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Last Updated On: January 16th, 2024

After much anticipation, the California Department of Education has finally released information about how students can get a California Certificate of Proficiency, which holds the same weight as a high school diploma, by taking the HiSET exam. This is one of two tests that will replace the CHSPE. The HiSET exam has been around for some time, but there are some important differences between the requirements for adults wishing to obtain a High School Equivalency Certificate and students who go through the California Proficiency Program.

Who is eligible for the California Proficiency Program (CPP)?

The CPP program is available for students who are:

  • Currently enrolled in their second semester of 10th grade. Advanced or homeschool students who have completed tenth grade level coursework might also qualify.
  • Have been enrolled in 10th grade for one academic year or longer OR
  • Are 16 years of age.

There is no residency requirement for the CPP.

Which sections of the HiSET do students need to take, and what is the passing score?

The CPP includes subtests for Reading, Mathematics, and Writing, including an essay. It does not include the Social Studies or Science subtests. The passing scores, however, are higher than those of the High School Equivalency Program. To achieve a passing score, a test taker must:

  • Score at least 15 out of 20 on each of three subtests
  • Score at least 4 out of 6 on the essay for the Writing subtest
  • Achieve a total scaled score on all three HiSET subtests of at least 45 out of 60

Since the passing scores for the High School Equivalency Program are 8 out of 20 for each subtest, the CPP requires a significantly better performance.

When is the test offered, and how can students register?

The HiSET offers flexible options and scheduling. It can be taken on paper or on the computer at a test center, or through online test-at-home proctoring. Each option costs $65 per section. Scheduling is based on availability of proctors and test center spots, so it’s helpful to register early.

Students who don’t pass all three subtests on the first try can retake only those subtests they still need to pass at a cost of $14 per subtest at the test center or $17.50 per subtest with the home proctor. Students are allowed to take the test three times per calendar year, so those who don’t pass a subtest on the first try should make sure they’re well prepared before trying again.

What about the GED?

The CPP has also named the GED Reading, Mathematics, and Writing subtests as another method of obtaining a Certificate of Proficiency, but it has not released specific details or registration instructions yet. The GED is similar to the HiSET, so students who have been preparing for the GED can either wait for more details (a good choice for those who know they’re not ready to take the test yet) or pivot to the HiSET (a good choice for students who are ready to take the test right now).

Here is a summary of the differences between the HiSET California High School Equivalency Program and the California Certificate of Proficiency:

High School Equivalency Certificate of Proficiency
Eligibility 18 years old, within 60 days of your 18th birthday, or 17 years old and haven’t been to school for at least 60 days 16 years old, completed 10th grade coursework, or enrolled in second semester of 10th grade
High School Enrollment Status Not currently enrolled in school, did not receive diploma Can be currently enrolled in school and can stay enrolled
Required Subtests Full test: Reading, Mathematics, Writing (with essay), Social Studies, Science Three subtests: Reading, Mathematics, Writing (with essay)
Passing Score At least 8 out of 20 on each subtest
At least 2 out of 6 on the essay
A total scaled score of 45 out of 100 on all five subtests
At least 15 out of 20 on each subtest
At least 4 out of 6 on the essay
A total scaled score of 45 out of 100 on the three subtests
California Residency Required (several other states also offer the HiSET) Not required

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