Earning Your Tennessee High School Diploma!

Mar 19, 2018

In Tennessee, if you did not graduate from high school, you have two options for earning a diploma. You can attend a school district's Adult High School program where you complete the credits and requirements for a diploma, or you can take the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET).

Tennessee's Adult High School Program

In Tennessee, if you have completed most of the required 22 credits toward high school graduation, the Adult High School program offers a way to earn your diploma. Tennessee has a network of Adult High School programs and learning centers throughout the state that allow adults, 18 and older, to earn credits and fulfill graduation requirements.

You'll first need to provide your official high school transcript so you can apply any earned high school course credits toward your Adult High School diploma. Specific requirements vary by school district as to the minimum number of credits you must have on your transcript to qualify for the Adult High School Program.

Students typically work at their own pace, with the help of teachers, to complete whatever courses they need to meet graduation requirements. Day and evening programs may be offered, and some Adult High School programs operate throughout the year.

To find an Adult High School, you may have to search through programs offered by individual counties or contact an Adult Education Center. You can search for adult education centers on the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development website.

The High School Equivalency Exam (HiSET)

You can earn a Tennessee High School Equivalency Diploma by passing the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) at one of the official testing centers located throughout the state. Staff at your local adult education center will help you locate a testing site that offers the exam.

Tennessee Requirements for the HiSET

To take the HiSET, you must be 18 or older and not enrolled or required to be enrolled by state law in a public high school. If you are 17, you need a signed age waiver from the Director of Schools. When registering or on test day, you must provide verification you have completed an Official Practice Test (OPT) at an adult education center. On test day, you will need to provide a government-issued photo ID. You do not have to be a resident of Tennessee to take the test.

Passing the Test

To pass the HiSET, you must do all of the following:

  • Earn a combined score of at least 45 on all five subtests (reading, writing, math, science, and social studies);
  • On each of the five subtests, score at least an 8 out of 20;
  • On the essay portion of the writing test, score at least 2 out of 6.

Before taking the HiSET, you must provide verification you have completed an Official Practice Test (OPT) at an adult education center. Success on the practice test indicates you are ready for the HiSET. The practice test is similar to the HiSET but is about half the length of the actual test. The recommended score on the OPT is a minimum combined average of 480, or a minimum of 410 in each individual subject area.

Taking the Test

The test takes 7.5 hours to complete; most people split it up over days or weeks according to their preferences. In Tennessee, you can take either a computer or pencil-and-paper version of the HiSET Exam, but not all centers offer both formats. Questions are multiple choice. The writing subtest includes an 120-minute section with multiple-choice questions and an essay. Accommodations are available for those who qualify and arrangements must be made in advance.

The HiSET costs $15 per subtest for a total of $75. To learn more about the test, visit

Why Get a High School Diploma in Tennessee?

Workers with high school diplomas typically earn more than those without a diploma, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2017, high school graduates working full time earned an average of $718 per week compared to $515 for those without a high school diploma. A high school diploma also opens the door to continuing your education in college or furthering your career.

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