How Hard Is the TASC High School Equivalency Test?

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Many people say the TASC (Test Assessing Secondary Completion) is the hardest of all of the high school equivalency exams but is that true? Let's compare the TASC with the GED (General Educational Development) test, which is still offered by the majority of states.

As with the new GED and the HiSET, content for the TASC test is aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Compared to the old GED, prior to 2014, the TASC is noticeably harder because the Common Core State Standards now require a higher level of academic achievement.

The passing standard for TASC is based on a national sample of recent high school graduates. The performance of students who pass all areas of the TASC is comparable to the 60th percentile (top 60%) of recent high school students. In fact, all three high school equivalency exams are designed to yield similar passing rates.

So, does this mean the TASC and the GED are equal in terms of their level of difficulty? Surprisingly, the answer is no. It all depends on your strengths and weaknesses.

The GED math section allows you to use a calculator for all questions except the first five. By comparison, only half of the TASC math section allows a calculator. Overall, the TASC test has more questions that require specific content knowledge. In comparison, the GED requires content knowledge only at a definition level but has more interdisciplinary questions.

Let’s compare the two tests with an example.

Here is a TASC science question:

Potassium chlorate (KCIO3) is a crystalline solid that can undergo thermal decomposition to form solid potassium chloride (KCI) and gaseous oxygen (O2) when heat is added. The chemical equation for this reaction is shown.

2 KCIO3 + heat à 2 KCI + 3 O2

The table lists the molar masses of the elements involved in this reaction

Element

Symbol

Molar Mass (grams/mole)

Potassium

K

39.10

Chlorine

CI

35.45

Oxygen

O

16.00

 

If 5.00 grams of KCIO3 (0.0408 moles) undergoes decomposition to produce 3.04 grams of KCI, which equation shows the predicted amount of oxygen that will be produced?

Answer: 0.0408moles X 3moles/2moles X 32.00grams/mole =1.95 grams

Note that this question requires you to have an in-depth knowledge of chemical compounds, units, and chemical reactions. Compare this with a science question from the GED:

Researchers collected data to determine volumetric bone density for four samples. The data are recorded in the table below.

Bone Density Data

Sample

Mass of Sample (g)

Volume of Sample (cm3)

1

6.8

22.6

2

1.7

5.4

3

3.6

11.3

4

5.2

17.4

 

Density (g/cm3) = Mass (g) / Volume (cm3)

What is the average bone density for the data samples provided?

Answer: 0.31g/cm3

Notice that this question doesn’t require you to have knowledge about bone density or even the density formula (as it is provided). On the other hand, it requires you to have knowledge of statistics and perform a math operation by calculating the average.

Both examples were on the difficult side of the TASC and GED. To get a feel of the actual TASC test, try the official practice tests at http://www.tasctest.com/practice-items-for-test-takers.html.

Depending on how much high school class instruction you missed, you might feel that the TASC is harder than the GED. But there are ways to compensate for this in the way you study for the test.

Study Smart

You may feel overwhelmed to learn that the TASC asks specific content knowledge. After all, it takes four years to learn everything that’s taught in high school.

The test makers are aware of this challenge, so they provide a detailed list of what’s going to be on the test. They also group what’s on the test into three different categories based on how important the topics are.

Here is a list of topics found in the High Emphasis Category in the five subject areas covered by the TASC. You can find the complete list including Medium and Low Emphasis Categories from www.tasctest.com (look for Fact Sheets)

Reading

  • Cite evidence to support analysis of what the text explicitly says as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • Determine the central idea of the text and analyze its development from beginning to end.
  • Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development from beginning to end.
  • Analyze how the author develops an analysis or series of ideas or events.
  • Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.

Mathematics

  • Algebra: Arithmetic with Polynomials and Rational Expressions
  • Algebra: Reasoning with Equations and Inequalities
  • Algebra: Creating Equations
  • Algebra: Seeing Structure in Expressions
  • Functions: Interpreting Functions
  • Functions: Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models
  • Geometry: Geometric Measurement with Dimension
  • Geometry: Modeling with Geometry
  • Number and Quantity: The Real Number System

Science - Life Science

  • From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
  • Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
  • Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits
  • Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

Science - Earth and Space Sciences

  • Earth’s Place in the Universe
  • Earth’s Systems
  • Earth and Human Activity

Social Studies - U.S. History

  • Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
  • Post-World War II United States (1945-1970s)

Social Studies - Civics and Government

  • U.S. Constitution: Embodies the Purpose, Values, and Principles of American Democracy
  • Civic Life, Politics, and Government
  • Foundations of the American Political System

Social Studies - Economics

  • Government and Economics
  • Microeconomics

Writing

  • Demonstrate a command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
  • Understand how language functions in different contexts by making effective choices in meaning and style while reading and listening for more full comprehension.

General Rules for the TASC Test

  • The minimum passing score is 500 for each subject on a scale of 300 to 800.
  • The writing test has 50 multiple choice questions and an essay.
  • The essay is scored separately from the rest of the writing section. You need to score at least 500 in the multiple choice AND 2 out of 8 on the essay to pass the writing test.
  • You can’t pass the test if you fail any one subject.
  • Starting sometime in 2015, you will also receive a second score called the Career and College Readiness score. A student who passes the CCR could expect to earn a C or better in freshmen level college courses.
  • The test is taken either on a computer or on paper.
  • A Mathematics Reference Sheet (http://ctbassessments.com/pdfs/TASCTest_MathRefSheet.pdf) is provided for the Math test.
  • An on-screen or handheld calculator is provided for the science and part of the math tests.
  • There is no penalty for a wrong answer.