Hiset Essay Scoring Plan

Before preparing for any exam, you need to first look at three things: 1) the actual testing date; 2) the amount of time that you have to prepare for it; and 3) the knowledge and comprehension gaps that need to be filled in order to ensure a good outcome. Obviously the further away from the testing date that you are, the more time you’ll have to prepare. But time is not necessarily an indicator of quality. If you’re not employing the appropriate tips and strategies to HiSET, then a year of prep probably isn’t enough time. As ETS, the creators of the test, note, your success rate also depends on your studying preferences. When I taught high school, this was about the time some smart aleck would throw a zinger at me: “I prefer not to study at all.”

While that could elicit chuckles from the rest of the class — depending on how the young man (usually it was a boy) delivered it — it certainly didn’t do him any favors on test day. And with less people taking high school equivalency exams and more people failing it, it’s probably a good idea to get in tune with your study preferences. While the HiSET and GED and TASC are all different exams, they all have one thing in common — they test the taker rigorously on areas of reading, writing, math, science, and reasoning, built around the Common Core standards. Of the three, whichever you find to be the most difficult will probably depend on your personal viewpoint, but for what it’s worth, there have been some Ivy League graduates, who failed the new GED, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’ll “wing it.”


To help you do so, we’ve put together this treasury of tips, knowledge, and practices from the team at ETS. Here’s what they recommend.

Preliminary Information on HiSET

Before confronting a test, it’s best to start by getting familiar with what you might call the testing metadata. In other words, ETS notes, the data would include:

  • what to expect during the overall process, including how to create an account, schedule appointments and get your scores
  • if the subtest you are taking has multiple-choice questions, essay questions or both
  • how many questions are on the subtest
  • what topics the subtest covers
  • the amount of time you get for each subtest

Basic HiSET Prepping Tips

We mentioned above that the test is built around Common Core standards for math, science, reading, and writing. Unfortunately for you, it’s not a simple database of knowledge that you can memorize and regurgitate. While there is some knowledge acquisition involved, you also have to be able to understand key concepts and comprehend complex problems that can’t be summed up the way you can with a simple 2+2=4.

Your best starting point is to learn what the test covers intimately. That means taking HiSET prep courses, reviewing the in-depth training materials on your own, and actually putting yourself through a battery of practice tests in an environment similar to the one you’ll experience on test day. As far as what training materials are available, ETS has an official guide for around $15 on Amazon. You may want to start here or look at some of the better-reviewed books at this link.

If you’re concerned with whether a testing guide will touch all the bases that need to be touched, I have found that print testing guides are often similar and the overall “quality” of the publication depends more on the amount of involvement that you have with it. In other words, some people tend to trash a guide because it didn’t get them a passing score. I would suggest putting everything you have into the prepping process. You may find a poorly reviewed guide to be a bit smarter than its customers are saying.

Testing guides, if nothing else, are great because they give you the opportunity to “see” what the test will look like and to actually answer questions similar to those that you’ll come across on test day. If you find yourself doing some head-scratching at this point, make note over the materials that are giving you trouble, and let that be your focus for the days/weeks/months to come before showtime.

This means being honest with yourself about your strengths as well as weaknesses. Don’t be too much of a completist where you waste time on knowledge and concepts that you understand, but be unflinchingly honest with yourself if you don’t know something.

From there, plan and organize your time, so you can sidestep the “cramming” stage that almost never works on these types of exams.

To close, here are some helpful test-taking strategies as shared by the folks at ETS.

Focus heavily on multiple-choice questions, since each subtest has them.

“When taking the computer-delivered HiSET exam, you can skip questions and come back to them using the ‘mark and review’ feature,” ETS notes, adding that the feature also “lets you view a complete list of all the questions in the section; indicates whether you’ve answered each question; identifies the questions you’ve marked for review; and lets you review questions you already answered and change your answers” before finishing.

Math allows you to employ a little technology. For the paper-based exam, a handheld calculator is available, and “an on-screen calculator is available for the computer-delivered test.”

The language arts portion of the HiSET is where you’ll find the test’s lone essay question. As we’ve discussed in the past, you want to utilize the three-step Plan/Draft/Review tip for writing a well-thought-out essay in the allotted amount of time. That means planning what you’re going to say before you say it; saying it; and using your remaining time to check your work. “While you work on your essay, remember to budget your time,” ETS adds. “Within the time limit, you need to allow yourself enough time to think about the question, plan a response and write your essay. Save a few minutes at the end of the essay portion of your exam to check for obvious errors. Although an occasional typographical, spelling or grammatical error will not affect your score, severe and persistent errors will detract from the overall effectiveness of your writing and lower your score.”

Have you taken the HiSET, or do you plan to in the near future? What are some of the areas that have you the most concerned? Share in our comments section, and we’ll do a follow-up to address those areas as best we can. Also, don’t forget to take our practice HiSET for free, which you can find by clicking here. Good luck!

