Development of the HiSET® Exam

Designed to meet the needs of adult learners

Adult learners may cover the same content as K–12 students, but they have different needs and greater urgency. They bring a wealth of real-world knowledge to enhance their previous education experiences, with a desire to complete their studies quickly. ETS took this into consideration when creating items for the HiSET® exam and made sure to use real-world situations that adult learners face every day and can easily relate to.

Aligned with current standards

The College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) for adult learners are designed to reinforce the need for critical knowledge and skills that are used on a regular basis in the workplace. It is crucial the exam leading to a high school equivalency credential supports their career objectives and demonstrates they are prepared to enter credit-bearing freshman level courses.

ETS, in partnership with state directors of assessment, understands this and made sure it was central to the HiSET development process. Content experts, test developers and measurement experts conducted a thorough review of the CCRS and the HiSET exam to ensure alignment. ETS consulted panel experts and conducted alignment studies.
The end result was an exam that:

  • is consistent with the emphasis found in high school curricula
  • meets the CCRS for adult education and the Office of Adult Education Standards
  • measures essential components of the CCRS

Committed to Quality

ETS's work didn't stop with the initial development of the exam. Existing items are reviewed yearly by expert analysts to assure that each item is still valid and accurate. New items are added annually. Additionally, the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) College and Career Readiness (CCR) Standards for Adult Education are linked to HiSET scores and will continue to influence future test item development.

The Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing state that assessment validity is "the degree to which accumulated evidence and theory support specific interpretations and inferences of test scores entailed by proposed uses of an [assessment]." At ETS, the accumulation of validity evidence begins with an explicit statement of the proposed uses and inferences, which we make from assessment results. We then develop a sound argument to support the intended inferences and interpretation of results and their relevance and alignment to proposed uses. As states and territories prepare to identify test takers who are eligible to receive the equivalent of a high school diploma, we must first identify the knowledge and skills necessary and then deliberately design research to support these inferences.

The types of evidence and descriptions of research activities needed to confirm the validity of test-based inferences have shaped the development of the HiSET exam. We have developed a comprehensive research agenda that provides stakeholders with the necessary documentation needed to make sound judgments about the HiSET exam's quality.

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