What is a High School Equivalency Exam?

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When people make inquiries about high school equivalency exams, they usually have two questions to ask. “What is a high school equivalency exam” and “what do I need to do to pass the exams.” The truth is that earning a high school equivalency diploma doesn’t have to be as challenging as many people think. As long as you are ready to put in the right efforts to prepare, you can almost expect to walk through the exams.

There used to be only one high school alternative – the GED test. But things have since changed, and now, depending on your location, there are different alternatives available for you. The most popular alternatives include the GED test, the HiSET exam, and the TASC. Read on to learn everything you’ll need to know about high school equivalency exams and how to prepare well.

What is a High School Equivalency Exam?What is a High School Equivalency Exam?

Before explaining what a high school equivalency exam is, it is important to understand that high school typically serves as a prerequisite for pursuing many educational and professional opportunities. Therefore, you’ll find that most jobs require that applicants possess at least a high school diploma. Entrance into college also typically requires a high school diploma. However, circumstances like lack of interest, family problems, and health issues can force a student to abandon high school before finishing. When such happens, adults often resort to high school equivalency exams to bridge the gap so that they can pursue success from the start.

High school exams are, therefore, exams that are organized to test students’ knowledge in subjects that they would have learned in high school. The exams qualify students for a high school equivalency certificate, which can be used in place of every other high school certificate. The exam’s main aim is to provide an opportunity for students that couldn’t finish high school for any reason to prove their possession of the necessary knowledge needed to compete with graduates. Most of such exams are offered in multiple languages, including English, French, Spanish, and Braille.

Before 2014, the GED served as the standard high school equivalency exam. However, in 2014, alternative options such as the TASC and HiSET were introduced, so that students can have the opportunity to choose one that best showcases their skills and knowledge. Students need to be aware that while some states offer different exams, others prefer to stick to just one. It boils down to evaluating your learning style and picking a test that appropriately matches it.

What are the Common HSE Exams Used?

What are the Common HSE Exams Used?

As explained in the previous section, there are several reasons why a student would apply for a High School Equivalency Exam. Thankfully, there are different HSE Exams today for you to choose from. So, based on your financial status, location, and what you intend to use the certificate for, you can choose from the three most popular HSE tests. Here’s a review of the three most popular HSE Exams to help you make an informed and practical decision.

What is the GED Exam?

Although often translated as a Graduate Equivalency Degree or General Education Diploma, GED traditionally stands for the General Education Development Test. This is a group of four tests written to qualify students for certification to have high school-level academic skills in the United States or Canada. It is a popular alternative to the TASC and HiSET tests, which are all US high school diploma tests.

The GED trademark is presently owned by the American Council on Education (ACE). The body had coined the initials to represent tests of general equivalency development, which measures students’ proficiency in mathematics, sciences, reading, writing, and social studies. Passing the GED test is a way of leveling up for students who dropped out in high school or looking to meet the requirements for moving to college. The exam offers such students an opportunity to earn a high school equivalency certificate. You’ll find that it is popularly referred to as the GED in most parts of the United States and Canada. If you’re preparing for the GED exam, we’ve prepared the best GED study materials to check out.

What is HiSET Exam?

The High School Equivalency Test, popularly known by that acronym HiSET was formulated to serve as an alternative to the GED test. This means that it can help you on your quest to achieve the important state-issued high school equivalency certificate. Like the GED test, HiSET measures a student’s academic skills in relation to high school knowledge. Passing this exam qualifies students to receive a state-issued high school equivalency certificate. Preparing for the HiSET exam? Then you may want to check out our article on the best HiSET prep books here.

The HiSET exam has been aligned to adult education standards set by the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) in 2013. This certificate is useful, considering its acceptance by accredited colleges and employers across the United States.

With the HiSET formulated to measure up to the essential components of CCR Standards for Adult Education, you can be sure that it will identify your strong points and focus on them. A score of at least 15 on each of the registered subjects shows that you are ready for college or a career in the United States.

What is TASC Exam?

TASC is an acronym that stands for Test Assessing Secondary Completion. This is a test formulated to serve as an alternative to the United States’ high school diploma. The test was specifically chosen by Indiana and New York to replace the GED exams, and this replacement has been in effect since 2014. Since 2014, the New York State has continued to use the TASC, and it intends to use it for high school equivalency testing until 2020 with an option of extending the contract until the years 2021-2022.

