Title page image

TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ For Dummies®

To view this book's Cheat Sheet, simply go to and search for “TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion For Dummies Cheat Sheet” in the Search box.


Congratulations! You’ve just made two very smart decisions. First, you’ve decided to pursue your high-school equivalency, which is one of the smartest decisions you’ll ever make, and second, by purchasing this book, you’ve decided to get the expert help you may need to achieve your goal.

Now that you’ve decided to get your high-school equivalency, you have several options open to you. First, you can always go back to your old high school and finish off your diploma the old-fashioned way. But I’m guessing that probably doesn’t sound very appealing to you right now. After all, who wants to sit in a classroom full of teenagers who are all nudging each other and asking, “Ew! What’s that old person doing here?” Besides, you would probably have to quit your job to attend classes every day, and even worse, that old history teacher whose classes you flunked will probably still be there (after all, who else is going to hire him?!). So let’s assume that this first option isn’t for you.

Your second option would be to attend night school. The problem with this option is that the courses you may need to graduate are likely to be spread out throughout the year, and the timing of each course may clash with your work schedule. It could take forever to finish — but on the bright side, at least you wouldn’t be getting the stink-eye from a bunch of snarky teens (and your old history teacher!). But let’s assume that this second option isn’t your cup of tea either.

Don’t despair — luckily, TASC For Dummies presents you with a third option that I think you’re going to like a whole lot better. It goes something like this: Take the TASC test and earn your high-school diploma in the shortest time possible, without ever having to share a classroom with other people.

If that sounds more like it, then keep on reading — you’ve come to the right place!

About This Book

TASC For Dummies is an essential study tool — consider it your instruction manual for succeeding on the new TASC test. We explain everything you need to know before test day — what subject areas are tested, how long the exam is, what the test format is, how to register, how the test is scored, and so on.

Just as important, we walk you through how the new TASC test has changed to conform with Common Core State Standards and why it has replaced the GED exam in many states. Some of the question formats have changed as well, so to help you step up your game, this book includes in-depth analysis and samples of each type of question that can appear on the new TASC. These include constructive-response questions, evidence-based selected response questions, drag-and-drop questions, multiple-select response questions, and so forth.

This book also contains an in-depth subject review for each of the five subject areas: Language Arts Reading, Language Arts Writing, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Science, along with useful tips to help you understand the main concepts of each topic.

To give you an idea of how ready you are to take the new TASC, we also include two full-length practice tests in the book. These practice tests have been designed to simulate a TASC exam and are as close to the real thing as you can get. Try taking each part of the test under exam conditions to get a good idea of how you’ll do on the real exam.

After taking each test, go through the answers and explanations so you can determine which subject areas you still need to work on. Then head back to the appropriate in-depth subject review chapter to brush up on those topics or concepts that you haven’t yet mastered.

Foolish Assumptions

In writing this book, we assume several things about you, the reader, including the following:

Icons Used in This Book

Icons are those cute little pictures that appear in the margins of this book. They indicate why you should pay special attention to the accompanying text. Here’s how to decode them:

tip This icon points out helpful hints about strategy — what the strong test-takers already know and the rookies want to find out.

warning This icon identifies the traps that the TASC-writers are hoping you fall into as you take the test. Take note of these warnings so you know what to do (and what not to do) as you move from question to question on the real TASC.

remember When you see this icon, be sure to file away the information that accompanies it. The material will come in handy as you prepare for (and take) the new TASC.

example This icon identifies questions that resemble those on the actual TASC. Be sure to read the answer explanations that always follow the questions.

Beyond the Book

In addition to the book content, you can find valuable free material online. We provide you with a Cheat Sheet that addresses important things you need to know and consider when getting ready for the TASC test. You can access this material by going to and searching for “TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion For Dummies Cheat Sheet” in the Search box.

Where to Go from Here

Some people like to read books from beginning to end. Others prefer to read only the specific information they need to know now. Either way, we’ve arranged the book into eight parts, which will make it easy for you to find exactly what you’re looking for.

The chapters in Part 1 start off with an overview of the TASC test and how to register for the exam. For those of you who feel unsure about how best to prepare for a standardized test like the TASC, we also provide you with a wealth of study tips that will help to get you on the right path. We also review the different types of questions and how you can prepare for those subjects.

The chapters in Parts 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 go into detail about each of the test sections. In each of those parts, you find information on the number of questions and the time permitted for that section.

When you’re ready to dive into full-length practice tests that mimic the real TASC test, check out the chapters in Part 7. Be sure to check your answers with the detailed answer explanations we provide for each test section (but be sure to wait until after you take the practice tests to look at the answers!).

