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Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

Overview

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) is designed to meet the requirements of the Education Reform Law of 1993. This law specifies that the testing program must

  • test all public school students in Massachusetts, including students with disabilities and English Language Learner students;
  • measure performance based on the Massachusetts Curriculum Framework learning standards;
  • report on the performance of individual students, schools, and districts.

As required by the Education Reform Law, students must pass the grade 10 tests in English Language Arts (ELA), Mathematics and one of the four high school Science and Technology Engineering tests as one condition of eligibility for a high school diploma (in addition to fulfilling local requirements).

In addition, the MCAS program is used to hold schools and districts accountable, on a yearly basis, for the progress they have made toward the objective of the No Child Left Behind Law that all students be proficient in Reading and Mathematics by 2014.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What subjects does MCAS test?
  2. What types of questions are used on MCAS tests?
  3. How are test results reported?
  4. How are test results used?
  5. Is a ranking of district and town by MCAS scores available?
  6. Are all students required to participate?
  7. Can parents refuse their child's participation in the MCAS tests?
  8. How do students with disabilities participate in the MCAS tests?
  9. How do English Language Learners participate in the MCAS tests?
  10. What types of state-funded academic support programs are available for high school students or young adults who left high school without receiving a high school diploma?

    View all

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2. What types of questions are used on MCAS tests?

The following types of questions are used on MCAS tests:

  • Multiple-choice questions are included on all MCAS tests except the ELA Composition and require students to select the correct answer from a list of four options.

    Responses to multiple-choice questions are machine scored.

  • Short-answer questions are included only on Mathematics tests and require students to generate a brief response, usually a numerical solution or a brief statement.

    Responses to short-answer questions are scored on a scale of 0-1 points by one scorer at grades 3-8 and by two independent scorers at grade 10.

  • Short-response questions are included only on the grade 3 ELA test and require students to generate a brief response to a reading comprehension question.

    Responses to short-response questions are scored on a scale of 0-2 points by one scorer.

  • Open-response questions are included on all MCAS tests except the ELA Composition and require students to generate rather than recognize, a response. Students create a one-or two-paragraph response in writing or in the form of a narrative or a chart, table, diagram, illustration or graph, as appropriate. Students can respond correctly using a variety of strategies and approaches.

    Responses to open-response questions are scored using a scoring guide and anchor papers (student work), for each question. The scoring guides indicate what knowledge and skills students must demonstrate. Open-response questions are scored on a scale of 0-4 points, with the exception of grade 3 Mathematics, which is scored on a scale of 0-2 points.

    Answers to open-response questions are not scored for spelling, punctuation, or grammar. Responses are scored by one scorer at grades 3-8. Grade 10 ELA and Mathematics tests and high school Science and Technology/Engineering tests are scored by two independent scorers.

  • Writing prompts are included only on ELA Composition tests and require students to respond by creating a written composition.

    Student compositions are scored independently by two scorers for

    • topic development, based on a six point scale, with students receiving from 2 to12 points (the sum of scores from each of the two scorers)

    • standard English conventions, based on a four-point scale, with students receiving from 2 to 8 points (the sum of the scores from each of the two scorers)

    Student compositions that do not address the prompt are deemed non-scorable (NS), earning them 0 out of 20 possible points. Refer to Memo: Off-Topic Compositions on MCAS English Language Arts Tests

View test questions

View MCAS sample student work and Scoring Guides



Last Updated: March 5, 2013
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