FCAT FAQ

What is the FCAT?

The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or the FCAT, is the standardized test used to measure student progress in Florida's primary and secondary public schools.

Your child's grade level in school determines which of the FCAT subtests (Reading, Writing, Math, and/or Science) he or she will take:

Students' results from the FCAT are compiled to generate a grade for each public school. Public schools receive a grade from A to F, depending on student performance and the degree to which the bottom 25% of the school has improved compared to its past performances. The higher a public school scores, the more funding it receives.

 See information on our test prep tutors for FCAT.

 To see a list of school grades for your county, click on this link: http://fcat.fldoe.org/mediapacket/2011/default.asp

GRADE Reading Writing Math Science
  3   Yes   No   Yes   No
  4   Yes   Yes   Yes   No
  5   Yes   No   Yes   Yes
  6   Yes   No   Yes   No
  7   Yes   No   Yes   No
  8   Yes   Yes   Yes   Yes
  9   Yes   No   Yes   No
  10   Yes   Yes   Yes   No
  11   No   No   No   Yes

The FCAT measures student achievement of the benchmarks in Florida's Sunshine State Standards. The benchmarks identify knowledge and skills that students are expected to acquire, with the underlying expectation that students also demonstrate critical thinking. First administered in 1998, the FCAT has become an integral part of Florida's public education system.

The FCAT is administered annually, on regular school days, by each school's own staff:

Month Grade Test
October Grades 11 – Adult 
(New Students/Retakes)
Reading 
Math
February Grades 4, 8, 10 Writing
March Grades 3-10 Reading 
Math
March Grades 5, 8, 11 Science
March Grades 11 – Adult 
(New Students/Retakes)
Reading 
Math

Florida's lawmakers have passed legislation to replace the FCAT with a series of standardized end-of-course exams. The process begins with the implementation of these math and science tests:

  • Algebra 1 (baseline test in 2009-2010)
  • Geometry (field test in selected schools in 2010-2011)
  • Biology (field test in selected schools in 2010-2011)

Tests in U.S. History and Civics will be introduced in succeeding years.

Students will need to pass these exams in order to get the credits they need to graduate. As new end-of-course exams are introduced, their content will be removed from the FCAT. This will continue until all classes have end-of-course exams. (The 10th-grade math FCAT and 11th-grade science FCAT will be eliminated by 2011-12.)

Alternatively students may fulfill graduation requirements by submitting SAT or ACT scores:

Test Reading Math
    SAT    420     340
    ACT     18     15

What types of questions are on the FCAT?

There are three FCAT question types:

  • Multiple-choice
  • Gridded-response
  • Performance task

FCAT Writing features an essay component as well as multiple-choice questions.

Although the FCAT is a timed test, the time allotted is intended to be sufficient for almost all students.

Question 
Type
Relevant 
Sections
Description
Multiple-Choice Reading 
Reading Retake 
Math 
Math Retake 
Science
Writing+
Students choose the correct answer from 3 or 4 possible choices and mark the choice by filling in a bubble in the test booklet or answer document. Three-option multiple- choice questions are found only in FCAT Writing+. Multiple-choice questions require approximately one minute to answer and are each worth 1 raw score point.
Gridded-Response

Math
Math Retake
Science

Students solve problems or answer questions requiring a numerical response and bubble or mark numerical answers in response grids. Students must accurately fill in the bubbles below the grids to receive credit for their answers. Gridded-response questions require approximately 1½ minutes to answer and are each worth 1 raw score point.
Short & 
Extended-Response
Math
Reading
Science
Students respond to questions in their own words or show their solutions to problems. Short-response tasks require approximately five minutes to complete, and students may receive a raw score of 0, 1, or 2 points. Extended-response tasks require approximately 15 minutes to complete, and students may receive a raw score of 0, 1, 2, 3 or 4 points.
Prompted Essay Writing+ Each FCAT Writing+ prompt has two parts: the writing situation and the directions for writing. The writing situation orients the students to the subject about which they are to write. The directions for writing guide the students to think about the topic before they begin to write. Essays are scored on a scale ranging from 0 points to 6 points. Students are given 45 minutes to complete the writing section.

FCAT questions are categorized according to complexity:

  • Low complexity: A question requires a simple skill, such as locating details in a text or solving a one-step problem.
  • Moderate complexity: A question can ask the student to summarize a passage or retrieve information from a graph and use it to solve a problem.
  • High complexity: A question may require a student to analyze cause-and-effect relationships or justify a solution to a problem.

What’s tested in reading?

