Real Talk: Sergio Garcia’s Success Story

Sergio Garcia - Diploma


Sergio Garcia, age 19 from New York, recently passed the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™. Sergio’s motivation came from seeing his friends around him begin their careers. He too has big ambitions of earning a bachelor’s degree and becoming a detective. He decided to take the TASC test after seeing changes to high school equivalency exams due to College and Career Readiness standards.

If he could offer one piece of advice to future test takers it’s to “think and focus.” Today, Sergio is sharing his TASC test story with us, along with some invaluable advice.

1. Prior to taking the TASC test, what was the highest-grade level you completed (and when was that)?

The highest grade I completed was tenth grade about three years ago.

2. What kept you from earning your diploma in high school?

Surrounding myself with the wrong people, my low self-esteem, and ditching class were all obstacles in my way.

3. What made you decide to persevere in earning your diploma? What was your motivation and inspiration?

Realizing that I want a bright future for myself. My motivation and inspiration was seeing others around me graduate high school and college and begin their careers.

4. Why did you choose TASC test?

The TASC test is offered here in my home state of New York. I wanted to take the new 2014 high school equivalency exam since the test changed in the beginning of 2014 due to the Common Core.

5. Did you take the paper-and-pencil or online version of the TASC test?

I took the paper-and-pencil test at my local testing center, which is only a few minutes away from my house. I chose to take the test on paper and not on computer due to my comfort level.

6. How did you prepare for the TASC test? How did the study materials help?

To prepare for the test I took night classes at my local testing center for a month and studied about 2 hours each day on my own time using “Kaplan New TASC® Strategies, Practice, and Review 2014.”

7. Did you face any challenges during the process? How did you overcome them?

Every time I failed a practice test on my own time it brought me down, but I persevered. I continued taking practice tests until I was satisfied with my results.

8. What plans do you have for your future? What are your goals, dreams, and ambitions?

I plan to earn a Bachelors of Arts degree in Criminal Justice, become a police officer, and over time become a detective

9. What is your number one piece of advice or tip for all TASC test takers?

My number one piece of advice is to study constantly and take practice tests. You may think you don’t know what some questions are asking, but you do. Reread the questions. Dissect the questions. Think and Focus.

Earth’s Place in the Universe


The TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Science subtest highly emphasizes Earth’s place in the universe. You might have a good overview of the hierarchy of the universe if you read the TASC test post on How to Become a Science Expert. Now focus on the universe and the Earth’s place in our solar system.

Addison Wesley of the University of California, San Diego’s Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences, emphasizes the basics:

  • The Earth is a planet located within the solar system.
  • Our solar system contains the Sun, which is a large star, eight planets, moons, and fragments such as ice, rock, and dust. It is pictured above.
  • The eight planets, in order, are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
  • Pluto is also pictured; it was long-considered a planet, and you might have originally learned about it in school. However, in recent years, Pluto has been re-categorized as a dwarf planet.

Our solar system belongs to the Milky Way galaxy, which Wesley defines as “a great island of stars in space, all held together by gravity and orbiting a common center. It is approximately 120,000 light years across.

It is important to know that the Earth is the third planet from the sun. If Earth was closer to the sun, it would be significantly hotter — and humans could not live on the planet. According to Fraser Cain of Universe Today, the sun is about 150 million kilometers from the surface of the Earth. Cain also notes that the Earth “carves out an elliptical orbit which takes one full year to complete one whole trip around.” This is why we experience different seasons as the Earth moves around the sun.

Cain also notes that our solar system sits about halfway between the center of the Milky Way galaxy and its edge. It’s about 27,000 light years each way.

It is also important that you know that the Milky Way galaxy is not the only galaxy in the universe. Rather, it is one galaxy that is a part of a larger collection of galaxies. This collection is known as the Local Group. So far, scientists have identified 36 objects in the Local Group, including the Triangulum galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy. The Milky Way is not even the largest galaxy in this group — the Andromeda galaxy is twice the size, and four times the mass of our galaxy. It is about 2.5 million light years away.

