The Vineyard saw a sharp decline in the number of people who took and passed the high school equivalency test last year, following the replacement of the GED with a new exam.

In 2013, 27 people passed the General Education Development (GED) exam. But in 2014, the number fell to four.

“The number of people taking the test is at a very low point,” said Jeff Agnoli, who administers the test at the regional high school. “As time goes on, that backlog should be caught up with but it still exists.”

The new test, which is called the HiSET, has scared some people away temporarily, educators said this week. Rumors held that the test was more difficult and only available in a computer-based format.

“Last year was an anomaly because so many people were afraid to even attempt it because it was a new test,” said Matthew Burke, adult basic education coordinator at Dukes County Community Corrections Center, who gave the test to seven successful candidates in 2014.

The implementation of the new test, which was adopted by the state in early 2014, was delayed until spring.

The GED, the state’s equivalency credential exam since 1945, had been offered at the regional high school since the late 1970s.

Like the GED, the HiSET is administered on pencil and paper and takes a total of seven hours. Candidates are tested on their knowledge and skills in five subtests: reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies. Subject tests can be taken in any order.

Mr. Agnoli said the test is considered to be more difficult than its predecessor, though he hadn’t taken the test himself.

Educator Alice Kyburg, who teaches basic math for the HiSET at Adult and Community Education of Martha’s Vineyard, said few materials are available for test prep.

Only recently has a practice test been made available and can now be purchased at a cost of $50.

Ms. Kyburg and Susan Larsen, who tutors inmates, have been teaching the same strategies they taught for the GED test. Ms. Kyburg, who teaches math, said people shouldn’t be frightened of the math sections. “Basic math is basic math and no test is going to be any different from any other,” she said.

Despite its reputation for difficulty, all who attempted the test last year earned the certificate.

In addition, the high school’s graduation rate continues to rise, lessening demand for an alternative high school credential. Those who do choose to take the test do so to get to the next step in their career, or to enroll in college courses. At the jail, the certificate has other benefits. Recipients can be eligible for a reduction to their jail sentence, or term of involvement with the criminal justice system. Community corrections encourages every person who does not have a high school diploma to take the test.

“It gets your foot in the door,” Mr. Burke said. “It gives you that one credential that you need.”

Throughout the commonwealth, some 11,000 adults seek an equivalency credential each year.

Despite a somewhat rocky start, educators maintained that trends will improve as students adapt to the new test.

“Hopefully this year will be the year where it gets its footing,” Mr. Agnoli said. “That’s my goal — to see it return to its former status.”

HiSET preparation takes place at the regional high school on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. Islanders interested in taking the test in the near future can contact the high school guidance department.

ACE MV’s preparation course currently enrolls three students, though they have room for many more.

Visit and