Taking the High School Equivalency Exam
Berkeley Parents Network >
School & Preschool >
Taking the High School Equivalency Exam
Editor Note: There are two different exams that can be taken in lieu of high school graduation:
Does anyone have a referral for a tutor/test prep for the CHSPE? My son is in
High School and there is a possibility he will be headed in that direction. I
am interested only in this, not opinions or other thoughts about how to keep him
in high school. I'd like to hear however from parents who have helped their
child accomplish this goal.
Thank you in advance.
A parent looking for an alternative
My son took the CHSPE 2 or 3 years ago. He did the practice test that is in the
application packet and had no problem passing the test. So sorry, I don't have
any tutor recommendations. His HS counselor told us that the test is only meant
to be hard for kids who have been ditching school a lot. Our son was in school
full time up through freshman year but things really fell apart in his sophmore
BTW, it was the best thing he could have done--he got his act together and
started taking classes at Laney the semester after passing the CHSPE. He's
still in college and doing well.
My son just passed the CHSPE this summer and started at Berkeley Community
College this Fall. He's much happier and is working hard--a tremendous turn-
around. It was definitely the right choice for us.
Our son worked with a school psychologist, Anthony Guarnieri, who is in Berkeley,
has a lot of experience and was a great fit. Our son also took tests at home to
help him prepare. The book he used was called ''CHSPE: Are you ready to Pass the
the CHSPE'' and came with a CD.(He does not particularly recommend the book; says
it was ''less than fantastic''. However, it did the trick).
My son's comment on the exam: ''It's really not that difficult so stress is
unnecessary. A complete understanding of Algebra I and basic English are all
that's needed to pass, really.'' (Grain of salt--I think it looks much easier in
hindsight. After taking the exams he sweat it out because of some geometry he
My stepson is about to take the CHSPE and leave high school with
the intention of going to community college. He wants to do a
vocational course such as welding or precision metalworking and get
a trade certificate. We're not finding it easy to work through the
websites of the colleges and figure out where to go and what to do
especially to get him in partway through the semester. Is there a
consultant who is good with working with teens and parents on this?
Thank you all.
Stepmom in Oakland
Congratulations to you and your son. Leaving high school and
entering a trade program is a challenging and rewarding
opportunity. If your son is mature and has set his goals, a
technical trade program is an excellent stepping-stone to a good
The first step is to make an appointment with a community
college guidance counselor to understand his options, course of
study, required additional courses, testing (if needed), and
Community colleges are not the same - some are more academically
oriented, some have excellent theater / arts programs, some are
great at certificate programs, and so forth.
If your son is interested in a trade program focusing on
metalwork please check out Chabot College in Hayward.
They have a dedicated metal arts program that is considered one
of the best in the area and a student from Oakland could commute
to campus via BART/AC Transit or car.
Another excellent program is at Cabrillo College in Aptos.
It is a very pleasant campus (my daughter took an economics
course there). And the proximity to Santa Cruz and the beaches
make it very desirable - plus roommate rentals are usually
cheaper than the Bay Area.
My 16.5 year old son is considering exiting high school
early. He is bright but has not done well - slipping
slope scenario. He has already passed the CAHSEE and if
he passes his classes this year, he potentially won't have
to return for his senior year. I'm not sure if this means
he won't get a H.S. diploma (?) Lately he has not taken
responsibility for his work/actions and we fear that he
probably won't have the discipline for college right now.
On the other hand, it could be just what he needs to get a
fresh start and put a bad high school record behind him.
Does anyone have any knowledge or advice or hindsight
about this situation?
Never Thought He Wouldn't Get a H.S. Diploma
My son also had a hard time in High School. He easily passed
the HS equivalency test and we were seriously thinking of
sending him straight to community college rather then go
into 11th grade at BHS! (Though I didn't see how he would
pass the classes in community college if he couldn't pass
the classes in high school.) He ended up going into the
independent study program at Berkeley High for 11th and 12th
grade and it totally saved him. He
finished high school and is now a sophmore at a State
College majoring in Chemistry. He was hanging around at home
a lot those last two years because he had so little class
time and I couldn't get him out of the house much - I didn't
know what would become of him. I had to force him to take
the SAT and apply to college, but he did and now he's there
and doing well.
