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The California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE)
Editor's Note: Rachel Phillips wrote this article in 1998, the year she took the CHSPE exam and passed. The exam has changed slightly since then, and so this article has been updated to reflect the changes. Rachel is now a graduate of Skidmore college and has her own reading tutoring business.
The California High School Proficiency Exam:
In terms of taking the test, it is long. The entire test is three and a half hours. But as the CHSPE website explains: "Neither test section is timed within the three and one-half hours, and you may spend as much time as you like on either test section, and on either English-language Arts subtest, until the testing session ends."
On the day you take the test, you can decide if you want to take the whole thing, or take just the Mathematics section, the English-language Arts Language subtest, or the English-language Arts Reading subtest, or any combination of the three. However, you have to pay the test fee (currently $92) each time you take a portion of the test. (If you're on a tight budget, you may want to take it all at once.)
While you have to pass all of the test sections to get your Certificate of Proficiency, you do not have to pass both sections on the same day, nor do you have to pass the two English-language Arts subtests on the same day.
The cool thing about CHSPE is this -- you can take the test and if you pass one section and not another, you do not have to retake the section that you previously passed. There is no limit to the number of times you may take the CHSPE, so you can keep taking it until you pass the whole thing. But you do have to register and pay the fee every time you take the test or a portion of the test.
If you decide to take the whole thing at once like I did, it can be hard to stay focused when you're answering endless multiple choice questions. I recommend you bring something to eat that is not messy, like a Power Bar, and take your time.
After you take the CHSPE you get a letter about four weeks later saying, "pass" or "not pass." All examinees receive score reports. The test is scored on a bell curve, and about 40% of the people that take it don't pass on the first try.
I found that a couple months of study was plenty to prepare for the test. I spent most of that time working on my math. By the way, I did pass, and enrolled in community college. I had never taken a standardized test before, and it was sort of fun to learn how to prepare for it. We had some pretty good dinner table discussions about some of the problems that we encountered in the book. All in all, it was a good experience.
I had Rachel take this test not for her, but for me. In addition to being finished with the compulsory education requirements next year (age 16), she can now get a work permit directly without going through the local high school district. I also wanted her to feel that she could take these kinds of tests. I did not want her to avoid them out of fear. In home schooling there are no hoops to jump through, no bell curve to beat (thank heaven). There are many wonderful opportunities available for older students, and I wanted my daughter to be in the position of being able to choose which direction to go in -- rather than having a direction chosen by default, simply because she was afraid to tackle the requirements. Hence, she has learned how to take this type of test.
The CHSPE is administered 3 times a year, in fall, spring, and summer. It is a pass/fail test. The fee is $92 each time you take the test, or a portion of it. For more information contact:
The California High School Proficiency Examination
Phone: 866-342-4773 (toll free)
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