The chapters in Part 8 provide you with our top ten tips that will help you to maximize your score on the TASC and calm those pre-test jitters leading up to the morning of test day. We even include some advice on what to do right before the test starts to stay focused and relaxed.

No matter what you do next, start by doing something simple: Keep calm and carry on, and score big on the TASC.

Part 1

Getting Started with the TASC


Understand the differences between the TASC and GED.

Review the different sections and question formats of the TASC.

Improve your study skills.

Explore strategies to enhance your chances for success.

Chapter 1

Making Sense of the TASC


Comparing the TASC and the GED

Understanding Common Core

Checking out the different sections and question formats of the TASC

Calculating your TASC score

In this chapter, we explore the differences between the TASC test and the GED and why many states have chosen the TASC as their high-school equivalency exam. Because the TASC is aligned to the Common Core State Standards, it’s important for you to know what those are. Next, we discuss the topics and format of each of the subject areas covered on the TASC. Lastly, we explore how you’ll be scored in each of the different areas and what scores you need to get your TASC diploma.

Why the TASC and Not the GED?

In many states, such as New York, West Virginia, and Indiana, the TASC has replaced the GED completely. Students living in those states who are pursuing their high-school equivalency can no longer take the GED exam — they must take the TASC instead. It’s worth double-checking which high-school equivalency options your state permits. Some states only offer the GED, others only offer the TASC, and others give students a choice between the GED and the TASC. Either way, it’s good to keep in mind that not all high-school equivalency exams are created equal.

Two of the most noticeable differences between the TASC and GED tests are the cost and the format flexibility. The price of the TASC is more reasonable and affordable than that of the GED, and the exam is also available as a paper-and-pencil test as well as online. If English isn’t your native language, you also have the option of taking the Spanish version of the TASC. There are also large-print, Braille, and audio versions of the TASC available for those students with special needs.

Another advantage that the TASC has over the GED exam is that the TASC is gradually being aligned to the Common Core State Standards. This will help you stay competitive for both career and college opportunities by showing that your abilities and knowledge in each subject are of the right standard to help you succeed.

Lastly, the types of scores you receive from taking the TASC are both College and Career Readiness (CCR) scores and passing scores. Earning a satisfactory CCR score shows how well-prepared you are and that you can compete with any American high school graduate!

Getting Up to Speed with Common Core

The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The Standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

—Common Core State Standards Initiative

Today’s students need to be better prepared than ever to handle the increasing demands of colleges and industry. Previously, each state in America used to have its own academic curriculum. This meant that it was virtually impossible to compare students from different states because the curriculum and standards for graduating high school varied greatly from state to state. But all that changed recently with the release of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student needs to know in math and English language arts (ELA) from kindergarten through 12th grade.

The Common Core State Standards were drafted by leading experts and teachers throughout the country and are designed to ensure that all students will be ready for success after high school. By focusing on developing critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills, the Common Core helps prepare students for today’s freshman-level college courses, workforce training programs, and entry-level careers.

Currently, CCSS are available in ELA and mathematics, with strands devoted to the other content areas such as social studies and science. Forty-two states so far have voluntarily adopted the CCSS and are moving forward with their full implementation. Teachers in those states now have a way to measure all students’ progress throughout the school year to ensure that they’re on the right path to success in their academic careers.

remember The CCSS have a greater focus on rigor and knowing a topic in depth. This means at each successive grade level, a topic is looked at again in a more detailed way. When educators and policy makers discuss rigor, they mean that there are now higher goals for all students. In addition, there’s a greater emphasis on using evidence in all subject areas. Analyzing and using nonfiction texts are common practices in high schools today as well. In mathematics and science, there’s a greater focus on solving real-world problems, methods of solving or experimenting in different situations, and the use of models.

In other words, the TASC exam just became a little bit tougher to pass! But the good news is that the new format will better prepare you for the challenging world of work or college.

tip To register for the TASC, visit and follow the instructions.

Exploring the New TASC Exam

The TASC exam measures high-school equivalency and college and career readiness in five subject areas: Language Arts–Reading, Language Arts–Writing, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Science. The entire test lasts about seven hours, with each section having its own time limits.

Subject sections

This section breaks down what each of the TASC subtests covers, what kind of questions you can expect, and how long you have to complete each subtest. With the advance of new technology, the question format for the test may change and become more interactive over time.

Language Arts–Reading

The Language Arts–Reading test includes multiple-choice, constructed-response, and technology-enhanced questions that test the student’s ability to understand the information presented in excerpts from novels, short stories, poetry, plays, newspapers, magazines, and business or legal text passages. The test includes both literary (30 percent) and informational (70 percent) texts. The time limit for this section is 75 minutes, and the test consists of 50 questions.

