Skip to main content

Last Updated On: March 4th, 2021

CHSPE vs. GED: What’s the Difference?

For individuals in California who wish to receive a certificate of high school equivalency—technically equal to that of a diploma—passing the GED (General Education Diploma) test and the CHSPE (California High School Proficiency Exam) will serve the same function. There are, however, some important differences between the tests. Click here to read more about the services we offer for CHSPE prep.

NOTE: The CHSPE is set to change after June 20, 2020. Read our latest blog on these changes here: Changes Coming to the CHSPE

“Early Graduation”/Legal 18 vs. a Belated Diploma

The GED is available across the country to students who have already dropped out of high school without receiving a diploma. Though some states allow 16-17 year olds to take the test, other states limit it to those eighteen years or older.

The CHSPE, on the other hand, can be taken by any California student sixteen years or older who has been enrolled in tenth grade for at least a year or who will complete tenth grade at the end of the semester in which he/she sits the test. In addition, a student who passes the CHSPE is not required to leave school, he/she simple has the option to. A tenth or eleventh grader who is considering early graduation can sit the exam while remaining in school, then make a decision about withdrawal after receiving the results. In the Los Angeles area, this is especially relevant to those who work in the entertainment industry. A student who passes the test gains “Legal 18” status, meaning he/she is eligible to work longer hours, does not require an on-set tutor, and does not need a California entertainment work permit. This makes teenagers with CHSPE certificates eligible for more roles and auditions, but doesn’t require them to leave school. Keep in mind, however, that it also takes away the legal protections that make it easier for teenagers to work while staying in school.

Test Format

For those eligible for both tests, there are some differences in format and topics covered to consider:

Length 3.5 hours (maximum) About 7.5 hours (no official time limit)
Format Paper: multiple choice plus one persuasive essay Computer: multiple choice, extended response (persuasive essay in response to a short reading passage), short answer, drag-and-drop, drop-down, fill-in-the-blank, hot spot
Topics Covered Reading: Comprehension and Vocabulary

Language: Expression, Mechanics, and Written Expression

Mathematics: Numbers and Operations; Patterns, Relationships, and Algebra; Data, Statistics, and Probability; Geometry and Measurement

Reading Comprehension

Language Arts: Conventions and Usage, Written Expression

Mathematics: Quantitative and Algebraic Problem Solving

Social Studies: Civics and government, United States history, Economics, Geography and the world

Science: Life, Physical, and Earth and Space

Cost $130, must pay full fee for retakes, even if just retaking one section $140 for the full test, or $35 per module/subject, with reduced retake fees
Test dates and locations Generally hosted in March, July, and October

At test centers (mostly schools) across California

Tests scheduled at one’s convenience at test centers (mostly schools) across California


While the CHSPE is a shorter test and includes fewer subjects, the GED offers more scheduling options. In addition, the GED is used across the country while the CHSPE is only offered to California residents. This means that someone who passed one or more sections of the test in a different state can complete their GED in California by taking only those sections he/she didn’t pass, instead of starting over with the CHSPE.

Availability of Preparation Materials and Programs

While there are a few CHSPE preparation books available (and LA Tutors has developed its own CHSPE curriculum), resources are limited. The only free, official materials are a limited number of sample questions on the CHSPE website. Because the GED has been around longer and is used by more states, there are many more preparation materials available for it. In addition, the GED website offers a free online preparation program and practice test to help students determine if they’re ready for the real test.


Officially, both the CHSPE and GED are given the same weight as a high school diploma. Students who wish to go on to college or trade school, however, may also have to meet prerequisite requirements. Though the CHSPE doesn’t have a social studies or science section, certificate holders may have to demonstrate their understanding in these subjects through their high school coursework or by passing a school placement test or other exam(s).

In addition, many employers and educational institutions value a high school diploma based on coursework more highly than an equivalency certificate earned from passing an exam. While both show a level of academic proficiency, a traditional diploma provides more evidence of “soft skills,” such as turning in required assignments and attending class regularly. While leaving school and earning an equivalency certificate may be a good option for some students, those who have a choice should think carefully before making the decision to drop out.

About LA Tutors 123

LA Tutors 123 is a premier in-person and online private tutoring company based in Beverly Hills, CA. If you have specific questions or want a personalized plan, reach out to us here. We’re happy to help in any way we can.

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • I like the idea of being able to take a practice test online to get ready for the real one. It would help you get used to the question format on the test. You could also get experience for what they might be asking you.

  • Neal Hicks says:

    Feels strange that the CA HSPE doesn’t test for science, I think of CA as being a tech-heavy State.

  • Gail S says:

    I took the CHSPE in 1981, at the recommendation of my So Cal HS counselor. I had finished 10 grade, but was no longer engaged and my attendance was suffering. I passed the exam and immediately enrolled in community college. From there I transferred to complete my BS and then a graduate degree. This was the right path for me. I am grateful to the HS counselor and my parents for guiding me in this direction. Community College suited me much better than HS.

Leave a Reply