Got my kid through high school
I have *two* such sons! Our older son took the CHSPE exam (www.chspe.net)
and entered college at age 16, graduated, and is now in an M.A./credential
program for - of all things - a secondary credential in history. He figures he
understands why kids can't handle high school! He has many friends who
either left early or were kicked out of high school, and almost every one of
them is doing well - one's on the Dean's list at UCSC at age 25 (it took him a
while), another is becoming a nurse, another is a union organizer, etc. There
are more kids described at groups.yahoo.com/group/schoolsnotforboys -
some of these guys also left high school via the CHSPE; some are in
community college, at least two attend Exípression in Emeryville, and some
are still struggling. Some of my younger sonís friends are becoming
mechanics at community college, sound arts technicians at Exípression, etc.
Check out the schoolsnotforboys group, because we've compiled resources
that may be helpful to you and your son.
My son left high school after 10th grade for various
reasons. (Bright but terrible grades, no interest, couldn't
stand the high school ''scene'', etc.) He passed the Ca High
School Equivilency Exam (CHSPE - there is one given in June)
which, I think, is the equivalent of a diploma, and went on
to a Community College then transferred to a 4 year and was
very motivated and did very well.
I was very worried about him for many reasons, but felt that
I had no choice but to let him try something different. For
him, when he felt that he could make his own choices, he
made very good ones.
My daughter who had very good grades just decided she was
tired of high school and couldn't do another year, so she
enrolled in Independent studies and a community college
concurrently and graduated a year early then went on to a
community college and transfered.
It worked for us
Years ago, I graduated from high school a year early. I was
bright and did quite well until high school, when my grades
began slipping and I stopped doing much work. Midway
through my junior year, I noticed that by the end of the
year I would have all I'd need to graduate early, and since
I was miserable and hated school, I went ahead and did it.
I started college in the fall, bombed out within a couple of
months, and then worked until I felt ready to try again the
following year, right when I would have anyway if I had
stayed in school. It took me many years to get over what
felt like a huge messy failure.
In retrospect, I think I hated school and my grades were
poor because I was immature for my age. I should have stuck
it out another year, maybe taking fun/light courses. I also
think it would have made a big difference if my parents had
had me evaluated for depression and seen about treatment,
but there was much less awareness about depression in those
days. Everyone is different, but given my personal
experience, I would urge your to be very careful about
letting your son graduate on to the next stage in life when
he's not performing all that well in his current one.
regret having done it
My son is very intelligent (1490 on the SAT) but has never
liked school. He is a senior, and seriously considering
leaving school and taking the GED. He has talked about
this before, and I encouraged him to stay in school. He
has just turned 18, and it seems different now.
Do you know any success stories for kids who have taken
the GED instead of finishing high school? Any horror
stories? Any advice or information would be most
I know of a few examples of kids who successfully pursued
alternative paths to high school. In all cases they were
pretty self-directed, though, and knew what they wanted.
These are all friends of my own son: one finished early
through Berkeley's Independent Studies and is a freshman
in college a year ahead of schedule; another took the
CHSPE after 10th grade, went to Diablo Valley and is now
applying to 4 year colleges as an 18 year old junior.
Another boy who was exceptionally bright through middle
school, has had a very tough time in high school, tested
out and is now happily in residence at the Green Gulch
Farm of the Zen Center.