Language Arts–Writing

The Language Arts–Writing test is separated into two parts: multiple-choice questions and an essay question. Students are expected to answer 50 multiple-choice, technology-enhanced, and constructed-response questions, in which they must identify grammar, spelling, and other mechanical writing errors and demonstrate their ability to make corrections to each sentence. The test has both passage-based items and stand-alone or discrete questions. The time limit for this first part is 60 minutes.

Students are also expected to write an essay that either states and supports a claim or provides information about a particular topic of interest. Essays are scored based on the following criteria: clear and strategic organization, clarity of expression, complete development of ideas, sentence structure, punctuation, grammar, word choice, and spelling. For the essay prompt, you have 45 minutes to construct a response to a passage, excerpt, or multiple selections.


The Mathematics section has five main fields: numbers and quantity (13 percent), algebra (26 percent), functions (26 percent), geometry (23 percent), and statistics and probability (12 percent). Most questions are word problems and involve real-life situations or require students to interpret information presented in diagrams, charts, graphs, and tables. Students are given a math summary sheet of formulas to use during the test. Be sure to become familiar with what formulas are on the sheet and which ones you need to remember. The question styles found in this section are multiple choice (40 questions) and gridded response (12 questions).

Section 1 of the Mathematics test allows the use of a calculator and has a time limit of 50 minutes. Section 2 does not permit the use of a calculator and has a time limit of 55 minutes.

Social Studies

The Social Studies exam tests students on five fields: U.S. history (25 percent), world history (15 percent), civics and government (25 percent), geography (15 percent), and economics (20 percent). The Social Studies test gauges students’ understanding of the basic principles in each of those areas and tests their ability to interpret information presented in passages, illustrations, graphs, and charts. You have 75 minutes to complete the 47 multiple-choice, technology-enhanced, and constructed-response questions.


The Science test focuses on multiple-choice questions pulled from three main fields: physical science (36 percent), life science (36 percent), and earth and space science (28 percent). Each discipline is subdivided into several core ideas. Questions may require the student to recall knowledge, apply knowledge and skills, or reason. The number of test questions per core idea depends on the number of performance expectations within that core idea (usually about two to five questions). You have 85 minutes to complete the 47 multiple-choice questions.

New question formats

Since 2015, the TASC has begun to feature a variety of new question formats. Because the TASC is now offered as a computer-based test, there are now more options available for online questions and responses. In this section, we list some of the new formats you can expect to see.

tip You can also find interactive demonstrations of these new formats on the website:

Constructed response

A constructed-response item is a short-answer question. Instead of choosing from four multiple-choice answers, you have to come up with your own answer.

Multiple-select response

This type of question is just like the familiar multiple-choice questions that you’re probably already used to, but with one big difference — instead of having a single correct answer, there is more than one possible answer, so you have to make sure you read the instructions carefully and select all the correct answers.

Evidence-based select response

You may see this format on the Language Arts–Reading test. In the first part, Part A, you read and analyze a text and then choose a conclusion from four multiple-choice options. In the second part, Part B, you choose evidence from the text to support your conclusion in Part A. The second part may be in multiple-choice format or it may be a multiple-select response.

Drag and drop

In this format, on the computer version of the test, you drag and drop the correct responses to complete the blanks or empty boxes in the question stem. In the print edition of this book, you simply draw lines to match answers to these spaces.

TASC at a glance

Table 1-1 summarizes the TASC test and gives the breakdown by approximate number of items and time for each section.

TABLE 1-1 Breakdown of TASC Sections



Time in Minutes (English Version)

Time in Minutes (Spanish Version)

Number of Questions

Language Arts–Reading

Information reading & language

Literary reading & language




Language Arts–Writing






One essay


Numbers & quantity




Statistics & probability

50 (calculator)

55 (no calculator)

55 (calculator)

60 (no calculator)


12 gridded responses

Social Studies

U.S. history

World history

Civics & government







Physical science

Life science

Earth & space science




Scoring: How Do You Measure Up?

Probably the one question that is most important to you is how will you be graded? Each of the multiple-choice and gridded-response questions is worth 1 point. You don’t get points off for selecting the wrong answer, so make sure to answer every question. Multiple-response questions may be scored differently because they may have more than one correct answer. In reading questions with a Part A and Part B, you must successfully answer Part B to get credit for the question as a whole.