The Local Group is part of a larger group known as the Virgo Supercluster. This group includes at least 100 galaxy groups and clusters. It is named after the constellation Virgo, which scientists estimate is the center of the Supercluster.

Lastly, the Virgo Supercluster is part of a larger structure known as the Pisces-Cetus Supercluster Complex. Cain defines this structure as “a vast filament of galactic superclusters measuring about 150 million light years across AND a billion light years long.”

These structures are part of the known universe. The universe is largely unexplored, and there is much that we do not know. The vastness of the universe is fascinating — and when it comes to test taking, it can also be a little overwhelming. When you think about the role the Earth plays in the universe, you must think about its relationship to these larger structures. It is a significantly small part of the Virgo Supercluster, and an almost microscopic part of the Pisces-Cetus Supercluster Complex. But, the Earth’s position within these structures — and our solar system specifically — allows us to understand patterns we witness in our daily life, including: the passing of a year, the seasons, the changes in climate, and even tidal patterns.

The Perks of Taking the TASC Test Online


So, you’ve found the right location to take your TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™, and you’ve registered for the test. The website was easy to navigate, and you enjoy working on the computer. Did you know you can also take the TASC test online?

At McGraw-Hill Education CTB, we know that we live in a digital age. For many of our test takers, it’s easier to work on a computer. Consequently, it’s easier for these students to test on a computer. If you wondering about the digital format of the test, consider these perks of online testing — and choose the right test format for you:

  1. The online version is user-friendly. Our online test designers created webpages that feature easy-to-understand screens, which allow students to easily navigate the test.
  2. For most subtests, you’ll receive instant reports. With the exception of subtests that need to be scored by hand, like the Writing subtest, you will know an immediate estimation of how you did on the TASC test.
  3. Because the format is more user-friendly and you receive your results quickly, the online format of the TASC test offers improved efficiency to test takers.
  4. You might be wondering if the online-based TASC test is less secure than the paper-based test. All test items and student data is secured, using the latest online security. The online platform has been tested and proven to be a secure platform for an important test such as this.

The TASC test is offered online at test centers that are set up and equipped for online testing. It is important for our test takers to know that the online-based test has the same questions as those on the paper-based test. Both tests cover the same content, at the same level of difficulty.

The only requirement for taking the online TASC test is that you must be able to use a computer. This includes the ability to type and use a mouse to navigate around the screen.

In addition to studying the materials for the subtests, we recommend practicing taking the TASC test with a computer while you prepare for your test. This way, you will be familiar with the webpages and won’t waste any test time adjusting to the online format. Check out our resources for our online-based TASC test takers, including free online typing tools, an online walk-through, and sample tests.

Wondering if your state offers an online-based TASC test at a location near you? Check the test locations and register today.

Geometric Measurement | TASC Math


Geometry is a type of math that focuses on the relation of points, lines, surfaces, and areas. More specifically, instructors at Cornell University define geometry as “the visual study of shapes, sizes, patterns, and positions.” It is used for a variety of activities, including building structures, creating machines, navigating, and measuring.

In terms of measuring, the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ considers geometric measurement with dimension a high emphasis skill. Test takers are expected to use volume formulas for cylinders, pyramids, cones, and spheres to solve problems. If you never took a geometry class — or haven’t taken one in many years — these formulas might seem confusing. At McGraw-Hill Education CTB, we want to be sure you know each of these formulas and how to apply them whenever you need them.


You’ve probably encountered cylinders in your day-to-day life. For example, canned goods are stored in aluminum cans, which are cylinders. In the diagram above, the cylinder is on the top row on the right-hand side.

To find the area of a cylinder, use this formula: Area = 2pr2 + h(2pr)

The variable r stands for radius, which is the distance from the center to the edge of a circle. The h stands for height. The symbol p is known as pi, and it is approximately 3.142. Pi represents the circumference of any circle divided by its diameter, so you must memorize this number to work with a variety of shapes — including circles, cylinders, cones and even theoretical shapes.