FCAT Reading employs a wide variety of written material to assess students' reading comprehension as defined in the Sunshine State Standards. FCAT Reading is composed of about 6–8 reading passages, each with 6–11 questions. There are two types of reading passages:

  • Informational
  • Literary

Informational passages provide readers with facts about a particular subject and may include magazine and newspaper articles, editorials, and biographies. Literary passages may include short stories, poems, folk tales, and selections from novels.

The percentage of informational text students will encounter on the FCAT also increases as they progress through the grades. Likewise, the range of words per passage increases across the grade levels.

The FCAT focuses on these four content areas:

  1. Words and phrases in context
  2. Main idea, plot, and purpose
  3. Comparison and cause/effect
  4. Reference and research

As students progress through the grades, more emphasis is placed on higher-level thinking skills, especially reference and research.

FCAT Reading includes multiple-choice questions for all grades. However, for grades 4, 8, and 10, it also includes short- and extended-response questions which are worth more points. For example, a short-response task may require the student to describe how a character in a story changes or shows growth. An extended-response task requires a longer and more detailed response, such as a comparison of traits or actions of two different characters. Students are provided eight lines on which to write their answers for short-response questions and 14 lines for extended-response questions.

FCAT READING CONTENT
GRADES Words & Phrases in Context Main Idea, Plot & Purpose Comparisons & Cause/Effect Reference & Research
3-5
  • meaning of words in context
  • word analysis
  • main idea
  • supporting details
  • chronological order
  • author's purpose in a simple text plot
  • development & conflict resolution
  • use of comparison & contrast
  • cause & effect relationships
  • similarities & differences among characters, settings, events
  • organization & interpretation of information
6-8
  • words in context
  • drawing conclusions
  • organizational patterns
  • main idea
  • relevant details
  • organizational patterns
  • author's purpose or point of view
  • character & plot development
  • setting
  • conflict resolution
  • tone
  • use of comparison & contrast
  • cause & effect relationships
  • organization
  • interpretation & synthesis of information
  • validity & accuracy of information
9-10
  • words in context
  • inference
  • interpretation of data presentations
  • main idea
  • supporting details
  • methods of development
  • author's purpose or point of view
  • complex elements of plot
  • setting
  • conflict resolution
  • tone
  • use of comparison & contrast
  • cause & effect relationships
  • identification & synthesis of information
  • synthesis of information from multiple sources
  • validity & accuracy of information

What’s tested in math?

FCAT Math includes multiple-choice questions in Grades 3–10, gridded questions in Grades 5–10, and short- and extended-response questions in Grades 5, 8, and 10. Performance tasks require students to use their own words to write a detailed solution or describe an answer to the question. A short-response performance task may ask for an equation that represents a problem situation. An extended-response question requires a longer, more detailed response, such as constructing a graph.

Questions for Grades 3–6 are designed to not require calculators, and students in those grades may not use them. In Grades 7–10, 4-function calculators are provided to the students . Visually impaired students in these grades are provided with "talking calculators." A reference sheet of formulas and conversions is provided to students in Grades 6–10 during testing.

FCAT Mathematics covers five content areas. Students in Grades 3–10 respond to questions from each of these areas, but the emphasis on each area varies from grade to grade.

FCAT MATH CONTENT
Number Sense Measurement Geometry Algebra Data analysis
  • identifies +, –, x, ÷ & knows what they do
  • determines estimates
  • Knows how numbers are represented & used
  • recognizes measurements & units of measure
  • compares, contrasts, & converts measurements
  • describes, draws, identifies, & analyzes two- & three-dimensional shapes
  • visualizes and illustrates changes in shape
  • uses coordinate geometry
  • describes, analyzes, & generalizes patterns, relations, & functions
  • writes and uses expressions, equations, inequalities, graphs, & formulas
  • organizes, interprets, & analyzes data
  • identifies patterns & makes predictions, inferences, & valid conclusions
  • uses probability & statistics

What’s tested in science?

FCAT Science measures student achievement of the science benchmarks contained in the Sunshine State Standards at Grades 5, 8, and 11. Students are tested in four areas:

  • Physical and Chemical Sciences
  • Earth and Space Sciences
  • Life and Environmental Sciences
  • Scientific Thinking

FCAT Science includes multiple-choice and short-and extended-response questions at all three grade levels. Gridded response questions are also included at Grades 8 and 11. Some questions, scored with two- or four-point rubrics, require students to explain the scientific concept or process used to determine the answer and to provide the answer in their own words. A short-response question may ask the student to explain a scientific concept. An extended-response question requires a longer, more detailed response, such as describing the steps to use in an experiment. Certain answer spaces may include blank work space, charts, drawings, or lined answer space, based on what is required to answer the question.