Your essay will be read by two readers who will each score it from 0 to 4. If both scores match or are within a point of each other, then the scores are added together and that is your essay score (out of 8 possible points). For example, if the readers score your essay as a 2 and a 3, then your essay score will be 5. On the other hand, if the two scores differ by more than a point, then a third reader will be asked to score your essay as well. For example, if the two original readers score your essay as a 2 and a 4, that’s a 2-point difference, so a third reader will be brought in to read your essay. The sum of the two scores out of the three which are closest together will then be used for your overall score.

The total of all your earned points is your raw score for each section. Your raw score is then put into a mathematical algorithm to compute your scaled score. You’ll receive this score (the scaled score) on your score report for each of the five areas. If you earn passing scores on all five sections, then you’ll have passed the entire TASC test. The overall score is the average of the five separate subject areas. Passing scores for the subject areas are:

Besides your passing scores, you’ll also receive a College and Career Readiness (CCR) score in each of the five areas. This score is used to gauge how likely a person is to succeed in college courses. If you meet or exceed the CCR passing score, then it indicates that you’re likely to earn a C or better in college courses in that content area.

Chapter 2

Getting Prepped


Sharpening your study skills

Managing your time during the test

Using some strategies to enhance your chances for success

Performing your best on the big day

In this chapter, we explore the different topics, techniques, and strategies that will help you sharpen your test-taking abilities as you prepare for the rigors of the new TASC exam. Before you begin studying, you need to set up a reasonable, achievable study plan (and then stick to it!), so we kick off the chapter by discussing the things to keep in mind when you’re putting your study schedule together. Next, we explore how to sharpen your study skills and focus your attention on the task at hand. After all, there’s no use spending hours staring at your textbooks if, at the end of the day, you can’t remember anything you’ve just read. The good news is that studying is a skill that you can learn, so in this chapter we explore the best ways to make all that precious study time count.

Knowing how to use your time wisely also comes in handy during the test itself, so we explore various time management strategies to help you make the most of the limited time available to you. We then discuss some simple test-taking strategies to help you maximize your score and avoid the common mistakes that many students make. Some students find taking a standardized test like the TASC to be extremely nerve-racking, so we conclude the chapter by discussing the best ways to hold it all together on the big day so you’re able to achieve the sort of score on the TASC that reflects your full potential.

Honing Your Study Skills

Before you begin studying for the different subject areas, look at the list of topics found in the introduction of each section of this book. Identify the topics you need to focus on and those that you already feel comfortable with. This helps you organize a study plan to use your time wisely. For some topics you may only need a quick review, while for others you may need to reread and study them in depth to get a full understanding of the main concepts. Also, make sure that your study goals are realistic, and try to add a little flexibility into your schedule so that if you start to fall behind in your studies, you don’t have to abandon your study plan altogether.

tip When it comes to studying for a multiple-subject test like the TASC, you want to become as comfortable as possible with the important vocabulary terms used in each section. Knowing the correct jargon helps you when it comes to reading questions and spotting potential answers. You also want to become familiar with the math formulas sheet that you’re given at the front of the Mathematics subtest. Make sure you know which formula to use for each type of question and also which formulae are not given to you during the test. These are the ones you need to memorize.

This book has two complete practice tests that have been designed to simulate the real TASC exam. The time limit and the number of questions you’re expected to answer are listed in the directions on the front page of each of the five sections of the test. Take each part of the test under exam conditions to get a good idea of how you’ll do on the real exam. This will help you learn how to pace yourself during the real thing, and you’ll experience what it feels like to take a full-length test. Taking practice exams is also the best way to become familiar with how the TASC presents the material for each subject and the different question formats that you’re likely to see. It’s up to you how you use the practice tests. You can use one as a pre-test and one as a post-test or you can use both as practice tests after you’ve studied.

The Secret to Time Management

Because each section of the TASC exam has a time limit, you want to be conscious of how much time has passed as you’re taking the test. One way to manage your time effectively is by simply wearing a watch. Testing centers may not always have a clock available, and you want to be able to see how much time you have left for each section. If you’re taking the computer version of the test, depending on the computer interface, there may be a countdown clock feature. You can also minimize the on-screen clock if you don’t want to see it ticking down in front of you the whole time.

tip Another way to manage your time is to skip questions you’re really not sure about. Doing so allows you to focus on those questions that you can actually answer rather than wasting time on the ones that you can’t. If you get stuck on a question, skip it and move on to the next. You can always come back to it at the end if you have any time left. In fact, make sure that you do leave enough time to come back to those questions you skipped. Because you don’t get points off for wrong answers on the TASC, be sure to answer all questions.

Also make sure that you arrive at the testing center with plenty of time to spare. The last thing you want to do is arrive late (in a panic) and waste precious time searching for the correct room (or even the correct building!). Even if you finish the test before the time is up, don’t leave early. Instead, use every second available to go back and check your answers and fill in any questions that you left blank.

remember Strong test-takers arrive at the testing center early and always stay to the very end of the test.