To find the volume of a cylinder, you should use this formula: Volume = pr2h


There are different types of pyramids that you must be aware of when you are trying to choose the right formula to complete a geometry problem:

  1. Triangular Pyramid: the base of the pyramid is a triangle, like the one shown in the picture above.
  2. Square Pyramid: the base of the pyramid is a square.
  3. Pentagonal Pyramid: the base of the pyramid is a pentagon.
  4. Right Pyramid: When the top, or apex, of a pyramid is directly above the center of the base.
  5. Oblique Pyramid: When the apex is not above the center of the base.
  6. Regular Pyramid: Occurs when the base of a pyramid is a regular polygon. A regular polygon is when all sides of the shape, in this case the base, are equal.
  7. Irregular Pyramid: when the base is not a regular polygon

Note that you can have a square pyramid that is also a right pyramid and a regular pyramid. These are not seven exclusive types of pyramids, and there is overlap between the types.

The base is important because you must find the area of the base to find the volume a pyramid. The formula for finding the volume is: • [Base Area] • Height

The formula for finding the surface area of a pyramid when all side faces are the same is: [Base Area] + ½ Perimeter [Slant Length]

When side faces are different, the formula is: [Base Area] + [Lateral Area]


To find the volume of a cone, use this formula: Volume = hB/3

In this formula, the variable B stands for the base area. Remember h stands for height. You must multiple these two numbers together, and divide by three. Cones often have a circle for a base, so you will have to find the area of the circle first. Use this formula: A = p(r2)

Remember that p stands for pi, and r stands for radius.

To find the lateral surface area, use this formula:  S = prs

The variable s stands for slant height. The slant is the outside line of the cone, which stretches from the base to the apex.

To find the total surface area, use this formula: T = pr(r+s)



Spheres are perfectly symmetrical, and they have no edges or corners. You see them all the time: basketballs, exercise balls, even the globe.

To find the surface area, use this formula: 4p(r2)

To find the volume, use this formula: p(4/3)(r2)

REAL TALK: Crystal Tracy’s TASC Test Success Story

ann crystal diploma

Crystal Tracy, age 31 from Northwest Indiana, recently took and passed the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™. Crystal has a three-year-old daughter and wanted to be a good role model for her. “My daughter…knows that Momma goes to school and is very excited every time she goes with my husband to drop me off at my classes. I will instill in her the importance of finishing high school and never giving up on your dreams.” Today, Crystal is sharing her TASC test success story with us:

1. What is your name and where are you from?

My name is Crystal Tracy, and I am from Northwest Indiana.

2. Prior to taking the TASC test, what was the highest grade level you completed (and how long ago was it?)

Prior to taking the TASC test, my highest grade completed was the 10th grade, which I repeated three years in a row, starting in 2001.

3. What kept you from earning your diploma in high school?

My mom really didn’t believe in education and needed me to earn a living to help support the family, so she made me give up on school and get a job.

4. What made you decide to persevere in earning your diploma? What was your motivation and inspiration?

My motivation for going back and receiving my diploma is that I now have a daughter and wanted to be a good role model for her [and] better myself.

5. Why did you choose the TASC Test?

I chose the TASC Test because the state of Indiana switched over to the new test in 2014, and it was my New Year’s resolution to get my diploma.

6. Did you take the TASC Test online or at a testing center?

I was a part of the first group to take the TASC test at the testing center.

7. How did you prepare for TASC? How did the study materials help you prepare for the TASC test?

To prepare for the TASC test, I attended classes at the testing center and used the online study guides for math.

8. Did you face any challenges during the process? How did you overcome them?

I had not done school work since 2001, 13 years ago, so it was a major change from what I was used to. I overcame these challenges by not getting overwhelmed and just studying the material.

