Earning Your Massachusetts High School Diploma!

Jun 02, 2020

Earn a High School Diploma in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Department of Education, or DOE, provides educational assistance to adult students through the Adult Basic Education Program. This program includes Adult Diploma Programs (ADP), General Educational Development (GED), or HiSET testing, as well as English as a Second Language, basic literacy and other educational services for adults. Individual programs are district-based. Program locations include local libraries, public schools, learning centers or community colleges.

High School Diploma Eligibility and Requirements

Students who wish to earn their high school diploma via equivalency testing may now take either the GED or HiSET exam. Tests are available in either English or Spanish. The HiSET exam is available either computer or paper-based, while the GED is available only via computer.

High school diploma equivalency test candidates must be 16 years of age or older and a Massachusetts resident living at a Massachusetts address. Those between the ages of 16 and 17 must have a Letter of Withdrawal from the last school attended. That letter must be approved by the Massachusetts High School Equivalency Office before a student may schedule an assessment exam.

Proper updated identification is required at each test session. Approved identification includes a valid passport, driver's license from any state or state-issued, national or military ID card.

Passing the Equivalency Testing

To pass the GED, individuals must score at least 580 total for the four sections and no less than 145 on any one section. If a student scores below what is needed to pass, the test may be retaken as often as necessary. After the third retake, there is a 60-day waiting period. To pass the HiSET, individuals must score at least 45 total for the five sections and no less than 8 on any one section.

GED and HiSET Tests

The GED test is a four-part exam just over seven hours long. The HiSET test is a five-part exam also just over seven hours long. Each exam tests skills in language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. Massachusetts does not require all sections of the equivalency exam be completed within a specific time frame. Scores are valid at least through December 31, 2020. Neither the GED or HiSET exams need to be taken all at once. Testing may only occur at an official testing center.

Special accommodations may be made for persons with disabilities and are considered on a case-by-case basis. Requirements vary depending on which test is taken. Test preparation help is available at the Massachusetts Literacy Hotline, a referral source for adult education programs across the state.

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 preparation for the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, or 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. This program includes classes and academic tasks so students can earn a diploma from an accredited institution. The ADP program may be administered at a local high school or learning center. The school district that offers the program may have additional eligibility requirements. 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.


The Adult Diploma Programs also offer help for adults seeking to pass the MCAS exams. The state's Work and Learning Program consists of local businesses in partnership with schools and community programs to help individuals prepare for work as well as 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. The Massachusetts Department of Education provides MCAS support via the MCAS Resource Center. This website hosts training, practice tests, information and other resources to help pass the MCAS.

Gateway to College Programs

This program is for students who have dropped out of school, are about to drop out, want to earn a diploma, or work toward a college certificate or degree. There are 33 colleges in 19 states that participate in the Gateway to College Program. Applicants must be between the ages of 16 and 21, 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 at gatewaytocollege.org.

Why Get Your High School Diploma in Massachusetts?

Your chances of obtaining employment improve greatly if you have a high school diploma. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2019, the unemployment rate for high school graduates was 3.7 percent nationwide, compared to a 5.4 percent unemployment rate for those who had less than a high school diploma. Therefore, getting a high school diploma is significant to finding work. In the 2018-2019 Massachusetts school year, 79.7 percent of students with a high school diploma attended a college or university.

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