HiSET vs GED: What’s the difference?

The world we occupy today is increasingly competitive and a high school diploma is the bare minimum requirement for most job opportunities. Besides, if you intend to get into a good, reputable university or get a scholarship, a high school qualification is a must. 

Most students complete high school the traditional way but sometimes, life comes in the way and you are unable to complete your high school degree. This can be either due to illness, financial problems, poor mental health, family emergencies, or something else. However, this does not mean that you would have to repeat the whole year. 

For individuals who couldn’t earn their high school degrees the conventional way, there are many alternate paths. One such is sitting for exams such as HiSET (High School Equivalency Test) and the GED (General Educational Development). These are alternate routes to demonstrating your academic proficiency in the United States and gaining a high school equivalency credential. 

There is no dearth of high school equivalency exams but not all of them carry enough weight in the job and academic sector. In this guide, we will do a comparative study on HiSET versus GED to help you decide which one is the right fit for you. To make things easier, we have listed the benefits and opportunities that these two exams bring your way and the considerations that go into each. So, let’s begin.

What is HiSET?

Before we delve into details, it is important to have a comprehensive idea of what each exam entails. 

The HiSET test is developed by the Educational Testing Service and is administered across various states in the United States. It consists of five subtests, including mathematics, science, social studies, reading, and language arts.

This exam can be computer-based or paper-based, giving the takers flexibility in terms of choice of medium. 

Around twenty states across the USA accept HiSET scores such as California, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Texas, and so on. You can view the complete list here.

What is a GED?

The GED test was created by the American Council on Education (ACE) and is administered in a large number of states in the US, as compared to HiSET. It consists of four subjects: Mathematical reasoning, social studies, science, and reasoning through language arts. Unlike HiSET, which is both paper-based and computerized, GED is solely a computer-based exam. 

You can learn more about GED here.

HiSET vs GED: A Comparative Guide

Out here, we discuss the similarities and differences between HiSET and GED to help you make the right choice. 

1. Number of Tests

HiSET has five subtests whereas GED consists of four subtests. Both of them include mathematics, social sciences, science, and language arts. However, for HiSET, the language arts are broken into two parts. 

Having five tests allows the test-takers to break down their preparation and focus on specifics. Besides, HiSET has a separate writing test in addition to the usual multiple-choice questions, thereby ensuring a more in-depth assessment of a student’s writing abilities. 

On the other hand, GED allows for a more comprehensive evaluation as the four subtests have a broad range of syllabi. 

2. Mode of Test

The HiSET offers more flexibility in terms of the mode of examination. It can be taken on the computer or on paper. The GED, on the other hand, is entirely computer-based. 

However, the mode of the test depends from state to state. So, it is important to carry out proper research. Look up the rules of GED in your state to know more about whether it is available and what are the other requirements for it. 

3. Passing Scores

For HiSET, you need to score 8 out of 20 to pass each subtest. The total combined score should be not less than 45 out of 100 and your score in the essay portion of the language arts section should be 2 out of 6. 

For GED, you need 145 out of 200 and at least 580 out of 800. However, by scoring 175 or above, you get a college-ready designation along with a credit designation. 

4. Cost

Although both exams are competitive and have similar costs that depend on the state. So, remember to check your state requirements.

On average, GED is slightly more expensive, costing between $120 to $144 in most states. On the other hand, HiSET costs anywhere between $55 to $115. The cost of taking it on paper is more than the computer-based system. 

5. Time and Subjects 

Both HiSET and GED are 7 hours long and cover similar subjects, but the way these tests approach the subjects differ. Besides, although both take over  7 hours, the time taken for each subtest differs. Here’s a complete breakdown. 

  • Language Arts

In HiSET, the language arts portion is broken down into two: reading and writing. 

(i) The first part measures your potential to comprehend and analyze various reading materials. The reading materials include literary texts and informational texts. You are given around 65 minutes to finish this. 

(ii) The second section determines your ability to read, edit, revise, and organize written text. The focus is on your ability to organize your ideas, comprehend the language, and determine your writing conventions. It is entirely an MCQ-based section and takes two hours to complete.

For GED, the test is divided into two parts: reading and writing. It measures your comprehension as well as your writing abilities. 25% of the test portion covers literature and prose, whereas the other 75% is focused on nonfiction. You are given around 150 minutes for this test. 

  • Social Sciences

This section for HiSET focuses on history, civics, economics, and geography. You are given a time span of 70 minutes to answer the questions. 

For GED, this section covers US history, geography economics, and civics. However, the questions are more application-based, and you are asked to analyze and justify some answers by reading the passages provided. The time provided for the answers is 70 minutes.

  • Science

The science portion of HiSET measures the student’s ability to understand, use, and apply principles of science and make scientific deductions. The questions primarily focus on life science, physical science, and earth science and you get 80 minutes to finish the section. 

