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What Are GED and HiSET Passing Scores?

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Plan to take a high school equivalency test soon? If so, you probably have some questions like:

  • How is the exam scored?

  • What do your GED test results mean?

  • What score will you need to earn your diploma?

Your score will depend on the test you take. Depending on your state, you can take the GED test or the HiSET exam. When you pass (and you will), your state will issue your diploma. Both tests have a lot of similarities, but they have very different scoring systems.

GED Test Scores

The GED test has four subject areas: reasoning through language arts (RLA), mathematical reasoning, science, and social studies.

The RLA section includes both reading and writing. On each test, you'll receive a score between 100 and 200. You need a score of 145 on each test to pass and earn your GED diploma. The GED test has three passing score levels. Between 145 and 164 is a GED Passing Score. At this level, you will earn your GED credential. Between 165 and 174 is a GED College Ready Score. This score shows that you have the skills to take college classes. It can help you get into college or training programs. Between 175 and 200 is a GED College Ready + Credit score. Depending on your college, you may get up to 3 free credits per subject area based on this score.

HiSET Exam Scores

The HiSET exam has five tests: language arts reading, language arts writing, mathematics, science, social studies.

For each test, you'll get a score from 1 to 20. To pass the whole exam, you need at least 8 out of 20 on each test. However, your total score for all five tests must be at least 45, an average of 9 on each test. On the HiSET test, you'll also get a separate score for the essay. You need to score 2 out of 6 on the essay test to pass, even if you have a passing score on the whole writing test.

GED Essay Scoring

Each exam has its own essay. On the GED test, the essay is called an Extended Response. You won't get a separate score, but the essay will add to your RLA test score.

For the Extended Response, you will read a passage or passages and write about what you read. A computer-based Automated Scoring Engine gives an initial score for your essay based on:

  • How well is your essay organized?

  • Did you answer the prompt?

  • Did you stick to the main idea?

  • Did you include details and examples to back up what you're saying?

The essay also needs good grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and word choice.

Basically, your GED essay score is based on:

  • How well can you make your point, remain on-topic and focused, and create an impression with your words and ideas?

  • Do you have a good basic command of the language and its structure? Is your use of language easy to understand?

  • How well can you analyze arguments and use evidence?

HiSET Essay Scoring

The HiSET exam will also ask you to read passages and write an essay about them. You'll need to use evidence and examples in your essay. 

The scoring is based on similar criteria:

  • Do you have and develop a good central or main idea? Do you give evidence that connects to your main idea?

  • Do you have a good introduction and conclusion?

  • Do you use good word choice and language?

  • Do you use good grammar, word usage, spelling, and capitalization?

On the HiSET essay, you'll receive a score from 1 to 6. You'll need to score at least a 2 to pass the test, but a higher score can help raise your whole writing test score.

What's the Pass/Fail Rate?

Pass rates are a little different each year and for each test. Typically, at least two out of three people who take HSE tests pass. The better prepared you are for the HiSET or GED test, the greater your chances of doing well.

Passing an HSE test isn't like rolling dice. It's not a random 70% or 80% of test-takers who pass. To make sure you will pass, first find out what you need to study. A free online practice test is a good start. It will help you create a study plan. Take a full practice test when you think you are ready. That way, you can be confident in passing your test.

What's the Most Difficult Part of the Test?

How hard are the HSE subject tests? That depends on your HSE test prep, as well as your abilities and skills. For most people, the math test is the most difficult. For others, the writing test seems harder.

Almost everyone needs some preparation to be ready for the GED or HiSET. The tests contain some material you may have forgotten. Find out what you need to review and spend some time in a good study program. You can pass every subject!