HiSET Test Review - What You Need to Know

HiSET Scores (What is the HiSET?)

What is the HiSET?

The HiSET — pronounced “high set” for short — was first introduced by the Educational Testing Service and Iowa Testing Program in 2014. Created to be a replacement for the venerable GED, it was developed after several states had objected to that year’s latter’s changes. Its primary competitor is CTB/McGraw-Hill’s TASC, or “Test Assessing Secondary Completion”, also introduced in that same year and for the same reason.

HiSET Gaining in Popularity vs GED
HiSET Gaining in Popularity vs GED

Currently, twenty three states — California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming — as well as five territories — Guam, Northern Marianas, Palau, Marshall Islands, and American Samoa — administer the HiSET either in place of or alongside the GED. And, exactly what it says on the tin, HiSET is a high school equivalency test, assessing whether or not you have a K-12 graduate’s education, measuring in five sections: reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies.

HiSET Video Review

HiSET Practice Questions

HiSET Study Materials

What Can You Expect on Test Day?

To take the HiSET, you have to schedule it by appointment, and it should be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance. When scheduling your appointment, you can either schedule an individual subtest or purchase all five in one go: doing so is called the “battery” and what we’ll be focusing on here. Appointments are widely available at testing centers.

Once you have your appointment, it is recommended that you arrive at least 45 minutes before testing begins. Once there, you will need to have a valid, current photo ID that includes your name (exactly as entered when you created your HiSET account), your signature, your date of birth, and a recent and recognizable photograph. If the test center’s administration challenges your ID, you will need to produce a second ID matching your first one’s requirements.

There is no food or drink to be had while taking the test, so make sure you are full before testing begins. In fact, the test center provides everything needed to take the test, including booklets, calculators, answer sheets, scratch paper, and pencils, so you need not bring anything with you except for your photo ID(s), enough clothing to be comfortable in the test center, and the payment check (if applicable).

As attempting to take the test with anything (and we mean anything) the testing center does not provide is inadvisable at best, it would also be a smart idea to either leave your cell phone at home or silence it; ditto with smartphones, tablets, your favorite graphing calculator, any other electronics of any kind, books, personal scratch paper, highlighters, or possibly even that pack of yellow #2 pencils procured just for the test.

Once the test starts, the clock won’t stop running. There are several short breaks interspersed through the test, but for those who need to take a break during the testing period for any reason whatsoever, the clock won’t stop running and you won’t be able to regain lost time. Consider this carefully if the need arises: can you wait until the end of the current testing period?

The five subtests — reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies — the HiSET is broken into can be taken in any scheduled order. This means that when you schedule the test, you can schedule your preferred test order, but you cannot attempt to do so while actually taking the test. Each of the test’s six sections generally averages around 70 minutes, but there is a fair amount of variance: the shortest section is 70 minutes, but the longest is 120.

Expect short (10 to 15 minute) breaks between each test section, for about an eight-hour testing session. This is a test that’ll last an entire workday, so plan accordingly.

What’s on the HiSET?

You may have noticed that the HiSET has five subtests but six sections. The test is broken into reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies subtests, but the writing test has two sections associated with it: a multiple-choice section and an essay section.

Let’s go through each of the sections one-by-one, to prepare you for what to expect.

HiSET Reading

Being able to read and analyze short texts (such as this one!) on a daily basis is a vital function in our society. High-school graduates are expected to be able to read and digest the newspaper, magazines, online content, popular novels, technical works associated with their field, advertising copy, and more. Because heavy reading is a prerequisite for societal function, the HiSET breaks its “Language Arts” subject into Reading and Writing subtests. As a high school education is often considered the minimum necessary to fully function in our society, the importance of testing whether you are literate at the level of a high-school graduate is one of the fundamental functions of the HiSET.

What’s on the HiSET Reading test? To begin with, you will be expected to read a selection of short sketches. These sketches can be drawn from a variety of sources, including memoirs, essays, “biographical sketches”, editorials, or even poetry. Each of these selections is between 400 and 600 words long, or about the length of the “What is the HiSET?” section in this article.

Following each selection, there will be a series of questions — roughly between five and ten — asking you to parse and analyze the article. For example, after an editorial selection, one of the questions might ask you what the article’s writer is persuading you to think, and another question might be what points of evidence they’re offering up in support of their conclusion.