For GED, you will be expected to comprehend scientific concepts. The questions focus on 40% on physics, 40% on biology, and 20% on astronomy plus earth science. The questions are not in-depth and you will be provided informational pieces based on which you are expected to draw deductions. The time span for this exam is 90 minutes.

  • Mathematics

The math portion of HiSET focuses on quantitative problems and assesses your understanding of fundamental mathematical concepts. The questions are broadly divided into four categories: (i) Algebraic concepts

(ii) Numbers

(iii) Geometry

(iv) Data analysis, Statistics, and Probability. 

You have to finish this section in 1.5 hours. 

On the other hand, the math section in GED focuses primarily on mathematical equations and algebra. It tests your reasoning ability and problem-solving skills. You are also allowed to use a TI-30XS scientific calculator for this exam. The time for this portion is 115 minutes. 

We would like to mention that the syllabus for both HiSET and GED are quite similar but the approach to questioning may differ. So, please make sure to go through mock question papers before you start preparing. 

Subject HiSET SyllabusTime Taken (HiSET)GED SyllabusTime Taken (GED)
Science(i) Physical science
(ii) Life science
(iii) Earth science
80 minutes(i) Physics
(ii) Biology
(iii) Astronomy and Earth Science 
90 minutes
Mathematics(i) Algebra
(ii) Probability, stats, data interpretation
(iii) Numericals
(iv) Geometry
90 minutes(i) Basic Math and Algebra
(ii) Geometry
(iii) Graphs
115 minutes
Social Sciences(i) History and Civics
(ii) Economics
(iii) Geography
70 minutes(i) Reading and comprehension of Social Studies 
(ii) Analyzing events through history
(iii) Using graphs and numbers in social sciences 
70 minutes
Language Arts I. Reading
(i) Informational texts
(ii) Fictional texts
II. Writing
(i) Writing Conventions
(ii) Comprehension Abilities
(iii) Organization of ideas
Reading – 65 minutes Writing – 2 hours(i) Language and Grammar
(ii) Comprehension of texts
(iii) Identifying potential arguments
150 minutes 

Differences and similarities between HiSET and GED at a glance

Acceptance RateWidely accepted (depends on the state and university)Widely accepted (depends on the state and university)
No. of Retakes Only 3 in a calendar yearBar of 60 days before taking another retest after failing three consecutive attempts
Marks Each subset carries 20 marks Each subset carries 200 marks
Examination ModeComputer-based format$55 to $115 (depending on the State and mode of examination)
Cost$55 to $115 (depends on the State and mode of examination)$120 to $144 (depends on the State)
Question TypeMultiple MCQs and one essay-type questionMcqs, drag-and-drop, short answers, fill in the blanks, etc. 

How useful are HiSET and GED?

There are hardly any jobs today that do not have a minimum requirement of a high school diploma. Even if you are starting out as a fresher, a high school diploma is a must.

Having a HiSET or GED test certification ensures that you are not left behind in the job market. It displays your college or career readiness and becomes a testimony to your knowledge. It demonstrates that your level of knowledge and skillset is no different than a regular high school graduate and you are ready to either pursue a college degree or take up a job. 

Ideally, it is best to supplement your HiSET or GED with internships or summer programs. This ensures that you have enough skills to survive in the cut-throat job market and the lack of a traditional high school certificate is no hindrance to your future prospects. 

A large number of students today are also opting for a gap year to pursue a full-fledged job or specialization program to supplement their learning. Again, the decision is unique to you, so do proper research on the pros and cons of a gap year if that is the route you want to go down. 

HiSET versus GED: What to choose?

When it comes to high school equivalency tests, both HiSET and GED are quite popular. As you understand now, both these tests have their advantages and the one you should opt for depends on your state, personal strengths, career goals, educational goals, and preferences. 

However, we must reiterate that these tests are not a cakewalk. You have to undertake proper preparation sessions to ensure maximum success. You can do this by opting for test prep courses, tutoring, or peer mentoring. 

Usually, HiSET has a tougher mathematics section and if you have a more subject-specific approach to education, it will be the perfect choice for you. On the other hand, if you want to opt for a test that offers broader evaluation, GED is the perfect pick. Regardless of the test you choose, it leads to the same destination: a high school equivalency credential. 


To sum up, if you have not been able to get a high school degree the conventional way, a HiSET, and GED is the way to go, but remember to choose wisely and prepare for the exam with diligence.

Carry out proper research, understand your state requirements, get in touch with people who have taken either of these exams and choose which one aligns with your career goals. 

With hard work, continuous study sessions, and proper preparation, you are bound to pass the equivalency test with flying colors and embark on to achieving much bigger life goals – be it college, job, volunteering, or internships. So, get going!

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