What is on the TABE Test?

Instructor: Jessica Keys
The Test for Adult Basic Education (TABE) is used by many institutions to test students' skills in certain academic subject areas. This article details the topics you'll encounter on the TABE, its different levels and formats, and resources you can use to prepare for test day.

An Introduction to the TABE

If you're an incoming adult student, the TABE might be administered by a college to assess your baseline skills, whether for admission or class placement purposes. Schools might also include this exam among their exit requirements for career training programs or use it as a diagnostic tool to track your progress in adult basic education or GED preparation programs. However, the TABE is not a high school equivalency test.

What Will I See on the TABE?

The material you encounter on your test will depend on what kind of TABE you are taking. Your school will let you know which test version is required, as well as where and when to take it. Content for some of the exams you might be asked to take is outlined below.

TABE 9&10

This is the base exam, which comes in five difficulty levels: Literacy, Easy, Medium, Difficult, and Advanced. Before taking this exam, you may take a pretest (called a Locator) to see which difficulty level is most appropriate for you. The length of this exam will also vary.

You may be asked to take a 100-question Survey version that includes 25 questions per subject and lasts about an hour and a half. This exam covers:

  • Reading: You are given passages to read and asked to answer questions testing your reading comprehension skills as well as your ability to identify the theme or main idea and interpret graphical data.
  • Mathematical Computation: This battery of math problems involves the basic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division). Problems involving decimals, fractions, and percentages appear on more advanced levels of the test.
  • Applied Mathematics: These questions require you to solve problems that involve data analysis, measurement, and estimation. You'll also need to be familiar with probability and patterns as well as geometry, algebra, and spatial reasoning.
  • Language: This section of the exam covers the technical side of English, with questions that require a knowledge of proper grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and word choice.

Alternately, you might have to sit for the Complete Battery, a 3-hour test which consists of 225 questions, including roughly 40-55 questions in each of the sections above in addition to 20 questions in each of the following areas:

  • Language Mechanics: These questions test your familiarity with writing conventions and the mechanics of sentence structure.
  • Vocabulary: The vocabulary section examines your knowledge of words with multiple meanings as well as which ones are appropriate in a given context.
  • Spelling: This section asks you to determine whether or not a certain word is spelled correctly.

TABE Advanced Level

This exam covers more difficult, specialized material. You might be directed to sit for these exams as a means of preparing for a high school equivalency exam (such as the GED). These tests cover science, social studies, algebra, geometry, and writing (two essays) and may be taken separately.


This is an English language proficiency exam. If you're learning English, it could be used to provide a sort of checkpoint as to where you are in your studies and how to best proceed. This exam tests reading, writing, and speaking as well as listening.

How Can I Prepare for the Test?

Whether you're re-entering a classroom for the first time in a while and need a bit of a refresher or are wrapping up your career and technical education program and want to put your best foot forward, has a solution to fit your needs and schedule. Check out this TABE Math: Practice and Study Guide course that covers material from both math sections of the TABE 9&10. You might also want to take a look at these comprehensive, self-paced courses or lessons on:

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