For students who have decided that a traditional high school setting is not for them, a test to obtain equivalency to a diploma may be the answer. The General Educational Development test, or GED, and the High School Equivalency test, or HSE, both measure a student's ability to do high school level work. However, the two tests measure different levels of ability, and they have different strengths and weaknesses.

The General Educational Development Test

According to the GED Testing Service, the GED began in the early 1940s as a way to help veterans returning from World War II complete their high school educations so that they might attend college. The test became available gradually to non-military students in the late 1940s. Currently, the GED test measures five content areas: reading, writing. mathematics, social studies and science. The GED test is undergoing revision, and a new version will debut January of 2014. Students will only be allowed to take the 2014 test on the computer. In addition, the GED test will be four sections, rather than five, but the sections will be more challenging, focusing more on analysis and synthesis of information, rather than identifying and understanding information. The 2002 test and the 2014 test require roughly the same amount of time to complete.

The High School Equivalency Test

While the GED test is a test offered on the national level, high school equivalency tests are offered by some, but not all, individual states. While the tests vary from state to state, there are some commonalities among the states. First, nearly all states require that the student be at least 16 years old before taking the high school equivalency test. Second, the equivalency tests always have an English, language arts, and reading section and a mathematics section. These cover curriculum a student would normally learn in a four-year high school. Third, some states require that the student continue to attend school while registered to take the equivalency test and will only allow the student to "exit" once the test has been passed. Each state has a score cutoff for proficiency. Fourth, many states will not allow a student to take the high school equivalency test once the student turns 18. Most states refer the student to the GED test instead.

Similarities and Differences between the Two Tests

There are many similarities and differences between the GED test and the HSE tests. First, the GED is a test that can be taken in any state because it is a nationwide exam. The HSE tests vary from state to state, and some states do not offer an equivalency exam. Second, both tests measure language arts, reading and mathematics skills. The GED also measures knowledge in social studies and science. Currently the GED can be taken on paper or a computer, but that will change in January of 2014. Nearly all of the HSE tests are now taken on the computer. The GED test requires that a student be 18 years old or that the student has been a dropout for six months or longer. The HSE tests students who are usually still in school and are 16 to 17 years of age.

Which Test Is Better?

There is no easy answer to the question of which test is better, the GED test or the HSE test. Students who plan on attending a local technical school, and are 16 to17 years old, may choose to take the HSE test. However, students who are adults that need to get ready to return to school, and need scholarship or grant money, may want to take the GED. In many cases, the GED is more expensive than the HSE, but there are also waivers for expenses for both tests. In the end, students will need to weigh the options and make the best choice for themselves.

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