Students in Grades 8 and 11 are provided with reference sheets that include important formulas and conversions and a periodic table of the elements. If any formula is needed in Grade 5, the appropriate formula is included. Although 4-function calculators are provided to students in Grades 8 and 11, use of calculators is not essential.

FCAT SCIENCE CONTENT
Physical & Chemical Sciences Earth & Space Sciences Life & Environmental Sciences Scientific Thinking
  • describes matter & its properties
  • identifies atoms, elements, mixtures, & compounds
  • explains energy, its forms & interaction with matter
  • explains motion & identifies force
  • explains weather systems
  • recognizes rocks & minerals
  • describes the solar system & universe
  • explains Earth's changes over time
  • identifies & explains plants, animals, & life processes
  • recognizes the importance of conservation of natural resources
  • describes the interactions of plants, animals, & the environment
  • applies scientific approaches to problem solving
  • recognizes patterns & systems within nature
  • recognizes the impact of technology on society

What’s tested in writing?

On FCAT Writing (now referred to as FCAT Writing+), students are asked to write an essay within a 45-minute testing session on a single assigned topic. For the purpose of scoring, four elements in the writing process are considered:

FCAT WRITING ELEMENTS
Focus Organization Support Conventions
demonstrates a main idea or theme & stays on topic follows a plan that includes an introduction, effective transitional devices, & a conclusion includes use of specific details & precise word choice to explain, clarify, or define meaning demonstrates knowledge of the basic skills of punctuation, capitalization, spelling, usage, & sentence structure

FCAT Writing prompts require students to respond with a narrative, expository, or persuasive essay.

  • Grade 4: prompts require a narrative or expository response
  • Grades 8 & 10: prompts require an expository or persuasive response

A narrative response tells a story, an expository response explains an idea, and a persuasive response attempts to convince a reader to agree with a given position.

The Writing test also includes multiple-choice questions with 3- and 4-answer options. The test includes:

  • Writing samples that model student draft writing
  • Stand-alone samples that provide a succinct context for measuring knowledge of conventions
  • Samples that contain high-interest material and numbered blanks
  • Writing plans that provide a prewriting structure

How is the FCAT scored?

The FCAT is scored using a combination of electronic scoring for multiple-choice questions and hand-scoring for performance-based tasks.

Reading, Math, and Science scores:

  • Achievement level: 1-5
  • Scale score: 100-500
  • Developmental scale score: 86-3008

Writing score:

  • 1-6

If your child's achievement level improves from one year to the next, he or she has made progress. Your child is also making progress if his or her achievement level remains the same for two years in a row because the content assessed at the higher grade is more difficult.

  • Students who score at Levels 3, 4, or 5 are performing at or above expectations and meet the requirements of the Sunshine State Standards.
  • Students who score at Level 1 or 2 are performing below expectations and need additional instruction in content. The school and district have guidelines for making decisions about promoting students who score at Level 1.

If your child scores at Level 1 or 2 – or even Level 3 – call us to discuss the ways in which we can help him or her improve in school and on the FCAT.

FCAT scores are released at the end of the school year.

What’s the FCAT requirement for graduation?

To graduate from a public high school in Florida, students must earn passing scores on the Reading and Mathematics Sunshine State Standards portion of the Grade 10 FCAT.

  • Reading: 1926 (scale score of 300)
  • Math: 1889 (scale score of 300)

After Grade 10, there are additional opportunities to retake the test and earn passing scores.

Alternatively students may meet graduation requirements with SAT or ACT scores:

Test Reading Math
SAT 420 340
ACT 18 15

What else is important?

  • Only 60% of high school 10th graders pass the reading portion of the FCAT, leaving 40% who must retake the test in 11th grade.
  • 3rd grade is the only year that a student can be held back for not passing the reading section of the FCAT.
  • The FCAT became a graduation requirement in 2003.
  • Students who do not pass the math and reading sections of the FCAT will not be issued a high school diploma from the public school system but will receive a Certificate of Completion which is not an equivalent. Non-passing students must obtain a GED to receive a diploma.
  • High school students can do SAT or ACT test prep to get ready. A senior can graduate by receiving an SAT or ACT score which is comparable to the FCAT passing score:
Test
Critical 
Reading
Math
FCAT 1926 1889
SAT 410 370
ACT 15 15
  • Legislation provides for a waiver of the FCAT as a requirement for graduation for students with disabilities whose learning can not be accurately measured by the statewide assessment. The IEP team may request a waiver.

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