Official Overview of the ETS® High School Equivalency Test



On-screen: [Official Overview of the ETS® High School Equivalency Test. ETS® HiSET®]

Welcome to this official overview of the ETS® High School Equivalency Test – or 'Hi-Set'. You have taken a big step by deciding to take the ETS® HiSET® test. We are dedicated to working with you to make this process as easy and anxiety free as possible. In this video we will show you what to expect when taking the HiSET® test, whether you take it on paper or on computer. We are going to explain what the test covers, give you some sample questions, show you the test-taker friendly design and guide you to additional resources to help you prepare. By the end of this video, you'll know what to expect on test day and be on your way to achieving your high school equivalency diploma — and opening a whole new world of opportunity.

On-screen: [We will explain: What the HiSET® exam covers; Sample questions; Test taker friendly design; Additional resources for preparation.]

On-screen: [HiSET® exam is more accessible and affordable; HiSET® exam available on paper and computer; Free practice tests and low-cost practice tools.]

The HiSET® program strives to make taking your high school equivalency test more accessible and affordable. We provide options to take the test on paper or computer, or a combination of both, however you feel most comfortable. We want to support you every step of the way, starting with free practice exams and other low- cost practice tools so you can be well prepared on test day. We'll talk more about that in a moment First, let's get started with a look at the overall structure of the HiSET® test.

The HiSET® test will demonstrate that you have attained academic knowledge and proficiency equivalent to that of a high school graduate. The test covers five subject areas: Reading, Writing, Math, Science and Social Studies. Each of these subjects is taken in separate "subtests" that range from 50 minutes to 2 hours in length. We will get into more detail on each of the subtests in a minute.

You will need to register in advance to take the HiSET® test. Just go to and set up a My HiSET® account. We'll talk more about at the end of this video. You may schedule the subtests in any order you would like. And you can schedule tests at your own pace, giving you the time you need to prepare for each subject. You can take one test a day, or more than one, depending on your individual preference. Your test center administrators can advise you on the best plan to fit your needs.

On the day of the test, you should report to your testing center at least 15 minutes prior to your appointment time so you can check in and familiarize yourself with the facility. Here's a helpful hint: Wear a couple layers of clothing so you can adjust to the varying temperatures in the testing facilities. And remember to use the restroom before you sit down for the test. While all of us need to take a break sometimes, you will not have scheduled breaks during the HiSET® exam, except for one between the two sections of the Writing test. The wisest strategy is to take any necessary breaks before your appointment time.

Now, let's take a closer look at each of the subtests. I mentioned before that the HiSET® exam covers five subject areas: Reading, Writing, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies. Let's talk about what to expect on each of these subtests.

The Reading test will ask you to demonstrate your ability to understand, interpret and analyze a variety of reading materials. You will have 65 minutes to complete 40 multiple-choice questions. The test presents reading selections from many different sources in the form of memoirs, essays, biographical sketches, editorials, or poetry. After reading a selection you will be asked one or more questions about what you have read.

The Writing test will be in two parts. Part 1 contains multiple-choice questions, and you will have 75 minutes to answer 50 questions. Part 1 of the test measures your ability to edit and revise written text. Part 2 is the essay section, and you will have 45 minutes to complete an essay. Part 2 of the test measures your ability to generate and organize ideas in writing.

On-screen: [There are no breaks during the writing test. It is 120 minutes in duration. As of 2016, candidates can go back and for the between the essay and multiple choice sections of the writing test.]

The Mathematics test will assess your ability to solve quantitative problems using fundamental concepts such as numerical operations, measurement and logical thinking. You will have 90 minutes to complete 50 multiple-choice questions. If you are taking the test on paper, the test center will supply a calculator. If you are taking the math test on computer, there is an on-screen calculator. More about that later.

The Science test will measure your ability to interpret and evaluate scientific information. You will have 80 minutes to complete the 50 multiple-choice questions in the Science subtest.

Lastly, the Social Studies test assesses your ability to analyze and evaluate various kinds of social studies information such as distinguishing statements of fact from opinion. You will have 70 minutes to complete 50 multiple-choice questions.

Now that you have a better feel for each of the five subtests, let's take a look at a few sample questions.

Some reading questions require you to read a passage carefully to answer one or more questions. All of the information you need is right there in the passage. So in this example, you don't need to know anything about insects or biology to answer the question.

