HiSET vs. GED: What's the Difference?


Comparing the HiSET and GED

The High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) and the General Educational Development (GED) exams are used to evaluate the knowledge of individuals who are seeking a high school equivalency diploma. Understanding the distinctions between the HiSET and GED can help you determine which option is best for you.

Where Tests Are Offered

The HiSET can be taken in the following states:

California Colorado Hawaii Illinois
Iowa Louisiana Maine Massachusetts
Michigan Mississippi Missouri Montana
Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico
North Carolina Ohio Oklahoma Pennsylvania
Tennessee Texas Wyoming

All states offer the GED exams.

Test Content

The HiSET and GED both test individuals on their knowledge of math, science, social studies and language arts. However, the HiSET has 5 subtests (one each for reading and writing), while the GED uses 4 subtests.

Social Studies

HiSET: The 70-minute HiSET social studies test covers history and political science. An individual's knowledge of such subjects as economics, sociology and psychology is also measured through multiple-choice questions.

GED: Like the HiSET social studies test, the GED social studies test is 70 minutes long. The GED social studies exam evaluates an individual's knowledge of civics and government. Other subject areas individuals are tested on include U.S. history and geography.


HiSET: This test determines how well test-takers understand scientific principles and measures their ability to use a scientific approach to problem-solving. Examinees' knowledge of science content areas is also assessed. This test takes 80 minutes.

GED: The GED science test takes 90 minutes to complete. Much of the test focuses on determining how well individuals understand life science, although the test also covers physical science and earth and space science.


HiSET: The HiSET mathematics test takes 90 minutes and uses multiple-choice questions to determine how well test-takers understand mathematics concepts. Individuals are expected to solve problems involving measurement, estimation, arithmetic and algebra. They must also be able to interpret data.

GED: At 115 minutes long, the GED mathematics test is just short of 2 hours. The two main parts of the test focus on quantitative and algebraic problem solving.

Language Arts

HiSET Language Arts - Reading: This tests takes 65 minutes and uses multiple-choice questions to evaluate test-takers' ability to understand information presented in written form.

HiSET Language Arts - Writing: An examinee's ability to correct text and write a well-organized essay is assessed with this 120-minute test. It includes both multiple-choice questions and an essay prompt.

GED Reasoning Through Language Arts: The GED reasoning through language arts test takes 2.5 hours to complete. This test is used to assess both the reading and writing skills of test-takers. There are also tasks designed to determine if examinees know how to correct writing errors.

Test Costs

HiSET: The Educational Testing Service administers the HiSET and charges a $10 fee per subtest. Additional state fees can vary. For example, California allows testing centers to set their own test prices. In New Mexico, individual tests are $15, but discounts are offered if a student takes all the tests at the same time

GED: The GED Testing Service fee is $20, and many states charge $30 per GED test for a total testing cost of $120. There are some states that charge different amounts; for example, New Mexico only charges $20 per test. It is important to check the fees for your state.

Test Formats

HiSET: Individuals taking the HiSET tests can choose between taking the test on computer or taking a paper version of the test.

GED: The GED tests are offered on computers.

Passing Scores

HiSET: Each state sets its own passing scores for the HiSET. In general, you must achieve a score of no less than 8 on each of the HiSET tests. You are also required to have a total combined score of no less than 45. The minimum accepted score on the writing test's essay section is 2 out of a possible 6 points.

GED: Passing the GED requires a score of 145 on each subject test. It is possible to earn a diploma with a College Ready designation with a score of 165 or more. By scoring 175 or more you will receive a College Ready + Credit designation on your diploma.

Retake Policies

HiSET: Individuals are limited to 3 attempts on the HiSET tests each calendar year.

GED: Examinees can take GED tests as many times as they need over the course of the year. A discounted rate on the first two retakes of a test is available. Most states do not impose a waiting period for the first two retakes, either. If an individual needs to take the test a fourth time, then s/he must wait 60 days and pay the full test cost again.

Testing Requirements

Each state sets its own residency and age requirements for the HiSET and GED exams. You need to check your state's specific HiSET (hiset.ets.org) and GED (www.gedtestingservice.com) test policies.

Study Materials

When preparing for your HiSET or GED tests you can take advantage of the study materials available through these links:

What Does GED Stand For?

GED stands for the General Educational Development tests. These exams are taken by individuals who did not earn a high school diploma and cover four main subject areas. The successful completion of these tests provides the same benefits as graduating high school. Read on to learn more.

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