9. What plans do you have for your future? What are your goals, dreams, and ambitions?

I am currently attending Ivy Tech Community College working towards my associate degree in criminal justice, with a transfer goal in mind to get bachelor’s degree.

10. What is your number one piece of advice or tip for all TASC test takers?

We had people get up during the test and walk out without even trying to see if they could pass. They gave up on themselves. My advice is to just persevere, don’t give up, and stay strong. Make sure you study for the test, and don’t be too hard on yourself.

Revising: Eliminating Wordiness | TASC Writing

writing at desk

Revising: Eliminating Wordiness | TASC Writing

As a high school equivalency test taker, you need to have revision techniques in your test-taking toolbox. You might already know some important writing skills to use on the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™, and you’ve probably been practicing these skills. But have you been practicing revision? Revising can not only improve your essay, but it can also refine your argument — especially if you focus on reducing wordiness. Saving enough time to complete this final step of the writing process can make or break your essay.

If you are studying for the TASC Writing subtest, be sure take time to reduce your wordiness. Being concise and precise is a high emphasis skill.

To revise for wordiness, you should:

  1. Look for unnecessary words. Writers often use unnecessary adjectives, adverbs, or infinitives. Writers often feel that adding adjectives, adverbs, and infinitives makes their sentences stronger or more persuasive. Unfortunately, these words make your sentences more complex than they need to be. Too many can take away from your argument. According to writing instructors at the College of Central Florida, you should cut out any words or phrases that are unnecessary, redundant, or roundabout.
  2. Be sure your sentences don’t sound the way you sound when you’re speaking. When you write in your day-to-day life, you often use words you would use when you speak to family, friends, or coworkers. This might include casual phrases, text message abbreviations, and even slang words. This type of language doesn’t work on a writing test. The TASC test requires more formal language. A lot of writers write like they’re speaking without even realizing it. Keep an eye out for wordy phrases or informal words that sound like something you’d say to a friend.
  3. Check your sentence structure and grammar. It is important for test takers to use different types of sentences in their essays. However, being overly complex or using too many compound-complex sentences can bog down your reader. Cut down some of these longer sentences by using more direct language and grammar.
  4. Budget your time. Your revision skills won’t be effective if you run out of time. At McGraw-Hill Education CTB, we know that writing can be stressful and time consuming. Keep an eye on the clock so that you leave enough time for revising. We recommend saving at least 15 minutes for each essay you’ve written. This should give you enough time to read through what you’ve written and fix anything that needs work.

Want to try your hand at these revision techniques? Try these writing exercises from Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (more commonly known as the Purdue OWL). You can also start practicing revision on your TASC Writing practice tests.

How to Find the Right TASC Test Center Near You


Self-registering for the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ online can save you time, and it can allow you to skip some paperwork. However, you cannot register until you find a TASC test center location in your area.

Start on the TASC test site for test takers, where you can find links to each state’s page on the test center finder page. The TASC test does not need to be administered in any special venue. Therefore, the test locations approved in TASC test states include numerous community colleges and adult learning facilities.

After you’ve followed the link to your state’s TASC test page, you can enter your address, city, or zip code. This allows you to find locations near you and easily compare the features of each location.

Each location offers different options. You might decide that you want to take the TASC test online and you’ll want to find a location that offers the online-based TASC test. Some locations offer only the paper-based test, which some test takers prefer. Additionally, some locations offer classes specifically for students who are preparing to take the TASC test to earn their high school equivalencies.

On your state’s TASC test page, the test center locations are organized by distance. Each listed center includes details, such as the center’s address, phone number, and directions through Google Maps. The list also includes notes on the available test methods and class options. Some centers also include their hours of operation, making it easy for you to either walk in for a visit, or call ahead and make an appointment.

Know that each state offering the TASC test has different options, requirements, and registration procedures. Be sure you select your state, and follow the directions carefully. Self-registering is easy when you follow the steps outlined by your state, and when you know exactly what you need to do on the test day.