I know of two intelligent, bored high school students who took the test
and started community college or a job. It's been two years, and they
and their parents think this option worked out fine. Anonymous
To the mom who asked for success stories on kids who take
the GED and leave high school--I'm one, 20 years ago. I
actually dropped out of high school without taking the GED
officially (I took in in eighth grade, and passed, but was
too young to have it recorded). I hated school and had been
hospitalized for depression--a really messed up kid. After
trying me in five different high schools my mom finally let
me drop out. She sent me to a trade school to learn computer
programming, and when I finished I went to work full-time
and moved out. After a year I was totally bored with my job
so I started going to community college at night, taking
math and science courses. Three years later I transferred
into UCLA's engineering program as a junior, then graduated
magna cum laude. I paid for it all myself by working and
getting scholarships. I put myself through engineering grad
school the same way and finished my MS degree two years
later. My mom and I stayed close throughout, and I thank
god every day that she let me leave high school, because I
consider that to be the point at which my life really
started. Obviously a different situation from what you're
facing, but still, I do think that there is still hope even
if a kid decides to abandon high school. There are many
alternative paths. The key thing, to my mind, is to stay on
the same side as your child, and understand that not
everyone is made for high school. Good luck to you and your
son--as a mom I now understand how hard this is from the
There are posts in the same newsletter that seem relevant to your concern
about your bright 18 year old who would like to leave HS, so I don't want to
duplicate. One of our sons entered UCLA at 16, and we know many other
kids who left high school early via CHSPE or GED and entered college. Most
were much better off for moving on, but I'm not convinced that it was
because they were 'bright but bored' necessarily, but, rather, they were
struggling with too many issues and needed to move on somehow someway
somewhere. Growing up is just challenging - kids with and without academic
talent have difficult times in high school and need to move on. Anyway,
check out some of the other resources mentioned in the newsletter -
internships, community college, etc. Consider also talking with a college
counselor to see if your son has taken enough courses to enter a UC or CSU;
in our case, Rory Bled was our savior. If your son doesn't have
you may find an alternative college that won't care. Our son was way too
young to go to college at 16 (he figured that out in hindsight), but was
dropping out of HS with absolutely no plan whatsoever, and he was able to
sort himself out and graduate in 5 1/2 years, about the time he would have
a parent who has been there!
How does GED differ from CHSPE?
I understand that there are two different tests a student can take who
wants to take a high school equivalency test rather than to graduate
from high school. One is the GED. The other may be the CHSPE. Anyone
who has information about the CHSPE and how it differs from the GED,
I'd appreciate a posting from you. Thanks!
If students have completed the course requirements for college admissions
(and have the grades, SATs, experience etc.), most colleges and
universities accept CHSPE in lieu of high school graduation - I know,
because my son left high school after 11th grade and used the CHSPE option
to enroll in UCLA. The website is:
"You may take CHSPE if, on testing day, you: are 16 or older, (no upper
age limit) or have completed at least one academic year of the tenth grade,
or are enrolled in the second semester of tenth grade."
CHSPE is generally considered a bit more difficult than the GED
examination, but I'm sure there are other differences. We didn't research
them, because the college counselor said CHSPE was the exam to take.
GED vs. CHSPE
To take the GED, a student must be 18 years old, or a drop-out for 6
months. The GED consists of 5 or 6 parts, including direct writing,
science, math, and english/reading comprehension. You can take the test in
sections; once you pass a section (e.g. math), you don't have to take that
section again, even if you do not pass the other sections. The total test
is about 10 hours long. Most community colleges, adult schools, and
continuation schools have GED review courses and can administer the test
whenever the student feels ready to try it. There is a standardized
pre-test which is used as a predictor of success. The GED is recognized in
all 50 states.
To take the CHSPE, a student must be 16 years old. The CHSPE is usually
given twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. I think the
test is 3 or 4 hours long, and covers mostly math and english. You can get
review books for both tests at libraries or book stores. A student needs a
parent/gaurdian signiture to leave school, even if she passes the test...a
student may continue to attend school if she passes the test. The CHSPE is
not recognized in all 50 states, but states other than California do
I would like to know how I can get more information on
the R - 4 affadavit discussion on the newsletter
around April 4 under the heading: Parents Advice
about School: Taking the High School Equivalency
Can anyone let me know which agency I contact to get
this and does anyone have experience doing this and
advice for me?
The California Homeschool Network has information on their website
about the R-4 affidavit process. You can order their information
packet, which has instructions about filling it out, where to send
it, etc. There is also a CD you can order. Their website is
I don't have the info about R4's at hand, but here's a link to a
homeschooling organization that has info on it:
http://www.homefires.com/affidavit.htm (I don't know anything about these
folks; it's just the first thing that came up in a web search).
this page was last updated: Jan 12, 2013
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network