TABE Test – Introduction

The Test for Adult Basic Education (commonly referred to as the TABE® test) is a rigorous diagnostic test that educational institutions and employers use to determine an individual’s aptitudes and skill levels.

Schools use the TABE for guiding students into their adult education programs, such as earning a GED, applying for trade school, etc.

The TABE is often used by technical and vocational schools that offer academic programs for EMT’s, mechanics, or dental assistants.

Companies use the TABE for hiring and selecting employees, for promotions, or for training programs.

The TABE is used by schools to determine students should be placed in their education programs based on their current skills.

TABE Test Prep Resources:

The TABE includes three parts, reading, language, and math. Students may sit for the TABE every 90 days, though proper preparation before testing will help to get high scores at the first try.

The TABE is a well-respected, academics-based, nationwide applied test that provides a reliable measurement of an applicant’s basic skills required to be successful in an education program, the workplace, and in life. For more than 50 years, the TABE test has been used as a highly respected tool in adult education across America.

TABE test scores can determine adults’ eligibility for educational programs that will affect their lives and future income potentials considerably so it is key to become as prepared as possible for the test. In the TABE’s reading portion, students are tested on their reading comprehension and vocabulary. The English portion is assessing their spelling, grammar, sentence, punctuation,  paragraph structure skills, etc. The TABE math section isn’t including a lot of complex math. It mostly includes questions about basic math, percentages, the decimal system, and fractions.

The TABE 11 & 12 tests are aligned with College & Career Readiness (CCR) standards and comply with the rigorous Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA) standards and regulations. Many colleges that are offering certificate and/or associate degree programs are using the TABE to ensure that applicants have the ability to successfully follow their programs and teaching materials used in class.

Adult learning centers providing GED instruction use the TABE to determine the knowledge level of students prior to starting their courses and to indicate their levels by the end of the programs. The TABE test is somewhat similar to the GED test but it is less challenging. There are also schools and colleges that use the TABE as an overall indicator of sills and abilities so it is key to become optimally prepared for the exam.

What TABE test takers should know:

  • Read all of the questions carefully and focus on important information
  • The TABE doesn’t include any “trick questions”.
  • Be sure to understand the directions and when needed, ask for clarifications.
  • If you’re not sure, using the process of elimination will help you to select the best answer.
  • When you’re taking the pencil and paper version, be sure to bubble in the answers carefully. In case you cannot make an easy fix, inform the proctor right away.

Tests of Adult Basic Education Format

So the TABE test measures a student’s proficiency in Reading, Mathematics, and English Language. You are allowed up to 3.5 hours to complete the test (depending on the level) and there are no penalties for guessing on each of the sections. The TABE is used for the Adult Basic Education (ABE) Programs, Career and Technical Education Programs, and GED Prep Programs. Before taking the TABE, there usually is a “locator test” to help help you and the instructor determine which of the five testing levels will be right for you. This Locator Test will take about one hour to complete.

The five levels of TABE testing are L. E, M, D, A:

  • L = Literacy
  • E = Easy
  • M = Medium
  • D = Difficult
  • A = Advanced

Once you’ve taken the locator test, you should have a good indication of what level of testing is appropriate for you. You have the option to take the TABE on a computer or in a pencil & paper format but the Advanced (A) test level is only offered on a computer.

The TABE 11 and 12 tests come with around 40 questions on each subject area so there are some 120 questions overall and, as said before, you can take the test on a computer or in a pencil & paper format.

The TABE 11 & 12 is a timed test. The maximum allowable testing times are as follows: 

Level E: Part 1 & Part 2 combined: 65 minutes
Level M: Part 1: 55 minutes; Part 2: 10 minutes
Level D: Part 1: 35 minutes; Part 2: 30 minutes
Level A: Part 1: 30 minutes; Part 2: 35 minutes

Level E: Part 1: 50 minutes; Part 2: 50 minutes
Level M: Part 1: 50 minutes; Part 2: 50 minutes
Level D: Part 1: 50 minutes; Part 2: 50 minutes
Level A: Part 1: 50 minutes; Part 2: 50 minutes

Level E: 55 minutes
Level M: 55 minutes
Level D: 55 minutes
Level A: 55 minutes

On the Locator Test (the pretest used to determine at what level testing should be done), the following times apply:
Reading: 35 minutes
Language: 20 minutes
Math: Part 1: 10 minutes; Part 2: 10 minutes

The TABE reading portion includes seven (7) reading passages and has into two sections that can be administered individually. All of the questions are multiple-choice and the computer-based version also includes technology-enhanced questions such as multiple-select and drag-and-drop.


The TABE Mathematics part includes about 40 questions in 5 broad categories:

  • Number & Operations Basics – 28%
  • Number & Operations Fractions – 12%
  • Operations & Algebraic Reasoning – 22%
  • Geometry -10%
  • Measurement & Data – 28%


The TABE Reading part includes about 40 questions in 4 four broad categories:

  • Integration of Knowledge & Ideas – 15%
  • Phonics & Word Recognition – 16%
  • Key Ideas & Details – 37%
  • Craft & Structure – 32%


The TABE Language part includes about 40 questions in 3 broad categories:

  • Standard English Conventions – 48%
  • Vocabulary Acquisition & Use – 22%
  • Text Type & Purposes – 30%

What is the TABE fee?

Many educational institutions are offering the TABE test as part of their career placement or adult education program at no cost but if there’s a fee required, it usually is in the $15-$25 range.

Disclaimer: MyCareerTools is not endorsed by or affiliated with McGraw-Hill or Data Recognition Corporation. TABE is a registered trademark belonging to Data Recognition Corporation. Here, it is used solely for reference and identification purposes.

Last Updated on October 7, 2019