There will be 40 questions in this section — all multiple-choice — and you’ll have 65 minutes to do it in.

HiSET Reading Practice Test

HiSET Writing

In this section of the test, you are asked to demonstrate editorial and proofreading acumen.

Short texts are given to you: letters, essays, newspaper articles, personal accounts, and reports. In each text, a section will be underlined, and you will have to decide what (if any) revision is necessary or appropriate for the underlined section. This is not like the verb is to poof as ___ is to ___ questions your college-educated relatives complained about when they took the SAT: instead of that artifice, what the HiSET does is ask you to be a proofreader and then assess how well you would perform at that job.

Aspects of the questions you will be graded on include being able to assess whether the style is appropriate for the piece, the transitions are logical and make sense, the discourse is structured and organized in a manner that makes it plain what the writer is thinking, how clear and concise the section to be revised is, and your grammar usage and mechanics as a proofreader.

HiSET Writing Practice Test

The writing section also contains an essay. For the essay, you will be given a short prompt. This prompt may take any form: it may focus on an issue, which you will then be expected to argue for, or against; it may ask you to respond with a personal story; it may require you to provide information on a given topic.

Regardless, you will have to write out a short essay for this part. Unlike the other sections, this is not multiple-choice; there is no one specific right answer the Scantron machine will look for. Instead, this section of the test will have human graders, people reading over your essays, and they will be looking for mastery of five things.

Development. Are your ideas fully expressed from their root to their full flower (or as close as you can get to full flower in the time limit)? Have you explained yourself, or your position, well? Does your writing engage and persuade? These are the sorts of things being asked for in this part of the grade.

Organization. Is your essay presented in a sensible order? Do things flow in a natural way? Do you go from introducing the topic to marshaling ideas and arguments in support of it, to the discussion of counterideas, to final analysis and conclusion in a manner that has a natural internal structure? In other words, “Does the reader come away understanding what you’re trying to talk about?” is what’s being looked for here.

Language Facility. How rich is the language you’re using in your essay? Are you able to find just the right word for the concept you want to express, or do you keep fumbling around circumlocutions? Are you able to use a word like circumlocution correctly? Even if your natural style is rather sparer, are you able to marshal the style for full effect? In other words, are you able to use language to keep readers interested in your essay?

Writing Conventions. Are you able to harness the power of well-understood ways of writing essays to support your argument? That is, do you have a clear introduction, body, and conclusion? Even if you attempt a more complex essay (say, if you find neither viewpoint in a persuasive essay satisfying), are you able to use the essay structure itself to clearly elaborate why and how the given viewpoints fail? In other words, you’re being asked to write to the specific style of an essay here.

If you’re a Spanish test-taker, you will be permitted to write this essay in Spanish.

This section of the test has 50 multiple-choice questions with 1 essay question, and you will be given 120 minutes.

HiSET Mathematics

This is the test they’ll give you a calculator for.

In this section, you will be given quantitative problems and you will be asked to solve these by demonstrating knowledge of fundamental questions and reasoning skills. Problems are practical and realistic, requiring numerical operations, measurement, estimation, data interpretation, and logical thinking. In addition, they will require you to be cognizant of algebraic patterns, probability, and precision in measurement.

So…they’re all word problems. Not to worry, though. Word problems aren’t hard, there’s just a trick to them. Remember that what you need to do is pull out the information given in the problem: the starting conditions, known relationships between the numbers, and the question problem wants to be answered. For example, in a problem like

A candle maker sells small candles for $10 and large candles for $20. On a certain day, he sells 20 candles overall and makes $300. How many small candles did he sell?

You are told:

  • Candle A sells for $10
  • Candle B sells for $20
  • The combination of Candles A and B sold for $300
  • 20 candles overall were sold.

This is enough information to set up a simple system of equations. All you have to do, then, is evaluate the possible answers for A, given in the multiple choice answers, and find which one matches the final value ($300). See? Not so hard. As long as you can answer questions like that, you should have no problem doing well on the test.

This section will have 50 multiple-choice questions, and you will be allotted 90 minutes to complete it.

HiSET Math Practice Test

HiSET Math Review Study Pack

HiSET Science

The Science section of the HiSET will focus on your ability to analyze and digest natural-sciences information. A blend of the skills needed in the Reading and Math sections, this assessment of qualitative and quantitative comprehension focuses on your ability to parse and digest analyses of scientific investigation and their results.  Subjects questions will be drawn from include: physics, chemistry, botany, zoology, health, and astronomy.

