About MCAS


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is MCAS?
  2. What subjects does MCAS cover?
  3. Who has to take MCAS?
  4. How is the content of MCAS determined?
  5. When do students take the MCAS tests?
  6. What is required for a student to graduate from high school?
  7. What happens if a student fails the tenth grade MCAS?
  8. How do I make an appeal?
  9. Where can I get help to prepare my child for MCAS?
  10. Where can I find MCAS questions?
  11. Where can I find MCAS results?
  12. What if I have other questions?


  1. What is MCAS?
    MCAS stands for Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System. The term is used to describe a series of tests given in Massachusetts public schools to measure students' progress toward statewide educational goals.

  2. What subjects does MCAS cover?
    Currently, students are tested in four areas: Mathematics, English Language Arts, Science and Technology, and History and Social Science. The state has also developed curriculum frameworks for the Arts, Health, and World Languages, but the MCAS tests do not yet cover these subjects.

  3. Who has to take MCAS?
    Students in grades 3-8 and 10 take MCAS. With few exceptions, all students, including those with learning disabilities and limited English proficiency, are required to take the tests.

  4. How is the content of MCAS determined?
    The MCAS tests are designed to reflect curriculum frameworks designed and approved by the Massachusetts Department of Education (DOE). Frameworks in each subject area detail what students should be expected to know— and be able to do— by the time they graduate from high school.

  5. When do students take the MCAS tests?
    The Reading test for grade 3 and the English Language Arts Composition test for grades 4, 7, and 10 are administered in March. All other tests are administered in May. Schools usually allocate a period of 45 minutes or more each morning for MCAS. The test itself, however, is not timed. Students can take as much time as they need to finish the portion of the test assigned for a given day. MCAS results are reported in the fall. An overview of the 2003-2004 testing schedule is available at www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/cal.html.

  6. What is required for a student to graduate from high school?
    Starting with the class of 2003, students must meet all local requirements and pass the MCAS tests in English Language Arts and Mathematics. Local requirements usually include passing a certain set of required courses. As of fall 2000, students must score one point above "Failing" in each subject area to pass the MCAS tests.

  7. What happens if a student fails the tenth grade MCAS?
    Retests are scheduled in the winter, spring, and summer for students who fail the tenth grade MCAS. Students can take the test up to five times: once as sophomores, twice as juniors, and twice as seniors. Students who fail the exam can file an appeal to be considered for graduation. To be eligible for an appeal, students must have taken the exam at least three times; scored at least a 216 at least once; maintained at least a 95% attendance level during the previous school year and the year of the appeal; and participated in the school’s tutoring and academic support services.

  8. How do I make an appeal?
    Appeals are filed by the student's district superintendent. To download an application, visit the DOE web site at www.doe.mass.edu/mcas or call 781-338-3333. Students who meet their local graduation requirements and who either passed or earned an appeal in both the English and math exams will receive a competency evaluation.

  9. Where can I get help to prepare my child for MCAS?
    A good place to start is your child's teachers and principal. They can help to identify areas your child may need improvement in to succeed on MCAS. Each school also has a Parent Council, which is designed to help parents advocate for their children in school. Your child's principal can help you contact your council. The Boston Public School Course Guide explains which topics or courses kids need to master for promotion or graduation. It's available free from teachers in Boston public schools.

    The DOE also provides a variety of MCAS resources, including guides to each subject area test, complete curriculum frameworks, and sample test questions. You can reach the DOE at 781-338-3000 or on the Web at www.doe.mass.edu/pathways.

  10. Where can I find the 2001 MCAS questions?
    You can find MCAS questions from 1998-2002 at the DOE web site at www.doe.mass.edu/mcas.

  11. Where can I find the 2001 MCAS results?
    You can find the results of the 2001-2002 MCAS at the DOE web site at www.doe.mass.edu/mcas.

  12. What if I have other questions?
    if you have more questions about Massachusetts education reform and MCAS. We'll use your requests for information to make additions to this FAQ. You can also visit the MCAS section of the DOE site at www.doe.mass.edu/mcas or call the MCAS hotline at 1-866-MCAS220.