HiSET Exam: Tips And Tricks For Doing Your Best
Before preparing for any exam, you need to first look at three things: 1) the actual testing date; 2) the amount of time that you have to prepare for it; and 3) the knowledge and comprehension gaps that need to be filled in order to ensure a good outcome. Obviously the further away from the testing date that you are, the more time you’ll have to prepare. But time is not necessarily an indicator of quality. If you’re not employing the appropriate tips and strategies to HiSET, then a year of prep probably isn’t enough time. As ETS, the creators of the test, note, your success rate also depends on your studying preferences. When I taught high school, this was about the time some smart aleck would throw a zinger at me: “I prefer not to study at all.”
While that could elicit chuckles from the rest of the class — depending on how the young man (usually it was a boy) delivered it — it certainly didn’t do him any favors on test day. And with less people taking high school equivalency exams and more people failing it, it’s probably a good idea to get in tune with your study preferences. While the HiSET and GED and TASC are all different exams, they all have one thing in common — they test the taker rigorously on areas of reading, writing, math, science, and reasoning, built around the Common Core standards. Of the three, whichever you find to be the most difficult will probably depend on your personal viewpoint, but for what it’s worth, there have been some Ivy League graduates, who failed the new GED, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’ll “wing it.”
To help you do so, we’ve put together this treasury of tips, knowledge, and practices from the team at ETS. Here’s what they recommend.
Preliminary Information on HiSET
Before confronting a test, it’s best to start by getting familiar with what you might call the testing metadata. In other words, ETS notes, the data would include:
- what to expect during the overall process, including how to create an account, schedule appointments and get your scores
- if the subtest you are taking has multiple-choice questions, essay questions or both
- how many questions are on the subtest
- what topics the subtest covers
- the amount of time you get for each subtest
Basic HiSET Prepping Tips
We mentioned above that the test is built around Common Core standards for math, science, reading, and writing. Unfortunately for you, it’s not a simple database of knowledge that you can memorize and regurgitate. While there is some knowledge acquisition involved, you also have to be able to understand key concepts and comprehend complex problems that can’t be summed up the way you can with a simple 2+2=4.
Your best starting point is to learn what the test covers intimately. That means taking HiSET prep courses, reviewing the in-depth training materials on your own, and actually putting yourself through a battery of practice tests in an environment similar to the one you’ll experience on test day. As far as what training materials are available, ETS has an official guide for around $15 on Amazon. You may want to start here or look at some of the better-reviewed books at this link.
If you’re concerned with whether a testing guide will touch all the bases that need to be touched, I have found that print testing guides are often similar and the overall “quality” of the publication depends more on the amount of involvement that you have with it. In other words, some people tend to trash a guide because it didn’t get them a passing score. I would suggest putting everything you have into the prepping process. You may find a poorly reviewed guide to be a bit smarter than its customers are saying.
Testing guides, if nothing else, are great because they give you the opportunity to “see” what the test will look like and to actually answer questions similar to those that you’ll come across on test day. If you find yourself doing some head-scratching at this point, make note over the materials that are giving you trouble, and let that be your focus for the days/weeks/months to come before showtime.
This means being honest with yourself about your strengths as well as weaknesses. Don’t be too much of a completist where you waste time on knowledge and concepts that you understand, but be unflinchingly honest with yourself if you don’t know something.
From there, plan and organize your time, so you can sidestep the “cramming” stage that almost never works on these types of exams.
To close, here are some helpful test-taking strategies as shared by the folks at ETS.
Focus heavily on multiple-choice questions, since each subtest has them.
“When taking the computer-delivered HiSET exam, you can skip questions and come back to them using the ‘mark and review’ feature,” ETS notes, adding that the feature also “lets you view a complete list of all the questions in the section; indicates whether you’ve answered each question; identifies the questions you’ve marked for review; and lets you review questions you already answered and change your answers” before finishing.
Math allows you to employ a little technology. For the paper-based exam, a handheld calculator is available, and “an on-screen calculator is available for the computer-delivered test.”
The language arts portion of the HiSET is where you’ll find the test’s lone essay question. As we’ve discussed in the past, you want to utilize the three-step Plan/Draft/Review tip for writing a well-thought-out essay in the allotted amount of time. That means planning what you’re going to say before you say it; saying it; and using your remaining time to check your work. “While you work on your essay, remember to budget your time,” ETS adds. “Within the time limit, you need to allow yourself enough time to think about the question, plan a response and write your essay. Save a few minutes at the end of the essay portion of your exam to check for obvious errors. Although an occasional typographical, spelling or grammatical error will not affect your score, severe and persistent errors will detract from the overall effectiveness of your writing and lower your score.”
Have you taken the HiSET, or do you plan to in the near future? What are some of the areas that have you the most concerned? Share in our comments section, and we’ll do a follow-up to address those areas as best we can. Also, don’t forget to take our practice HiSET for free, which you can find by clicking here. Good luck!