What Is a High School Equivalency Diploma?

What Is a High School Equivalency Diploma?

A high school equivalency diploma (HSED) is an education credential for students not actively enrolled in school. This applies to you whether you’ve decided that typical secondary school does not meet your needs or you had to drop out for a different reason. There is a minimum age requirement, which ranges between 16 and 18 years depending on the state.

For many years, the General Educational Development (GED) test was the only state-approved way to earn a high school equivalency diploma. As of 2014, however, states can provide up to three alternatives. The two newest exam options are the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) and the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC).

Whether you’re curious about which HSED options are available in your state or you simply want to take a high school equivalency assessment online, read on to find the answers you’re looking for. 

High School Diploma vs GED

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After dropping out of high school, you can receive a high school equivalency diploma (HSED) in place of a standard high school diploma. An HSED certifies that you have knowledge in core content areas equivalent to those of a high school graduate. The GED is just one type of HSED, and the GED test used to be the only pathway to high school equivalency. 

The GED retains certain advantages over HiSET and TASC, the two newer equivalency options. Its main advantage is that the test has four sections instead of five, and a less formal essay requirement. But since HiSET and TASC are more involved, these other HSED options may make you a more competitive college applicant or job candidate.  

Remember that the minimum requirement for many professional positions and virtually all colleges is a high school diploma, which any HSED program will fulfill. You should evaluate your career goals and the eligibility requirements in your state before choosing which HSED to pursue.

How to Get a High School Equivalency Diploma

Six silhouetted graduates against a yellow background throwing their caps in the air What Is a High School Equivalency Diploma
Take charge of your future by assessing all of your high school equivalency testing options and making a smart choice.

To get a high school equivalency diploma, you need to pass an equivalency exam that’s available in your jurisdiction. Currently, 41 states and the District of Columbia offer the GED, 22 states offer the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET), and 15 states offer the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC). 

You can use CareerOneStop, an employment resource sponsored by the US Department of Labor, to find out which options are available in your state.  

The High School Equivalency Exam

Although there are three different high school equivalency exams in the United States, the exams themselves are quite similar. The two newer tests, HiSET and TASC, both cover five subject areas, are available on paper or online, and can be taken in English or Spanish. Accommodations for test-takers with impairments are available upon request. 

The five sections of HiSET and TASC are as follows.

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

The differences between HiSET and TASC come down to section length and scoring. The sections of the HiSET range in length from 65 minutes to two hours. To pass, students must score a 45 out of 100. They also cannot score lower than an eight out of 20 on any multiple-choice section, and no lower than a two out of six on any essay section. 

The time limits for TASC sections range between 75 minutes and two hours. The scoring scale for each section goes from 300 to 800, with a score of 500 on each section needed to pass. 

The eligibility requirements and cost of each exam vary by region. If you fail either test, you can retake it for free up to twice per year. 

How Does the High School Equivalency Test Compare to the GED Exam?

Compared to the GED, HiSET is slightly shorter and available in fewer states. Whereas HiSET can be taken on paper or online, the GED is online-only. Other significant differences between the two exams are outlined below. 

  • Sections. The GED test has four sections instead of five. Both exams include Math, Science, and Social Studies sections. In place of HiSET’s Language Arts-Reading and Language Arts-Writing sections, however, the GED exam has a single Reasoning Through Language Arts section. 
  • Exam format. HiSET is composed entirely of multiple-choice and essay-based questions. The GED has more question types, including fill-in-the-blank and drag-and-drop questions. It has one essay question called the Extended Response.
  • Passing score. While HiSET test-takers need an overall score of 45 to pass, GED test-takers must score 145 on each section. 

Benefits of Getting a High School Equivalency Diploma

The clearest benefit of getting a high school equivalency diploma (HSED) is better options down the road. Getting a high school equivalency credential not only prepares you for post-secondary education but also gives you a career advantage over candidates without a diploma.

Furthermore, for students who have not had the opportunity to acquire a standard high school diploma, the HSED offers a viable option. The best part is that almost all businesses and educational institutions treat the HSED as interchangeable with a high school diploma. It’s never too late to start studying and get your future underway.

What to Do After Getting a High School Equivalency Diploma

Now that you are aware of what a high school equivalency diploma (HSED) is and what it entails, you can consider how getting one can help you toward a more fruitful career. 

Attend a Traditional College

A traditional community college or university remains the standard training ground for the American labor force. This is because a degree from a post-secondary institution is still the minimum requirement for many of the best jobs. By getting your HSED, you open the door to getting an associate degree or bachelor’s degree later.  

College courses are perfect for creating a favorable learning atmosphere, encouraging engagement, and broadening one’s perspective. At the same time, a four-year college is usually time-consuming and expensive, so it may not be the most efficient option if your goal is to prepare for the workforce.

Go to a Trade School

Trade schools, often known as career schools, vocational schools, or technical colleges, provide instruction in skilled trades. To attend a trade school, students must have either a standard high school diploma or an HSED. 

This is a good choice for anyone on a specialized career path that requires a trade school education. These institutions take pride in their ability to place students in employment, and many schools hire counselors specifically for this purpose. This demonstrates how committed trade schools are to your future success.

Go to a Coding Bootcamp

Coding boot camps are training programs that teach students computer programming, software engineering, web development, and other technical skills. They allow students with limited coding experience to concentrate on core skills and apply them to real-world issues right away. Despite their wide-ranging appeal, they usually require a diploma or HSED. 

Most coding boot camp participants hope to enter the tech industry. They do so by learning to create applications at a professional level and working on projects that provide actual value to prospective employers. 

High School Equivalency FAQs

How should I prepare for HiSET?

The HiSET, like the TASC, is a relatively new exam, so there aren’t a lot of study materials to choose from. However, you can use the HiSET website to search for testing centers where you can take practice tests under professional guidance. We also recommend teaming up with study buddies to get yourself prepared for the exam.

Can I take my high school equivalency exam online?

Yes. Online exams are usually available through the GED, HiSET, or TASC testing programs. For further information, contact your state’s testing service directly. Third-party testing sites that offer online testing are illegal in most states and should be avoided.

How is the high school equivalency test (HiSET) graded?

Each section of the high school equivalency test (HiSET) is graded on a scale of one to 20. Each test-taker needs to score at least an eight on each multiple-choice section. The essay is graded on a scale of one to six, and two is considered a passing grade. All in all, you must achieve a score of 45 on the complete battery to pass the HiSET.

When are HiSET results released?

If you take the high school equivalency test (HiSET) on paper, your score on multiple-choice sections will be available online within three days. You should get your essay score within five days. If you take the test on the computer, unofficial results on multiple-choice sections will be available immediately after the test.

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