It will be safe to define the TASC as a valid, reliable, and secure instrument used for verifying an examinee’s knowledge on the core content areas of subjects equivalent to what’s required of graduating high school seniors. The TASC test consists of five tests: writing, reading, science, social studies, and mathematics. This test is estimated to last for an average of nine hours. The board in charge of the test put the tests through regular review to ensure that the tests’ content and the skills it is made to measure are always in unison with the contemporary high school curriculum. To help you prepare for the exam, we’re prepared the best TASC study guide here.

What are the Eligibility Requirements to Take a High School Equivalency Exam?

What are the Eligibility Requirements to Take a High School Equivalency Exam?

Before taking any of the High School Equivalency tests, you’ll need to figure out your eligibility as well as the requirements to take the examination. A knowledge of this would save you time and stress throughout registration and participation in your chosen program. Bear in mind; however, that information such as eligibility and fees may vary from state to state. Throughout this section, we will be examining the eligibility requirements for taking each of the high school equivalency exams.


The General Development Testing Service (GEDTS) is in charge of developing and administering GED tests. The body is the nonprofit department of the American Council of education. It administers the test through a long-standing partnership with the local US states and the different US territories involved. It’s typically the job of the GEDTS to develop the test, set its administration procedures, set passing standards, and minimum requirements to take the test. It’s the job of the local jurisdiction, on the other hand, to deliver the test to eligible students and to award the resulting credentials to students that pass the tests. Below is a brief review of the minimum requirements for GED based on specifications from the GEDTS.

  • Participants must not be enrolled in any high school.
  • Participants must not be graduates of any high school.
  • Participants must be 16 years or above to be eligible.
  • Participants must meet all the jurisdictional council requirements regarding age, residency, and time spent after high school.

GED State Requirements

Bear in mind that different states might have additional GED eligibility requirements. For instance, some states may require that participants be at least 18 years old before participating in the GED exams. This is why it is important to confirm your state’s eligibility requirements before registering for the exams.

Generally, states will often set strict guidelines for eligibility to discourage students from dropping out of high school. Local testing authorities typically require GED test takers to be residents of the area where the exams are being administered. Participants will need to have a valid form of ID before being eligible to write the exams. If a student meets all the eligibility requirements, he/she can then go on to pay a testing fee. Like eligibility requirements, test fees may vary from state to state. However, the test fee typically ranges from $50 to $150.


Like every other exam, you’ll need to figure out if you are eligible for the HiSET exam before registering for it. Information like eligibility requirements, fees, and testing locations may vary from state to state, and we will focus this section on reviewing the general eligibility requirements for the HiSET exam.

Eligibility and Fees

As stated earlier, fees and eligibility requirements often vary by jurisdiction and state. Getting yourself familiar with all the requirements will help ensure that you evade any potential problems that may come up.

Some of the areas that test-takers need to check to be sure that they meet the eligibility requirements include

  • Residency
  • Minimum age
  • School enrollment status, etc.

Generally, the minimum age for taking these exams is 16 years. However, some states require that test-takers be at least 18 years old. If you take your time to find out the age requirement beforehand, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Exam takers are also required to be residents of the jurisdiction where they would take the exams.


Again fees vary for state to state. We found that the base charge for each subtest is pegged at $15 for paper-based tests and $10.75 for computer-based tests during our research. However, exam takers will pay additional fees for test centers and administration.


To be eligible to take the TASC, a student has to be between the ages of 16 and 20

A 16-year-old that has not completed the school in the year, which they turn 16, will need to meet the minimum attendance average of 27.5 hours per week. They must not be graduates of any high school and must not be at risk of dropping out of high school.

GED vs. HiSET vs. TASC: Which is Better?

GED vs. HiSET vs. TASC: Which is Better?

All three exams are similar in goal. They are written to qualify for a high school equivalency diploma. However, several differences still exist between the three, and a proper understanding of the differences is needed to know which is better for you. This section would review the differences between the three to give you enough information to pick the right one for you.

The HiSET features five test sections, while the GED and the TASC feature four sections each. Additionally, the GED testing centers only offer computer-based tests, while HiSET and TASC offer both computer-based and paper-based options.

Bear in mind that all three exams, when complete is recognized nationally and a diploma equivalent

On the level of difficulty, you’ll find that all three exams test participants in their knowledge of sciences, maths, language arts, and social studies. However, the HiSET features up to five tests, including reading and writing, while the other two feature four subtests. The GED, in its case, combines both reading and writing into a single test. If you have the option of choosing among the three, check out the test formatting to find which you’ll cope better in.


One significant determinant of which test would be best for you is cost. The cost to take the HiSET would often vary by state. For example, Maine residents do not pay to take the test, but students in North Carolina would need to pay $15 for the paper-based test and $10.75 for the computer-based subtests.