As I mentioned before, the Writing subtest has two parts. This multiple-choice question from Part 1 asks you to improve the writing by selecting the best choice to replace the indicated words — or if it would be better to leave it unchanged.

Part 2 of the Writing subtest is an essay question to test your writing skills. This example asks you to write a persuasive essay for a newsletter to encourage people to exercise. What counts most is your ability to develop a main idea with supporting information, clear organization, and effective and correct use of language.

Math questions often include charts, tables, or graphics. This question presents a diagram of a swimming pool that a city is planning to build. To answer this question about swim lanes, you need to refer to the diagram as well as information included with the question to make the correct choice.

Those are just a few examples. You can review the test in more detail and take practice exams by visiting us online at — where you'll find more detailed information about each test subject and FREE test prep tools.

Okay, so we've given you an idea of the kinds and number of questions on the    HiSET® exam and how long each subtest lasts. Now we are going to shift our focus to the computer-based test.

As I mentioned at the start of this video, you can take the HiSET® exam using a traditional paper-and-pencil version. I am sure you are familiar with test books and answer sheets with the bubbles you fill in. You can also take the HiSET® exam on a computer. We realize that taking a test on a computer might sound a little scary, especially if you've never taken a computerized test before. So we'll focus the rest of this video on the computer- based test, so you can be confident and familiar with what you'll have to do on the day of the exam.

The HiSET® computer based exam has a test-taker friendly design. It gives you a lot of flexibility and includes tools to help you do your best. For example, the Mathematics subtest includes an on-screen calculator that you can access at any time during the test. The calculator contains all the basic functions you'll need for the kinds of questions the test contains. Here's an important tip: Don't feel that you need to use the calculator just because it is there. Most questions do not involve complex computations, and some questions can be handled simply by reason and estimation. So read the entire question before turning to the calculator. And use it only when you need help with more difficult computations.

For the essay part of the Writing Subtest, you'll be typing your response on a keyboard using word processing software developed specifically for the test. It includes the basic operations you would expect: you're able to insert text…delete…cut-and-paste…and undo the previous action. There's no spell-checker or grammar-checker…but don't worry: Occasional spelling or grammar errors won't affect your final score.

If you are taking the Spanish version of the test, there will be a special toolbar available in the essay subtest so that you can insert Spanish language characters. You'll just need to mouse over the character you want to insert and click on it to include the character in your essay.

Throughout all five subtests, there are features that let you use your own personal test-taking strategies.  You can edit or change answers within a timed section. You can mark questions that you want to temporarily skip — then return to them later. Basically, you can navigate around a subtest as long as you are within the allotted time. The design is clear and simple — with buttons that enable you to move forward to the next question and back to the previous one. You may also mark a question you want to return to later. There is a "Help" button — and a timer telling you how much time is left in the section. If you would rather not know how much time you have left, just click the "Hide Time" button. In the last five minutes of the section, the clock will automatically reappear for your convenience. 

One extremely useful button is labeled "Review."  Clicking this button gives you the status of all the questions in that section — those you've answered…those you haven't…the ones you marked…and any questions that you haven't looked at yet. So here's a really important test-taking tip: Use the "Mark" and "Review" tools to keep track of questions you want to revisit within a section, or identify questions you may have skipped altogether. Be sure to budget your time so you can give the review screen an added check before completing the section.

There are other general strategies that will help you do your best on the HiSET® exams. First of all, be prepared — access and use the FREE official test prep materials from ETS® on our website at

When you finish your test on the computer you'll see a screen that looks something like this, showing your unofficial subtest score…Your essay score will be available about two weeks after you take the test.

After test day, you can sign on to your My HiSET® account — this is the account you set up online when you registered to take the test — and see the scores for each of the subtests you have taken thus far as well as a cumulative transcript. You may print out your transcript to send to employers or colleges.

We hope this brief overview of the HiSET® program has been a valuable step on your road to a successful test experience. We also have many other helpful resources you will want to explore, starting with our website, As I mentioned earlier — you can access free test prep there. You can also purchase additional test prep material — and of course, you can register to take the test!

Remember — the entire HiSET® team is rooting for you to do your very best on the HiSET® test. Thanks for joining me today, and good luck to you!

On-screen: [More than a test. A beginning. ETS® HiSET®]

End of Official Overview of the ETS® High School Equivalency Test Video.

Video duration: 10:44