How the TABE Can Help You Take the Next Steps in Life

Understanding the TABE

In 2017, 5.4% of people between the ages of 16 and 24 weren’t enrolled in school and hadn’t earned a diploma or other credential[1]. People leave school before graduation for a variety of reasons. Later on in life, they might decide to resume their education, pursue a GED and ultimately earn a career certificate.

Before they can do that, though, many people need to get the basics down. Adult basic education (ABE) focuses on language, math and reading and is designed to prepare people for the GED exam and for entering the workforce. Before enrolling in an ABE program, a student usually needs to take the Test of Adult Basic Education, aka the TABE. Learn more about the TABE, including how to prepare for it and what it can do for you.

Who Is Adult Basic Education For?

ABE programs are designed for people over the age of 16 who are not currently enrolled in school. The programs aim to increase people’s literacy in reading, language arts and mathematics. Often, ABE programs are learner-centered and are designed based on a person’s individual goals and needs. If a person is stronger in math than in reading, for example, their course of study is likely to focus more on boosting their reading skills than on math.

Why Would You Take the TABE?

Since ABE programs are focus on the needs of each individual learner, it’s important to know where a person stands before they begin a program. The TABE is a placement test that evaluates someone’s skill level in math, reading and language arts.

There’s no way to “pass” or “fail” the test, as it’s designed to assess a learner. How someone performs on the test allows a program to place a learner in the course that would benefit them the most. Once in a course, a learner might advance quickly and build their skills or reach their goals before the estimated completion time. It might also be the case that a learner finds they need additional instruction or support they’ve started a course.

What’s on the TABE?

There are two TABE formats, each of which focuses on four content areas: reading, math computation, applied math and language. The shorter version is the survey test. Each section on the survey test has 25 questions. A person taking the survey has 15 to 25 minutes to complete each section and the test takes a total of 90 minutes.

The complete battery test has the same four content areas, but twice as many questions in each section. People taking the complete battery have about twice as long to complete each section of the test and the whole exam takes about three hours.

No matter which TABE a learner takes, each of the questions will be multiple choice. No writing or short answer questions are on the test.

How Do You Prepare for the TABE?

Although you can’t fail the TABE, some preparation will help you do your best on the test. You can try answering practice questions[4] in advance, to get an idea of what’s on the test and to get a sense of what you already know. Since the test is meant to evaluate your current skill level, it’s important to remember not to stress if you don’t know the answer to a question. Focus on doing your best and don’t feel worried if there are some questions that stump you.

Although you shouldn’t stress about getting answers wrong on the test, it is important to make sure you understand the instructions on the TABE and that you can follow the directions. If you are unsure what you are expected to do while taking the test, feel free to ask someone to more clearly explain the directions to you.

What Happens After You Take the Test?

After you take the TABE, your answers will be graded to determine your level. TABE Levels are L, E, M, D and A. “A” is the highest level while “L” is the lowest. You can then enroll in an ABE program, in a course designed for your level. Depending on your score, you might be at different levels for language, reading or math and the courses you take would reflect that.

It’s very likely that you’ll take the TABE more than once. You’ll take it before enrolling in a program and again as you move through the coursework. How you score on each test will help you and your instructors see how you’re doing when it comes to working on your goals and whether you’re ready to move on to the next level or prepare for the GED.

Orange Technical College offers ABE courses at all of our campuses in Central Florida. Programs are available during the day or in the evening to help you reach your goals and move on to the next level of education or employment. To learn more about the enrollment process and the TABE, contact us today.


  1. “Dropout rates, National Center for Education Statistics,”
  2. “Understanding Literacy and Numeracy, Centers for Disease Control,”
  3. TABE FAQ, Indiana Adult Education,”
  4. Preparing for the TABE, Florida Department of Education,