CHSPE vs GED: What’s the difference?

A high school diploma is the minimum requirement if you want to enter the job market or pursue higher education. However, for various reasons, not all students who enroll in school are able to complete their high school examinations and earn a degree. The status dropout rate is defined as the cumulative data of the number of dropouts between the ages of 16 and 24. As of 2021, the status dropouts[1] stood at 2 million. 

However, the good news is not earning a high school pass-out credential the traditional way is no longer stopping people from pursuing academics or entering the job market. Various high school equivalency tests such as GED, HiSET, and CHSPE  have been launched that allow students who do not take the traditional pathway to earn their high school diploma.

In the United States, two prominent options for high school equivalency are GED (General Educational Development) and CSHPE (California High School Proficiency Exam). Both these assessments have the same destination: a high-school equivalent credential but they have distinct features, eligibility, recognition, and syllabus. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will take you through the major differences between CHSPE and GED so that you can make the right choice between the two depending on your goals and situation.

What is CHSPE?

CHSPE stands for the California High School Proficiency Examination, a test designed by California law. It gives students who are at least 16 years old and have completed the 10th grade the opportunity to earn a high school diploma equivalent.

The test assesses the student’s academic proficiency and allows them to exit the traditional high school system. This is a useful option for residents who wish to enter the workforce early or pursue unique educational opportunities. 

The syllabus covers language arts and mathematics. Unlike other high school equivalency tests like GED or HiSET, CHSPE is specifically for California residents.

What is a GED?

GED is the acronym for General Educational Department. It was developed by the American Council on Education in 1942 in collaboration with the US Military. The initial goal was to help war veterans to complete their high school but it has today become a prominent high school equivalent diploma and is widely recognized by the states in the US. 

The program is specifically designed for students who fail to complete their high school through conventional means but want to obtain a diploma nonetheless. The test consists of four parts: mathematics, science, social studies, and reasoning through language arts. 

CHSPE Vs. GED: Which one is best for you?

There are certain differences between CHSPE and GED. Let us learn more about this. 

1. Syllabus

CHSPE and GED differ in terms of the test content. While the purpose of both is to assess academic knowledge, their approach differs. 

CHSPE: The CHSPE covers two subject areas: mathematics and language arts. The mathematics portion includes various math topics like arithmetic, geometry, probability, algebra, and statistics. This part consists of 50 MCQs. The language arts portion is divided into two subsets: reading and language 

  1. Reading: The purpose of this section is to determine how well students can analyze and interpret written texts. In addition, it assesses their vocabulary skills. You will get 84 questions in this subset. 
  2. Language: This section consists of 48 MCQs in addition to a writing assignment. The purpose of this test is to determine whether you have cohesive knowledge of language and how well you can present relevant information in a written format while following basic principles of the language.

GED: The GED test consists of four subsections with the focus of testing the student’s knowledge in different subjects. The subsets are as follows:

  1. Reasoning through Language Arts: This section tests your essay writing and reading comprehension skills. The test is divided into three parts and you have to write an extended response. 
  2. Mathematics: This section covers algebraic equations, basic math, quantitative problems, and so on. The test is subdivided into two parts and you are allowed to use a calculator for part two. 
  3. Science: The science section focuses on space, life, physical science, and earth science (also classified as biology, physics, astronomy, and space). You will be allowed a calculator for solving science-based numbers and graphs. 
  4. Social Studies: This section deals with your knowledge of geography, economics, history, and civics, particularly pertaining to the United States. You are allowed to use a calculator as you have to handle some calculations and graphs. 

2. Eligibility

The next difference between the two tests arises in terms of the student’s eligibility to appear for them. 

CHSPE: To take the CHSPE exam, the student must be at least 16 years old and must have enrolled and completed the 10th grade. Since this test is mostly meant for California residents, students from other states may only take the test if they demonstrate a connection to California. 

GED: The GED test is widely available in the United States and the eligibility criteria differ from state to state. You need to be 16 years old to take the GED and in most cases, you shouldn’t be enrolled in a high school. You can go directly to college at 16 after passing GED, but there are certain conditions you have to fulfill.

Please note – although the minimum age for taking a GED is 16, some states in the USA such as Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Nevada need you to be 18+. To know what your state requirements are, it is best to go through the GED website.

3. Test Structure

The format of CHSPE and GED differs and you should prepare for the exams keeping the format in mind. 

CHSPE: The CHSPE exam follows a paper-based format. For the language arts portion, you get MCQs and an essay prompt. For the mathematics section, you only get MCQs. 

GED: The GED exam is offered in a computer-based format (it used to be computer-based and paper-based earlier but is now entirely computerized), depending on the regulations of the state and the testing center. You get MCQs, drag-and-drop, fill-in-the-blanks, etc. in addition to one extended response. 

4. Time 

The time taken for CHSPE and GED also differs, with GED taking much longer. The CHSPE takes 3.5 hours but the GED has a time limit of 7 hours and 45 minutes. 

5. Recognition

The purpose of pursuing a high school equivalency certificate is to be recognized as a high school graduate by colleges and potential employers. 

CHSPE: The CHSPE is mainly recognized and accepted in the state of California. Residents who have given this test will be recognized as high school passouts by colleges and employers within the state. But, do other states recognize this exam? Not so much; its recognition is limited outside of the state. 

GED: The GED test is one of the most widely recognized and accepted tests across the United States. It is accepted by universities, the military, and potential employers as proof of high school equivalency. If you are planning to pursue higher studies or a career in different states, taking the GED is the safest route. 

6. Cost

CHSPE: The CHSPE test costs around $130. If you have to sit for a retake, you will be required to pay the full price. 

GED: The GED test costs vary from state to state. It is completely free in New York (available to residents of the state only) but can go up to $150 in other states. The cost is usually around $36 to $40 per subject. In addition, the retake fees are discounted. 

7. Marks

CHSPE: The scoring system for CHSPE ranges from 250 to 450 points and you need to get a minimum of 350 points for the mathematics portion to pass in the exam. For the language arts portion, you should get at least 2.5 out of 5 for the writing assignment and 365 in the MCQ section. If you get 350 points in the MCQ section, you should get 3 out of 5 for the writing assignment.

GED: You need to get a minimum score of 145 out of 200 in each of the four subjects to pass in the GED exam. If you get a score of 175 or above, you get a college-ready certificate plus credit. 

Point of Similarity/DifferenceCHSPEGED
Syllabus1. Language arts
2. Mathematics
1. Reasoning through language arts
2. Social studies
3. Science
4. Mathematics 
Eligibility Students must be at least 16 years of age and must have completed the 10th gradeThe minimum requirement is 16 years of age but in some states, it is 18
Time 3.5 hours7 hours 45 minutes
Paper format Paper-basedComputer-based
Recognition Only recognized in the state of California. Recognized across the United States


Choosing between the CHSPE and GED test is a significant decision that can impact your educational and career prospects. Although both tests offer the path to gaining a high school equivalency diploma, their recognition, format, eligibility, and syllabus vary. Therefore, it is important to do proper research before you opt for either. 

The right choice depends on your circumstances and future goals as well as your location. For California residents, the CHSPE is a suitable option if they want to pursue further studies in the GED test. 

It is best to do your due research and make an informed choice that is in line with your future aspirations. 


  1. National Center for Education Statistics. (n.d.). Fast Facts: Dropout rates (16).

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