The California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE) is an early-exit exam for high school students in California. Students who pass the CHSPE receive a Certificate of Proficiency from the State of California. Under California law, a CHSPE degree is equivalent to a high school diploma.
CHSPE Testing and scores
Students who are in the second semester of their sophomore year (and aged 15 or over) in high school, or 16-18 years old, or those that have enrolled in the 10th grade for two semesters or more. This exam only pertains to the high school curriculum in California, and may or may not apply to other states. Therefore, a student must check to see if their college of choice outside of California will accept such a test. It is offered twice every six months, and its cost is $92 ($120 if after deadline). Those that have taken the CAHSEE (the California High School Exit Exam, required of all high school students to graduate in California) will find the CHSPE very similar in format, with a longer exam and more difficult questions.
Upon passing the exam, the student has an opportunity to head straight to a community college. (However, as with any student entering community college, assessment tests may be required upon entry to determine the student's English and math ability in order to place the student in the appropriate classes.) If a student is under 18 and succeeds in passing the exam, the student may not leave high school unless their parent or guardian consents. The CHSPE eliminates the need for minors to get a work permit before being employed, but is not otherwise considered "emancipation", and laws regulating minors still apply. Under California law, a CHSPE degree is equivalent to a high school diploma; that is, any institution within California (except the Federal Government, which is not bound to state law) which requires a high school diploma cannot discriminate against individuals on the basis of having a CHSPE degree. For civilian positions, the Federal Government accepts the CHSPE as an acceptable proof of graduation from high school. The U.S. military policy on the CHSPE varies depending on the branch of the armed forces applied to and the position.
Anyone who satisfies the age and/or grade requirements is eligible to take the exam, even if they are still enrolled in high school. Students who have taken and passed the CHSPE may continue education in their current high school. Those who have left high school but are still under 18 can return to high school at any time they wish. Furthermore, if the student wishes to return to their previous high school, that school is required to accept them. Unlike the GED, the CHSPE tests only Mathematics and English skills. Students have three and a half hours to complete the exam, and are free to divide their time as they wish between the two sections. Because the Math and English sections are graded separately and can be passed separately, some students can sit the exam twice, with three and one half hours for the math section and three and one half hours for the English. The GED is also generally given to those above the age of 18, at adult schools, and targets immigrants and those who have already dropped out of high school. In addition to English, the GED is also given in Spanish and French, while the CHSPE is only given in English. The CHSPE is targeted at home schoolers and those students who want to legally exit high school before their 18th birthday (as opposed to those who drop out). Many CHSPE takers are students who are advanced learners and find the environment of high school stifling. Others are employees in the entertainment or agriculture industries who need to work.
CHSPE Mathematics section
Mathematics on the CHSPE covers skills that are traditionally associated with day-to-day activities, rather than higher mathematics. Questions range from basic skills such as making change, calculating tips, and balancing checkbooks to basic probability, algebra, logic, and geometry. This corresponds to seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth grade level mathematics taught in California public schools.
CHSPE Language Arts section
Similarly, the language arts questions on the test analyze the skills needed to function well in society, including reading and interpreting recipes, newspaper articles, advertisements, short stories, as well as technical skills such as reading manuals and instruction guides. Additionally, there are a number of questions on proper spelling and grammar, and other language mechanics. This corresponds to a tenth grade English class in California. This is the longest section of the CHSPE, with 84 questions.
CHSPE Writing section
The writing task is an expository essay on an open-ended, generic topic, typically asking to present and support your opinion or view. A sample question from the CHSPE web site is "High school classes should not begin before 9:00 a.m. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not? Be sure to be specific and explain your reasons." The writing task is scored based on how well the student presents their opinion and provides supporting examples and evidence to justify their opinion. As with other writing exams such as the SAT, the primary grade is not based on proper spelling or grammar; however poor writing mechanics that detract from the essay will receive a low score.
CHSPE After passing
When grades become available, students can check if they pass over the Internet. After passing both sections of the CHSPE, the student receives a Certificate of Proficiency from the State of California. In addition, the student may order an official, verified transcript from the Sacramento County Office of Education stating that the student has passed the CHSPE. Typically, to leave school early, all that is required is that the student and his or her parent or guardian bring the original certificate to the student's school principal or vice principal's office, where they may require that they photocopy the certificate for their files. At this time, the student can get an official, verified, and sealed transcript from the high school, which may be necessary if the student wants to attend a 4 year university later. In most cases, when a student transfers from a California community college to a California State University or University of California, high school transcripts are not required.
Similarly, showing the certificate to college officials (or photocopy, if they are some distance away) is typically sufficient to demonstrate high school graduation. However, some schools may require a transcript showing the student passed CHSPE status. Also, some students head directly to community college and often are able to excel at college level classes without finishing high school. Students are then able to transfer to a four year university as a junior. If a student keeps up with a normal full time college schedule, he/she can finish community college in two years and the four-year university in another two years, allowing some students to receive their Bachelor's degree as early as the year when they reach their 20th birthday.