Is the High School Equivalency Test the Same as the GED?

high school equivalency test

If a traditional high school wasn’t right for you, earning your high school equivalency or GED may be a great alternative. But is the High School Equivalency Test (HSET) the same as the GED? Not quite. Although both tests measure academic skill and ability, the two tests are very different. Keep reading to discover which test best fits your future educational needs.

High School Equivalency Test and GED: same or not?

Both the GED and HSET are an alternative to a high school diploma. These tests provide an opportunity for you to demonstrate academic skills and content knowledge based on current high school standards. They are used to predict college and career readiness.

Test Content

No matter which test you decide to take, similar educational content is found on either the GED or HSET. Both tests ask you to read passages, then evaluate, synthesize and analyze information.
The GED covers four content areas: math, reading/writing, social studies and science. Exam questions focus on application of concepts, analyzing charts and critical thinking. GED tests are extensive. All four subject tests take around 7.5 hours to complete.
HSETs also cover the curriculum students would typically learn in a four-year high school program. Equivalency tests measure abilities in reading, writing, math, science and social studies. HSET subject tests take around 7 hours to complete. Like the GED, you can take your HSET individual subject tests all in one day, or spread them out over time.

Testing Availability

The GED is a national test. This means you take the same version of the test regardless of which state you live in. Each state may impose their own eligibility requirements, but the test they offer remains consistent between states. Currently, 82% of states offer the GED.
Unlike the GED, HSETs vary depending on where you live. The same content areas are covered, but the test itself can look very different. Also, only 10% of states offer the HSET. These two factors make a huge impact on the availability of study materials and testing support. Resources are obtainable for HSET, but they are minimal compared to those offered for the GED.

Testing Requirements

GED age restrictions and requirements vary by state. Most states require candidates to be at least 18 years old before taking the GED exam (although in some states, the minimum age is 16). Visit GED Testing Service to find up-to-date information on requirements for your individual state.
HSET also has age restrictions. Most states require you to be 18 years or older, but many states provide exceptions for 16-17 year old test-takers. There is no national database for HSET information, so please research your individual state online for testing restrictions and requirements.
Both tests require you to

  • Have a government issued photo ID (think driver’s license or state ID)
  • Not be enrolled in an accredited high school
  • Not be a high school graduate from an accredited high school

Future plans

Many employers and college admission offices are familiar with GED diplomas. The GED program has been around for over 40 years, and is well established in the educational community. If you are ready to return to school to pursue a college education, the GED is a better option than the HSET. It is more widely accepted across the United States because it is a national test.
HSET is not nearly as prevalent in educational circles. Because the HSET is still uncommon, college admissions and future employers are not as well-informed about this type of high school equivalency. If you plan on attending a local technical school or 2-year degree program, the HSET is a good choice for you.
Remember that both tests prove academic knowledge and proficiency. Demonstrating your academic skill and capability is the most important step towards a change in your educational future!