Earning Your Massachusetts High School Diploma!

Adults in Massachusetts who do not have a high school diploma and wish to earn one may take evening classes, alternative programs or the General Educational Development (GED) exam, a high school equivalency certificate. There is also help available for Massachusetts teens and young adults who completed high school, but did not pass the required Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam.

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Earn a High School Diploma in Massachusetts

Adult and Community Learning Services Programs

The Massachusetts Department of Education (DOE) provides educational assistance to adult students through the Adult Basic Education Program (doe.mass.edu). This program includes adult diploma programs, General Educational Development (GED) testing, as well as English as an Second Language, basic literacy and other educational services for adults. Individual programs are district based.

General information is available on the Adult Basic Education Program page of the DOE website. Program locations include local libraries, public schools, learning centers or community colleges. Contact or visit the website of your local school district for information on available programs, locations and course requirements.

Evening High School

Students looking to obtain a high school diploma from their school district may take evening classes. Program subjects focus on increasing a student's skills in math (including algebra and geometry), English, social studies, science and on preparation for the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), which all students must pass to receive a high school diploma. A fee may be charged, and you may have to register in person. All students must complete the required classes and pass the MCAS exam to obtain their high school diploma.

Adult Diploma Programs

Adults may pursue a high school diploma through the state's Adult Diploma Program (ADP). This program has a flexible schedule that benefits working adults. The program is open to adults age 23 or older, and may be administered at a local high school or learning center. After registration, students take tests to assess their skills and are referred to adult basic education programs, if needed.

Earning a Massachusetts diploma requires demonstrating proficiency in topics such as health, science, history and social science. Candidates must also show competence in a specific area such as parenting, skills training, occupation, academic or community service. Individuals may study through library research, home projects, interviews and performance assessments. Students must also pass the MCAS.

GED Test

The GED test is a four-part exam for adults not enrolled in high school and who do not have a diploma. The test is developed by the American Council on Education (ACE) and measures 12th grade level skills in math, writing, reading, social studies and science (www.acenet.edu). Individuals who pass the exam with a total score of at least 600 and no less than 150 on any one section will earn the Massachusetts State High School Equivalency Diploma.

GED candidates must be Massachusetts residents or have attended their last high school in Massachusetts. You must be at least 18 to take the test. Test takers between ages 16 and 17 may take the GED if they have documentation that shows they have officially withdrawn from high school. Massachusetts requires the four GED sections be completed within a year; if all the tests are taken within that time frame, candidates have an additional two years to years to meet passing requirements, if necessary. The GED test cannot be taken online, but only at an official GED testing center.

Additional information, including finding a test center, fees and special accommodations for persons with disabilities may be found on the GED pages of the Massachusetts DOE website. Test preparation help is available at the Massachusetts Literacy Hotline (getrealmass.info), a referral source for more than 300 adult education programs across the state. Information on the Massachusetts GED tests, test centers as well as GED preparation may be found on the ACE website.


The Massachusetts Department of Education offers various programs for adults seeking to pass the MCAS exams. A list of community colleges that participate in the Academic Support and College Transition Services program is listed on the DOE website. This program offers MCAS courses to individuals who have been out of the 12th grade for at least five years.

The state also offers a Work and Learning Program that consist of local businesses in partnership with schools and community programs to help individuals prepare for work as well as for the MCAS. A list of participating programs is on the DOE website. Some questions from previous MCAS exams are offered as examples on the DOE website to assist individuals who want to study on their own.

Gateway to College Programs

This program is for students who have dropped out of school (or about to drop out) who want to earn their diploma as well as work toward a college certificate or degree. More than 35 colleges in 20 states participate in the Gateway to College Program. Applicants must be between the ages of 16 and 20, live in a Massachusetts school district, complete an application and attend an information session. Students accepted into the program are offered tutoring and help with the MCAS. Information about the Gateway program is available on its website (gatewaytocollege.org).

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