To find out information about each state’s TASC test requirements, read our post on “What You Need to Know About Your State’s TASC Test Centers.” Check out these sites, too:

How World War I Caused World War II | TASC Social Studies

iStock_000008084684LargeIf you’re a history buff, you might have watched the History Channel’s special series, The World Wars. This series focused on the connections between World War I (WWI) and World War II (WWII), including both economic and social issues, as well as key military figures.

Though the series is informative, if you’re studying for the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Social Studies subtest, watching the History Channel is not enough. The connections between WWI and WWII are complex — and are a high emphasis topic on the Social Studies subtest. Take a look at our summary and study tips.

World War I

WWI, which has also been called the Great War, began on July 28, 1914. It began shortly after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. The Archduke and his wife were assassinated by a Serbian nationalist secret society. The people’s reaction was mild as the archduke was not greatly beloved by his people. But the event was used as an excuse for Austria-Hungary to exercise its power over Serbia and solidify its power in the surrounding Balkans.

As Michael Duffy, a writer for A Multimedia History of World War One, notes: one thing led to another. Europe quickly armed itself as conflict spread throughout the continent. Many countries were connected by treaties, which called them to support one another if their allies were threatened with war. For example, Russia was bound by a treaty to Serbia, and after Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Russia announced the mobilization of its army to defend Serbia.

Quickly, the Allied Powers and the Central Powers formed. The Allied Powers consisted of Great Britain, France, Russia and Italy. The United States eventually joined the Allies in 1917, when they could no longer stay neutral. The Central Powers consisted of Germany, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria.

World War I ended in 1918. The leaders of the Powers came together in France at the Palace of Versailles to sign the treaty, known as the Treaty of Versailles. Among the leaders gathered in Versailles were David Lloyd George of Britain, Georges Clemenceau of France, and Woodrow Wilson of the United States. The terms of the treaty were harsh, and these men — known as the Big Three — argued and negotiated for months before the treaty was signed. Wilson was an advocate for peace and wanted to create the League of Nations based on his 14-point plan. The League would unite the nations in an effort to bring about reconciliation and democracy.

The League was not received well by the rest of the Big Three or the other countries that participated in negotiations. They wanted to punish the Central Powers. The Treaty of Versailles was harsh in its treatment of the Central Powers, particularly Germany. Land was divided among the victors, military was reduced and constricted, and the country was heavily taxed.

The Interwar Years

Initially, many countries saw a post-war boom. The “roaring” 1920s are still known for the stable economy, increased markets, and increased wages. The twenties are often associated with the American Dream, which declared that there was plenty for everyone and that anyone would be able to achieve what they wanted from life as long as they set their mind to achieving it.

However, these affluent times came to an abrupt end with the stock market crash in October 1929. In the United States, the Great Depression  began shortly after the stock market crash. By 1933, roughly 14 million Americans were unemployed and nearly half of the country’s banks had failed.

Though President Franklin D. Roosevelt created relief and reform movements to lessen the effects of the Great Depression, the economy did not fully turn around until World War II began in 1939.

World War II

WWII began in September of 1939, when Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. The declaration followed Germany’s invasion of Poland under the leadership of Adolf Hitler.

Hitler had been named Chancellor of Germany in January 1933. Almost immediately, he began to secretly build up Germany’s army and weapons. He built warships, created an air force, and introduced mandatory military service. All of these actions were in direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles.

Hitler firmly believed that the Treaty of Versailles was an unfair affront to Germany’s power and German nationhood. He was devoted to reconstructing Germany and making it the most powerful nation in the world. He strategically created alliances with Italy and Japan. His first steps were to take back the land that had been taken away from Germany because of the Treaty. After invading the Rhineland, he sent troops into Austria and quickly took over the country. Next, he demanded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia be returned to Germany. By March 1939, German troops under the command of Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia. It was not until Germany entered Poland that other nations stopped negotiating with Hitler, and decided to take serious action to stop his aggression.