Written by Aric Mitchell

Aric Mitchell's work appears regularly here at 4tests.com and across the web for sites, such as The Inquisitr and Life'd. A former high school teacher, his passion for education has only intensified since leaving the classroom. At 4tests, he hopes to continue passing along words of encouragement and study tips to ensure you leave school ready to face an ever-changing world.

Website: http://aricmitchell.blogspot.com/

Connect with Aric Mitchell on:


The ETS High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) is a very new examination which was introduced in 2014[1] by Educational Testing Service (ETS) and Iowa Testing Programs (ITP). It is an alternative to the GED, an equivalency exam dating back to 1942 which until recently was used by all 50 states.[2] Concerns over the 2014 revision of the GED prompted many states to seek alternative equivalency tests, and two new exams—the HiSET and the TASC—stepped in to fill this demand.[3][4] As of December 2014, 12 states were administering the HiSET alongside or in place of the GED.[5]

Function of the Test

The HiSET is a High School Equivalency Test which enables individuals lacking a high school diploma to demonstrate knowledge equivalent to that of a high school graduate. Successfully passing the exam earns the test-taker a High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED). The HiSET is also designed to help test-takers identify their specific strengths and weaknesses.[6]

Twelve states were administering the HiSET as of December 2014, though new states have been adopting it regularly, so that number will likely increase in the future. The current twelve states are California, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee and Wyoming.[5]

Because the examination was only introduced in January 2014, exact statistics are not yet available regarding the number of candidates who take the exam each year or what the typical passing rate is. In addition, the forthcoming "Phase 2" overhaul of the examination (see the Future Developments section below) is expected to significantly change the examination. However, ETS reports that they calibrated the HiSET such that 60% of actual high school seniors could pass the exam on the first attempt.[7]

Test Administration

The HiSET is available in both English and Spanish-language versions as well as both computer-based and pencil-and-paper formats. Total fees for taking the exam vary widely from state to state. The base cost is $50 for the entire test or $15 for individual sections, but individual states may add extra fees.[8] For example, the full exam costs a total of $95 to take in Missouri,[9] but only $50 to take in Wyoming.[10]

The HiSET is available year-round. Testing is generally offered at a variety of different sites, ranging from local schools and colleges to dedicated computer-based testing centers, and each test site may have different test dates. Candidates can find a test center and register for the exam by making a My HiSET account through the HiSET website or by calling ETS customer service.[7]

Comprehensive HiSET scores reports are generally available within two to three weeks for paper-based tests and within six business days for computer-based tests. Individual states determine any rules regarding retesting. However, candidates may retake the examination for free up to two times within a 12-month period of their original test purchase.[7]

Candidates with disabilities who require special testing accommodations must request these accommodations through ETS. Candidates must submit a HiSET Testing Accommodations Request form alongside medical documentation of the disability. ETS reports that the approval process can take six weeks or more, so candidates should begin this process well in advance of the intended testing date.[7]

Test Format

Test Environment

Candidates are expected to arrive around 45 minutes early at the testing center. For admission, identification containing a signature, birth date, and recent photo is required. Food and drinks are not allowed in the testing session. Scheduled breaks take place between subtests, and between the writing and multiple-choice portions of the Writing test. [11]

Test Structure

The HiSET is made out of five different subtests: Reading, Writing, Matehematics, Science, and Social Studies. Combined, there are 240 multiple choice questions and one essay prompt. Each subtest is timed. Altogether, they last around seven hours. [12]

Test Content

  • Sample Language Arts Question
Questions 1-2 refer to the following passage:
(1)A growing grassroots movement is taking place around the world. (2)Developed nations have spent the past half-century creating fast food products, which are designed more for ease and availability than for taste.(3)As people worry more over genetically modified crops, food safety, and the cost of shipping food across the nation, slow foods is making a comeback.
  1. Sentence (2): "Developed nations have spent the past half-century creating fast food products, which are designed more for ease and availability than for taste."
    A. food products, which are
    B. food products which are
    C. food product, which are
    D. food products, which is
    E. food products, are which
  2. Sentence (3): "As people worry more over genetically modified crops, food safety and the cost of shipping food across the nation, slow foods is making a comeback." What correction should be made to this sentence?
    A. remove the extra commas
    B. change is to are
    C. capitalize genetically modified
    D. make the items in a series parallel
    E. replace the period with a question mark
  • Sample Social Studies Questions