The selections are designed to mimic scientific journal reports and will include graphs, tables, and charts to present information and results. These will be designed to include descriptions of hypotheses and testing methods, as well as the data returned and analysis on it. To get a really good score here, you should be able to read the two in tandem and see what kind of model the scientist built to test his hypothesis.

Test questions will include being asked to identify research questions of interest, identifying the best design for investigating a specific research question, being able to recognize what kinds of conclusions can be inferred from results, evaluating the adequacy of procedures, and distinguishing between hypotheses, assumptions, and observations.

There will be 50 questions in this section — again, all multiple-choice — and you will have 80 minutes to complete them in.

HiSET Science Practice Test

HiSET Science Study Pack

HiSET Social Studies

The Social Studies section of the HiSET will focus on your ability to analyze and digest social studies information. Much like the Reading section, this will be an assessment of qualitative comprehension, of your ability to understand information in social studies works. Selections will be drawn from a variety of fields, including history, political science, psychology, sociology, anthropology, geography, and economics.

These selections may well take the form not just of primary documents (that is to say, technical articles), but also posters, cartoons, timelines, maps, graphs, tables, charts, and even reading passages (that is, articles about the technical articles).

The Social Studies section builds on the skills established in the Reading section, asking you not just about how the author of a given work is going about his business but also asking you to apply your own razor separating fact from fiction. You will be asked to separate factual information from opinions, about the limitations of procedures and methods — does the method employed in the selection allow the author to say what he claims to say? — judge how reliable a given source is, and which sources might be more reliable than others, ascertain how valid inferences and conclusions are, and finally whether or not the information presented is adequate for drawing any conclusions at all, much fewer ones the author might claim.

There will be 50 questions in this section — all multiple-choice — and you’ll have 70 minutes to do them in.

HiSET Social Studies Practice Test

HiSET Social Studies Study Pack

HiSET Scores

The HiSET’s scoring is broken down into two parts: the multiple choice subtests and the essay.

Each of the five multiple-choice subtests is worth 20 points. To pass any subtest, the taker must score at least eight points in it. Combine that together and one can easily see that the multiple choice subtests are worth 100 points total.

Passing all five subtests is required to pass the HiSET, but it is entirely possible to pass all five without passing it. As the minimal score to pass each subtest is 8 out of 20, a taker can pass all five by this score, yielding a final result of 40 out of 100. Will this work? No: in order to pass the HiSET as a whole, the minimal combined subtest score must be 45 out of 100.

The essay is instead scored out of 6, with points given based on how well the taker demonstrated each of the graders’ criteria. To pass this section, they must score at least a 2.

So there you have it: To pass the HiSET as a whole, three conditions must be fulfilled:

  1. Scoring at least 8 out of 20 on each multiple-choice subtest
  2. Scoring at least 2 out of 6 on the essay
  3. Scoring at least 45 out of 100 in the combined multiple-choice test

Got what it takes? Well, that’s what we’re here for.

Test Prep

Passing the HiSET is worth the equivalent of a high-school diploma. It is thus one of the most important tests you, the test-taker, will ever take, because that credential alone opens up many, many doors — most importantly, ones leading to the overwhelming majority of white-collar work. In addition, having passed the HiSET, a major door will now open: the door to higher education. With this test in hand, you can now immediately enroll at community college, or perhaps take the SAT or ACT and apply to a four-year school.

It would be a mistake to underprepare for it.

The best way to prepare would be to take a few weeks to review, with a good study guide, practice tests, and flashcards in hand. Don’t try to cram: It is far better to be well rested on test day than to feel exhausted after staying up late to study.

Fortunately, Mometrix has all the materials necessary to study and prepare for the HiSET. From our free practice tests to the flashcards and study guides we sell to keep the lights on around here and our staff fed and happy, our range of products offers everything you can use to take, and pass, this potentially life-changing test.

Published by

Jay Willis

Jay Willis joined Mometrix as Vice President of Sales in 2009, and has developed several key strategic relationships that have enhanced the distribution of Mometrix products. With nearly 20 years of sales experience in the publishing industry, his dedication to providing the highest quality experience for customers, coupled with his sales and marketing expertise, has resulted in significant growth of the Institutional Sales division. Learn more