The causes of WWII are much more complex than Hitler’s desires to regain German territory. However, Hitler was largely driven by the harsh restrictions placed on his country by the Treaty of Versailles. In this way, the actions that concluded WWI directly led to the start of WWII.

Real Talk: Shanequa Grant’s TASC Test Success Story

For Shanequa Grant of Brooklyn, New York, taking the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ meant setting an example for her children and an opportunity to seek higher education. Her hard work and dedication to studying paid off. In August 2014, Shanequa discovered like so many others that she passed the TASC test. Shanequa will receive her high school equivalency, which gives her a chance to continue her education and further her career. Today, she shares her TASC test success story with us:

  1. Prior to taking the TASC test, what was the highest grade level you completed? What stopped you from pursuing your high school diploma?

I completed the 11th grade, but I failed my 12th grade Science Regents Exam twice. I was told I needed 6 more months [of school] (in order to receive my diploma). I felt so degraded because all my friends had graduated, and I was being held back. So, unfortunately, I gave up and refused to go back to school.

  1. How did you prepare for the TASC test? How did the study materials help you prepare for the TASC test?

I had my grandfather order the McGraw-Hill TASC test and Kaplan TASC test study books for me.

  1. Which sections or subjects did you find to be the easiest and also most challenging?

Math and Science.

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  1. How do you feel now that you took the TASC test and received your high school diploma?

I feel wonderful! I doubted myself. But I’ve passed with flying colors and I barely had two months to study. It gave me confidence in myself. I am going to continue my education now.

  1. What plans do you have for your future? What are your goals, dreams, and ambitions?

I am going to continue my education in health information technology at Technical Career Institute College of Technology to become a medical assistant. In the meantime, I am scheduled to take the New York State School Safety Exam so I can begin to work. 

  1. What is your number one piece of advice or tip for all TASC test takers?

Never doubt yourself. Have faith and don’t give up!

Finding the Main Idea | TASC Reading

iStock_000039719496LargeWhen it comes to the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Reading subtest, finding the main idea is the most important skill you can have in your toolbox. More than one high emphasis focus requires students to identify the main idea, or central idea, of a text:

  • Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text.
  • Determine two or more central ideas and analyze their development over the course of the text.
  • Analyze how the author unfolds a series of ideas, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.
  • Analyze a complex set of ideas and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop

To get a good sense of the central idea and the development of an argument, you must first understand all the parts of a text:

  1. Paragraph: A group of sentences organized around a topic, a main idea about that topic, and details that support the main idea. Paragraphs are typically 5 to 8 sentences long, but can be longer or shorter.
  2. Topic: The overall subject of a paragraph, sometimes called the theme
  3. Main idea: A statement that tells the author’s point or opinion about the topic. The main idea provides the message of a given paragraph or the argument that is being made about the topic. In longer arguments, the overall text has one main idea, or thesis, that is supported by the following paragraphs, which each have their own main ideas.
  4. Details: Specific information about the main idea or support for the main idea.

To find the main idea, you must first identify the topic. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What is this text about?
  • Who or what is the focus of this text?
  • Why is this text important?

Once you’ve found the topic, you can ask yourself more specific questions to find the main idea:

  • What argument is the author making about this topic?
  • If I could sum up this argument in one sentence, what would that argument be?
  • What is the overall message the author is trying to share with the reader?

Bonus Reading Tips:

  • In some texts, the main idea will be the first sentence of the paragraph. Often, authors organize their texts this way so that the rest of the paragraph can be supporting details.
  • Ask yourself questions such as: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? These questions are investigative and help you look for the right details. If the main idea isn’t the first sentence, it might be a set of details that is explained over the course of the paragraph.
  • Longer texts, such as articles, might have headers. These headers give you the insight into the topic of that group of paragraphs and can help you identify the main idea.
  • Look for bolded, highlighted, or otherwise emphasized words. In textbooks, for example, these terms are emphasized because they are the most important terms in a paragraph. Often, the main ideas are focused on these terms.

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