Test-Taking Strategies

When it comes to taking a multiple-choice test, one of the most effective strategies you have at your disposal is to eliminate unlikely choices. Any choices that you can get rid of because you deem them implausible or unrealistic to the problem at hand will increase your odds of selecting the correct answer. For example, if you have four choices (A, B, C, and D) and you know the answer can’t be A or D, then you now have a 50 percent chance of selecting the correct answer instead of the 25 percent chance you had before you eliminated two of the options.

tip If the question stem provides you with additional information such as charts, pictures, or tables, make sure you look at these carefully before selecting your answer. This additional information has been provided to you for a reason, so don’t ignore it!

Another important strategy is to answer every question. Unlike some other standardized assessments, you don’t get points off for wrong answers on the TASC. If you guess on a multiple-choice question that you don’t know the answer to, there’s a chance you may guess correctly. But if you leave it blank, there’s a zero percent chance that you’ll get a point from that question.

Depending on the question you’re trying to answer, certain techniques can help you understand the problem. These strategies include drawing a picture, making a list, or constructing an outline. In the Math section, for example, if you’re trying to solve a problem on perimeters, it may be helpful to draw the shape the problem is describing. On the Science subtest, if a question involves an element or atom, it may be helpful to draw a diagram of the nucleus and rings. An example in the Social Studies section may be that you need to construct a timeline to help you visualize the sequence of events in a passage. And making an outline is useful for the essay question because it helps you organize your thought process and ensures that you don’t go off on a tangent or miss part of the prompt.

warning You must stay on topic when writing your essay. Essays that don’t answer the question will earn zero points, no matter how well written they are.

For further tips on test-taking strategies, check out Chapter 27. This chapter is packed with strategies that strong test-takers adopt to maximize their chances of success on the TASC exam. It also points out the common mistakes to avoid on test day and how to sharpen your skills to achieve the score you deserve on the TASC.

The Big Day(s): Test Prep Wheaties

The first thing you can do to increase your chances of being successful on test day is to get a good night’s sleep. You should be well rested so you can think clearly and do your best work, so try to go to bed early the night before your test. Your brain needs fuel as well as sleep, so make sure to eat a good breakfast to provide you with the energy you’ll need to focus on the test. Try not to eat right before your test to avoid grogginess, and try to avoid high-sugar food, such as cookies, and high-carb meals. Instead, eat what foods you know work best for you, or try nuts, fruits, or yogurt, which will help sustain you throughout the test.

remember Don’t look at material right before your test. Cramming won’t help — in fact, it will just stress you out. Develop a study plan that allows you to spread out the work you need to cover well in advance so you can relax the day before the test.

For each section of the test, be watchful of your time. As discussed before, we suggest that you wear a watch in case your testing center doesn’t have a clock. Using your time wisely to complete all the possible questions is one of the most important strategies you can use to be successful.

When you’re completing a paper-based test, be careful how you place the marks on your answer sheet. Because your answer sheet will be going through a reader, make sure there are no stray marks and that you erase clearly. Also be sure that you’re filling in your answer for the right corresponding question. If you skip a question, be sure you also skip the space on your answer sheet so that your answers still line up.

Lastly, if you’re one of those students who gets nervous when taking a standardized test, check out Chapter 28. This chapter is crammed with useful tips that should help you stay positive and keep that anxiety at bay.

Part 2

Language Arts: Reading


Improve your reading comprehension.

Discover how to analyze texts.

Evaluate multiple texts for themes, content, and point of view.

Chapter 3

Reading to Find Central Themes and Main Ideas


Identifying topic sentences, main ideas, and themes

Using major and minor details to help you understand passages

This chapter gets you started with strategies for reading for comprehension. Before you begin really examining text for themes and main ideas, get yourself in the right frame of mind for reading with comprehension as the main goal. The first part of this chapter helps you get into the proper mindset. Then you explore ways to find authors’ themes and the main ideas of their work. This is an important step to ensure that you get the most out of what you read and that you’re able to respond correctly to questions on the TASC, which is grounded in the Common Core Standards.

tip For more information on the Common Core Standards for reading, visit

Additionally, this chapter provides you an opportunity to look at text for other clues about the author’s intended meaning, such as topic sentences and details that support the author’s main points. You’ll see that even though you may be unfamiliar with the content of an author’s work, you can search for clues to its meaning.

Learning how to identify the main idea by looking for topic sentences and further identifying themes and supporting details, especially major details, increases your reading comprehension and your reading enjoyment.