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5 Minute HSE Update: Major Test Changes

It’s 2016, and the world of adult education continues to fluctuate! Obtaining a High School Equivalency (HSE) diploma is the goal of most adult education students. But what does it really take to earn that credential?

Starting in 2014, the GED Test changed significantly to align with the Common Core standards and skills of high school graduates. We now have two additional HSE exams–TASC and HiSET–which are changing each year to gradually become more computer-based and aligned to the Common Core standards.

So in five minutes or less, what are the key things you need to know about recent test changes as of January 2016?

HiSET Exam

I’ll start with HiSET because their content change is perhaps the most drastic. The HiSET Language Arts, Writing Essay is keeping its 6-point scoring, but changing the prompts and rubric. Test takers are now required to read TWO passages on a topic, and use evidence from both sources to create an argumentative essay.

With this change, all three HSE Tests now require that test takers correctly use evidence from a given passage to support an argument. Regardless of the test(s) available in your state, prospective test takers and adult educators need to focus on developing these skills.


This exam underwent two notable recent changes:

  1. In 2015, CTB (the company that produces TASC) switched hands from McGraw Hill to Data Recognition Company (DRG). The switch resulted in staff changes, contract changes at the state level, changes for testing centers…all things that impact where and when test takers can access the exam. As more states add multiple tests, this actually may result in more people taking the TASC test.
  2. In 2016, TASC introduced short answer items. The Language Arts, Writing Part 1 exam now includes short answer responses that ask the test taker to do one of two things:
    1. Combine two sentences into one new sentence.
    2. Write an appropriate concluding sentence for a paragraph.


GED Test

I saved the largest HSE Test for last because this is actually a recent announcement of a future change. Starting March 1, GED Testing Service is changing its cut scores. Depending on each state, this may result in 25,000-30,000 previous GED Test Takers who scored between 145-149 to earn their HSE diploma! Read full details at Education Week.

This graphic sums up the changes nicely:

GED Performance Levels


4 responses to “5 Minute HSE Update: Major Test Changes”

  1. Thanks for the article Meagan, I’m going to encourage the teachers in my program to check it out. Also, do TASC or HiSET require passing a writing component in order to earn an HSE? Though learners had to pass the essay to get a 2002 version GED, it’s not necessary anymore. Further, even students that our jail school considers well-prepared very rarely pick up any points at all on the new extended/constructed responses.

  2. Meagan,
    Thanks for the article; I’ll forward it to others in my program. Do you know if HiSET or TASC require a passing writing score for a learner-generated piece of writing to earn an HSE? Of course the 2002 GED did. However our jail school has found that even students that we consider well-prepared (we’ve checked their GED Ready written arguments against the rubrics) don’t pick up any points at all on constructed/extended responses on the new official GED.

  3. Good question! Yes, both TASC & HiSET require a passing essay score. GED has a higher standard to get points for the essay, but it’s not required. I’m actually developing an online course to help teachers prepare their students for the new HSE writing because a lot of folks have had the same experience you have.

  4. In my state (Utah), my kids have to pass the Locator Test and then pass the TABE test in order to take the GED test. I just wish they did not have to wait until age 16.

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About US

Mustard Seed Training is a team of faith-based artisans creating materials for praying with children. Our ministry is to share the love of God and neighbor.

Our group was founded in 2018 by CGS catechist and woodworker Meagen Farrell. Meagen is an author, trainer, and PhD student in the fields of adult basic education and educational technology (that’s the “Training” part!).

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