Which Test is Right for Me?

As we’ve stated earlier, valid tests May differ from state to state. With twelve states currently offering the HiSET, you can tell that it’s one of the most popular. Before registering for the test, however, it is essential to log on to the ETS website, where you can get acquainted with specific rules and regulations of the tests in each state. Choosing the exam with the least stringent rules in your locality will help reduce the burden of preparation on you. Also, if you take the HiSET in a locality where the test is valid but plan to move to another locality where the test is not recognized, don’t worry about the eligibility of your equivalency credentials. As long as you’ve received the certifications, you can expect it to be valid irrespective of the state you move to or the test you take to get it.

If raising the exam fee is an issue for you, you should pay attention to the different fees for the different exams. Bear in mind that you’ll have to pay a test fee, irrespective of the exam you choose. However, paying the initial fee for the HiSET (which is slightly higher than the prices for the other rest) allows you access to two free retakes of the exams in case you fail on your first attempt. On the other hand, the GED and the TASC are slightly cheaper but require a partial fee to retake the exams in case of failure. Bear in mind that the retake fee for both exams also varies from state to state.

Do Colleges and Employers Care About My Test Choice?

No, colleges and employers do not care about your test choice. As stated earlier, the three tests are set up to offer a high school equivalency credential to deserving students. Therefore, colleges and employers do not concern themselves with looking at the type of test you took or your score. They are only interested in the proof that you took and passed a high school equivalency exam.

How to Study for the High School Equivalency Exam?

How to Study for the High School Equivalency Exam?

Despite the availability of many free and low-cost high school equivalency classes, many adults still prefer to study at home in preparation for the exams. The reasons for this may range from family obligations to work schedules and personal preferences. Whatever your reasons, it’s not abnormal to want to study for the exams at home. In fact, there are several adults that fancy preparing for the exams from home like you. Fortunately, there are several tips and resources that will help make the whole process of preparing easier and better. Below are a few of such tips.

Review your state’s requirements

As you probably know by now, different states have different requirements for earning a high school equivalency credential. If you want to succeed in it, you must make efforts to know what’s required of you even before you begin studying, to avoid wasting money and time on irrelevant materials.

Choose the right study guide

Take a quick stroll to the book market, and you’ll find several different options for study materials. Each study material takes a slightly different approach to get you ready for the exams. While in the market, make efforts to select books and study guides that will suit you. Don’t rush into making your final selections. Take your time to flip through paragraphs and pages of the different options presented to you to find which book will help you most. Of course, the best books don’t go without a price, but it’s better to spend a few more bucks to get the perfect resources for your needs.

Consider joining online classes

Thanks to the popularity of high school equivalency exams, several online classes now exist to help participants practice in the privacy of their homes. You’ll find some of these classes to be very great for you. Like in the case of resource materials, you’ll also need to choose online courses wisely. An excellent place to find available options is on the website of your state’s education department.

Create a comfortable study space

Nothing beats comfortability when studying for an exam. To get the best out of your study time, create a study space that’s comfortable and easy to access. Chances exist that you live a busy lifestyle, and creating and dedicating a comfortable space for this will help you focus more.

Take practice tests

One of the best ways to prepare for any test is to get yourself familiar with similar questions. While studying for the high school equivalency exams, write down important facts, and create questions out of them. Maintain a running list and make time to review it at the end of every study session. With time, you’ll feel confident enough to test your skills. At this stage, you can take online practice tests. Some study materials come with many revision questions, so you can use them to access your skills and knowledge before the exam date.

How Hard is the High School Equivalency Exam?

How Hard is the High School Equivalency Exam?

The difficulty level of the high school equivalency exam often boils down to preparation level. It can be fast and easy for you if you take more time to prepare. Typically, you’ll need to brush up your sciences, math, social studies, reading, and writing skills. With everything you’ve read in this guide, preparing for a high school equivalency exam doesn’t have to be any difficult for you. Just put in the necessary work, and you’ll be good to go.

Wrapping Things Up: What is a High School Equivalency Exam?

There you have it, everything you need to know about a high school equivalency exam. Whether you want to earn a high school equivalency certificate or wish to learn what it’s about, this article will help you. As explained earlier, there are different reasons why people may want to participate in any of these exams. Fortunately, the exam puts participants at par with high school graduates in the employment and college admission processes.

This article has focused explicitly on explaining the most popular high school equivalency exams, as well as the requirements for participating in each exam. If you want to participate in any of the exams, this article will serve as an excellent place to start your preparations.

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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