equivalent, no one may ever know your worth. In today’s world, a job applicant who has not completed high school is severely limited in finding a job and becoming self-sufficient. According to the Employment Policies Institute and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job prospects for adults without a high school diploma are largely unaffected by economic conditions and unemployment rates. Adults can always better their chances by enrolling in adult education courses in pursuit of a high school equivalency certificate.

Am I eligible?

Your adult education program decides when you are eligible to take or retake a TABE test. There is a time lapse required between administrations of the same TABE level, but you might be asked to take a higher level soon after scoring well on your present TABE level.

Why does it matter?

TABE testing is a very useful tool in adult education. The scores can help educators place you in the appropriate level of instruction, one that is neither too easy nor too difficult. This helps you to make the best use of the time you spend pursuing your high school diploma. If tested as part of a career training program, once enrolled in an adult education program, instructors may use TABE scores to adjust your instruction as you gain knowledge and skills. The TABE has been shown to be a valid means of predicting readiness for high school equivalency testing. Additionally, TABE results can help determine the career path that is most in line with your skills and abilities.

What salary can I expect?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that U.S. workers who do not have a high school diploma or equivalency earn only 57% of a high school graduate’s salary. This means that, by earning a high school diploma or equivalency, you can raise your earning potential by 43%, nearly half. By continuing your education past the high school level, your earning potential is boosted with each step. Simply getting an associate’s degree could mean another 22% increase in earning power. That means you can achieve a 65% increase in earning potential from getting a high school diploma and associate’s degree.

When is it available?

There are specific guidelines concerning where and by whom the TABE can be administered, and there are probably specific dates and times that you can take it if it is offered in your area. Local adult education officials can give you this information. A good place to begin looking is your local community college or other sources of a GED program in your area.

What are some Tips & Tricks

Whatever your previous school experience was like, you can succeed now! There are excellent adult education programs available all over the world that specialize in teaching people of all ages. You’re never too old or young to go for that high school diploma and assessing your skills with the TABE can be a positive first step!

How much time is allowed?

Here is a summary of the possible times involved in TABE testing. Keep in mind that you might not take all of these in one day. It depends on the procedures established at your testing site and might also depend on your preference.

Test Time # of Questions
Locator Reading: 30 min.
Language: 20 min.
Math: 10 min. + 10 min.
Reading (All levels)
Part 1: 50 min.
Part 2: 50 min.
Language (All levels)
55 min.
Math (Each totals 65 min.)
Level E - Total: 65 min.
Level M - Part 1: 55 min.; Part 2: 30 min.
Level D - Part 1: 35 min.; Part 2: 30 min.
Level A - Part 1:30 min.; Part 2: 35 min.
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