Mass. Selects HiSET to Replace GED as New High School Equivalency Test

Test Medium

The long awaited decision has finally been announced:  Massachusetts joins New Hampshire and Maine in breaking with the tradition of “getting a GED” by choosing the Educational Testing Service’s (ETS) High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) to obtain a high school credential. Starting in January 2014, HiSET will be available as a paper based test in addition to a computer based version. It will also cover the same five test areas (Language Arts Reading, Language Arts Writing, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies) in the same format as the prior GED. This is a very positive choice for adult education because HiSET will gradually move toward the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as high schools make the change.

The Phase 1 HiSET assessment, launching in January 2014, will be compatible with current instructional materials used for high school equivalency assessment, and as a result, the 2014 test will look very familiar to current students. ETS has indicated all Phase 1 items are aligned to CCSS, although not all of the CCSS will be covered by the Phase 1 assessment.  As states and adult education programs adopt, implement and set standards based on the CCSS over the next few years, the HiSET assessment will evolve to reflect those changes.

Additionally, according to the ETS, the Next Generation Science Standards present significant challenges for those who will develop assessments to measure the kinds of testing it describes. As these standards are finalized and implemented, the HiSET program will develop and introduce new materials to reflect the changes. Finally, ETS plans to clearly communicate all changes with adequate time to prepare students. 

The selection of HiSET provides additional benefits that may be available for Massachusetts test takers. These benefits include an online portal so students can schedule test appointments, view their scores as soon as they are posted and get individual test reports with information on areas where they need to improve. Also, for the first time, test takers will see the essay score separately from the multiple choice section of the Writing test. Plus, if Massachusetts agrees, there is a possibility that the scores from previously completed GED tests will transfer. While these benefits are all available with HiSET, no information has been released yet to indicate that all of these benefits will be available in Massachusetts. Stay tuned for more information.

As a High School Equivalency Test instructor, I believe HiSET is a more fair approach to “raising the bar” than the GED Testing Service’s “giant leap.” For students, the gradual change means a smoother transition to the new test; for educators, it means we will have more tools and time to help our students achieve their high school equivalency goals. For additional information, please see the ETS HiSET website.