Questions 1 and 2 refer to the following information

  1. In 1960, which of the following categories had the greatest disparity between percentage of both exports and imports?
    A. chemicals
    B. crude materials
    C. food and beverages
    D. machinery and transport
    E. mineral fuels and related materials
  2. Which category saw the greatest percentage decrease in imports between 1960 and 1970?
    A. chemicals
    B. crude materials
    C. food beverages
    D. machinery and transport
    E. mineral fuels and related materials
  • Sample Language Arts, Reading Questions
Questions 1 and 2 refer to the following passage
When I read of the hard times among the Denver poor, I feel like urging them every one to get out and file on land. I am very enthusiastic about women homesteading. It really requires less strength and labor to raise plenty to satisfy a large family than it does to go out to wash, with the added satisfaction of knowing that their job will not be lost to them if they care to keep it. Even if improving the place does go slowly, it is that much done to stay done. Whatever is raised is the homesteader’s own, and there is no house-rent to pay. This year Jerrine [the writer’s daughter] cut and dropped enough potatoes to raise a ton of fine potatoes. She wanted to try, so we let her, and you will remember that she is but six years old.… Any woman strong enough to go out by the day could have done every bit of the work and put in two or three times that much, and it would have been so much more pleasant than to work so hard in the city and be on starvation rations all winter.
  1. The writer of this letter is suggesting that women should own land and farm rather than
    A. cook in a restaurant.
    B. open a bed and breakfast.
    C. do laundry for others.
    D. teach in a one-room schoolhouse.
    E. become a nurse.
  2. Stewart mentions her daughter's potato crop. She does this to show
    A. that child labor is acceptable.
    B. that no schools exist for her daughter.
    C. that women work just as hard as men do.
    D. the laziness of her daughter.
    E. how easy it is to raise crops.
  • Sample Mathematics Questions
  1. Mrs. Patterson's classroom has sixteen empty chairs. All the chairs are occupied when every student is present. If 2/5 of the students are absent, how many students make up her entire class?
    A. 16
    B. 32
    C. 24
    D. 40
    E. 36
  2. In a game of chance, 3 dice are cast simultaneously. What is the probability that all three will land with a 6 showing?
    A. 1 in 6
    B. 1 in 18
    C. 1 in 216
    D. 1 in 30
    E. 1 in 36
  1. All living organisms on Earth utilize:
    A. Oxygen
    B. Light
    C. Sexual reproduction
    D. Neurotransmitters
    E. A triplet genetic code

More free HiSET practice test questions.


The HiSET comprises five subject exams as shown below.

Distribution of questions on the HiSET exam[13]
Section # of
Time limit
Score range
Language Arts - Reading 40 60 0 to 20
Language Arts - Writing Multiple Choice 51 75 0 to 20
Essay 1 45 1 to 6
Mathematics 50 90 0 to 20
Science 50 80 0 to 20
Social Studies 50 70 0 to 20

Each correct answer to a multiple choice question is worth one raw point.[14] Scaled scores between 0 and 20 are then calculated from the raw scores for each section. Scaled scores are adjusted for the difficulty of questions.[14] Essays are each scored on a scale from 1 to 6 by at least two trained scorers.[14]

To pass the HiSET, candidates must score at least 45 out of 100 on the multiple choice sections of the exam, including scores of at least 8 on each of the five individual subtests. Candidates must also score at least 2 out of 6 points on the essay.[7] ETS believes that 60% of real high school seniors could pass the HiSET on their first try.[7]

Future Developments

A new version of HiSET referred to as "Phase 2" is under development. It is intended to align more closely with the Common Core State Standards.[1] ETS does not appear to have announced an official launch date for the new exam, but it has stated that "[t]he timing will align with the Common Core State Standards changes that will be implemented throughout K–12 across the nation beginning in 2015–2016."[15] In addition, ETS expects to revise the HiSET examination further when the "Next Generation Science Standards for Today's Students and Tomorrow's Workforce" have been approved and adopted by states.[13]

Answers to Sample Questions

Language Arts: 1;B 2;D Social Studies: 1;D 2;B Language Arts, Reading: 1;C 2;E Mathematics: 1;D 2;C Science: 1;E

Related Tests


  1. ^ a b ETS: ETS's HiSET™ Test Offers Affordable, Accessible High School Equivalency Assessment December 5 2014
  2. ^GED: History of the GED® test June 14 2014
  3. ^Education Week: More States Dumping the GED, Choosing Alternative Tests December 5 2014
  4. ^Education Week: New GED Tests Stir Concerns, Draw Competitors December 5 2014
  5. ^ a b ETS: California Becomes the 12th State to Approve ETS's HiSET® Program for High School Equivalency December 5 2014
  6. ^ETS: Why Take the HiSET® Exam? December 5 2014
  7. ^ a b c d e f ETS: HiSET ™ Test Taker Bulletin 2014 December 5 2014
  8. ^ETS: HiSET® Requirements by State or Jurisdiction December 5 2014
  9. ^ETS: Missouri HiSET® Requirements December 5 2014
  10. ^ETS: Wyoming HiSET® Requirement December 5 2014
  11. ^http://hiset.ets.org/take/test_day/policies/ HiSET Test Day Policies] 17 November 2014
  12. ^HiSET Test Content 17 November 2014
  13. ^ a b ETS: HiSET ™ Information Brief December 5 2014
  14. ^ a b c ETS: How the HiSET® Exam is Scored December 5 2014
  15. ^ETS: Frequently Asked Questions — HiSET Program Administration December 5 2014

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