Sep 21

Should Your Child Actor Take the CHSPE ?

Should Your Child Actor Take the CHSPE ?


Barron's CHSPE Guide

When a child actor becomes a teen, it is not uncommon to be excluded from auditions for characters who are meant to be exactly your age. These roles are often specified as “18TPY” (18 To Play Younger) or perhaps as “Legal 18.”  It is precisely at this time that the CHSPE may be of interest to you if you are a child actor (or the parent of one).

My daughter was small when she was young and looked a little younger than she was. This was very convenient for auditioning.

When she turned 11, she matured. She grew taller and started to look and act older than she actually was. By the time she turned 13, people often thought she was 15.  This trend of looking and seeming older than she was continued. We saw a sharp decline in the number of auditions for her.

She did background work for a movie once just for fun, and when the kids all gathered around the Christmas tree for singing and games, she was “kicked out” to be in the scene with the adults because she was “too old.” She was actually over a year younger than the girl who had the lead role in the film and several of the other children! This was very upsetting to my daughter who was only 11 at the time.

When my daughter did get into auditions, we frequently saw other teens who were older but were shorter and looked much younger than my daughter. We even saw girls who were 18 and looked younger than she did.

Have you noticed how many teen roles on TV and movies are played by young adults?

There are many reasons why this is so: mature content, maturity of the actor, the number of hours an actor can work, schooling requirements, other “on set” requirements for minors, and ability to drive, just to name a few…

Seeing so many projects with roles posted for “18TPY” or “Legal 18” is enough to make any child actor who is not yet 18, particularly if that teen is also in SAG-AFTRA, feel frustrated and perhaps want to throw in the towel. It caused my daughter to focus on other performance opportunities and just about everything else except acting for TV and film, especially while she had braces on her teeth.

In the last year or so, as our daughter got closer to the age of 16, she, my husband, and I started discussing her taking the CHSPE. I began reading about the test and trying to decide if this might be a good option for her.

What if you could take care of a couple of the items that interfere with your teen’s ability to audition for and book roles meant for a teenager? That is what taking and passing the CHSPE can do for you. (See “What Is the CHSPE?” for more details about the CHSPE, including when it can be taken.)

So, “Should Your Child Actor Take the CHSPE?

If you have a child actor nearing the age of 16, the CHSPE is something you should consider.

And your child may be very interested in taking the test.

There are some good reasons for a child actor to take (and pass) the CHSPE in terms of how employers in the entertainment industry view you.

Two big reasons are:

  1. You no longer need a set teacher for schooling on set, and you no longer need to attend school on the set for part of your working hours.
  2. After passing the test, you can work as an adult. This means you can work longer hours than you can as a minor.

These two items mean there are less costs associated with your employment. And that is appealing to every employer. Since no schooling is required on set and since you can work more hours, filming can be completed more quickly.

In addition, there are some other things that passing the CHSPE brings about:

  1. Your child receives a Certificate of Proficiency that is considered equivalent to a high school diploma in terms of employment. Your child can apply for jobs requiring a high school diploma.
  2. Your child is no longer required to attend school if a parent or guardian signs the forms to allow this. However, dropping out of school is, in general, a bad idea and is absolutely not recommended.
  3. Your child can take classes at a community college for college credit.
  4. Your child is no longer required to have a California entertainment work permit.

In terms of employment, getting this Certificate of Proficiency after passing the CHSPE allows a young actor to submit for auditions and possibly book roles that are specified as “18TPY” or “Legal 18.”

While this may all sound wonderful, if you really stop to think about what this means, you’ll realize that there are some negatives associated with passing the CHSPE as well. It may really not be quite so appealing as it appears.

The following are some things to think about when it comes to how passing the CHSPE might affect your child actor:

  1. The actor will no longer get schooling and the assistance of a set teacher while on set.
  2. The actor will still have to complete all school work — if continuing with school (which is certainly recommended). This includes all the work that is being done during the school day, plus all the homework that is assigned. In high school, this can be quite a lot of work.
  3. Since the actor can now work as an adult, all the restrictions that were previously placed on working hours as a result of being a minor are lifted. This means the actor can work a full day, and no part of that work day is allocated for completion of schoolwork. The actor can even be required to work overtime hours!
  4. When auditioning as an adult, auditions often occur during the school day (not allowed for union auditions for minors).

These may not be a problem for your child, but they are definitely factors to consider when making a decision about whether your child actor should take the CHSPE or not.

Some additional interesting facts about the CHSPE and what it means for child actors who pass this exam are:

  1. The schools must still allow your child to attend high school if desired.
  2. Most child actors who pass the test continue to attend high school as if nothing has changed.
  3. To actually graduate from high school, a student must still fulfill all the course requirements of the school and district.
  4. For teens who plan to go to college, the CHSPE does not replace any of the coursework or tests required for admission into college.
  5. The teen actor will still not have access to Coogan Account funds until the age of 18.

There is certainly a lot to think about when it comes to the CHSPE. Doing schoolwork is hard enough for most teens without adding the additional stress of a full-time job.

But passing the CHSPE can give a child actor additional audition and job opportunities.

There are a few other factors to consider when it comes to the CHSPE:

  1. There is the rather large fee (currently $110) that you need to pay in order to take the test.
  2. You may want to buy extra study materials to use in preparing for the CHSPE.
  3. Test dates for the CHSPE may conflict with PSAT test dates in the fall.
  4. There will be preparation time needed prior to taking the CHSPE.
  5. For those also taking the PSAT and SAT or other tests, this will take away time that could be spent preparing for those other tests that are so important for getting into college.

If you don’t pass both parts the first time, you’ll have to pay the fee again to do a re-test on the part that was not passed. The fee is still the same whether you are taking one or both parts of the test.

If you’ve decided you want to go ahead and take the CHSPE, just be sure to spend some time preparing. There are a number of good guides to use in preparing for the CHSPE.

Barron’s CHSPE: California High School Proficiency Exam – The Barron’s Guide available from Amazon currently for just $11.24, is a good guide. It was just updated and re-released this fall.

Check out the CHSPE page here to see other information, resources, and guides (and reviews of some of those materials) that may be useful to you as you you prepare for the CHSPE. Some resources are free while others are not.

To your success,

Debbie Sikkema

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  1. Jada

    Is one source talent. Real? It’s suspose. To be an agency

  2. Debbie Sikkema

    Hi Jada,
    Yes, One Source Talent is real, but it is considered by many people to be a scam. If they ask for you to pay money up front or sign up for lots of classes or require you to use their photographer, those are all big signs of a scam. I have heard that One Source Talent possibly does those things, so I don’t recommend them. Try for a different agency if possible. Good luck!

  3. Teresa

    Thank you for this article! I found it in two seconds and it answered all of the questions, and more, that my daughter and I had about considering this option.

  4. Nancy

    Are the child’s earnings taxed at an adult rate if they pass this test?

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