About FCAT Test
The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, also known as the FCAT, is a standardized test administered in Florida in order to evaluate and develop the level of education in the primary and secondary levels of public schools. It stands as a part of the arrangement made in the state of Florida to improve overall achievements in academics.
FCAT consists of some of the tests included in the criterion reference tests (CRT), which are tests in various content areas like Social Studies, Mathematics, Language Arts, Science, etc. It comprises of four of these tests, which are Mathematics, Reading, Writing and Science. These tests are conducted to determine the minimum standards obtained by students defined as the Sunshine State Standards. Apart from these tests, you will also find non-referenced tests (NRT), which help to make a nationwide comparison of the performance of students in Reading and Mathematics.
This exam is administered in all public schools of Florida and it is mandatory for all students from Grade 3 to 11. The FCAT material is printed, transported and retrieved by the Florida Department of Education or DOE with the help of a contractor.
Who takes the FCAT?
FCAT is taken by the following:
- All public school students from Grade 3 to 11
- Private school students receiving Opportunity Scholarships
- Students receiving McKay Scholarship (optional)
- Students receiving home education may take it if their parents want them to
The cost of taking the test is approximately $9.44 and it is administered annually in schools as per the schedule decided for it. Students need not register for it separately. The Writing test is administered every year in February, while Reading, Mathematics and Science are conducted in March.
Why is FCAT Essential?
FCAT is essential since it provides with a measure to check the
achievements of students as compared with the Sunshine State Standards.
The scores are also helpful to
determine the achievements of students in the areas that are considered
basic to today’s workplace. These achievements are outlined in the
abilities of students in Reading, Writing, Mathematical and Science skills. Since this exam
is a series of regular tests at various academic levels, it is
significant in determining the graph of personal growth of a student.
Such an outline of the academic level of a student brings forth a
picture of how successful he would be in confronting the world.
Content of FCAT
The tests are conducted in four content areas at different grade levels. The following is a detailed explanation of each of the tests.
This test is administered to students starting from Grade 3 up to 10. With each progressing year, the difficulty level of the test goes on increasing. The questions are based on reading passages. These questions are asked on four content areas, which are:
- Words and phrases in context
- Main idea, plot and purpose
- Comparisons and cause/effect
- Reference and research
Types of testing items included – Multiple choice questions and performance task (short-response and long-response items).
Testing time – For Grades 3, 5, 6, 7 and 9 the testing time is 120 minutes. For Grades 4, 8, 10 and for a retake in Reading, the testing time is 160 minutes.
This test is administered to students in Grades 4, 8 and 10. Students are supposed to produce an independent essay in response to a writing prompt. This sample must represent excellence in organization, focus, supporting ideas used and standard conventions of English language.
Types of testing items included – Performance task (Prompted essay)
Testing time – 45 minutes for writing the essay.
Mathematics test is taken by students starting from grade 3 up to 10. The content areas included in the Mathematics test are as follows:
- Number sense
- Data analysis
The weightage given to the content areas is different in different grades, and depends on the corresponding level of difficulty.
Types of testing items included – Multiple choice questions, gridded response items and performance tasks (short-response and long-response items).
Testing time - 120 minutes for the Grades 3, 4, 6, 7 and 9. 160 minutes for Grades 5, 8, 10 and for retaking the test.
Students in Grades 5, 8 and 11 take the Science test. The content from where the questions are asked in this section comes from the following areas:
- Physical and chemical sciences
- Earth and space sciences
- Life and environmental sciences
- Scientific thinking
Types of testing items included – Multiple choice questions, gridded response and performance tasks (short-response and long-response items).
Testing time – 120 minutes for the Grades 5 and 8. For 11th Grade, the testing time is 150 minutes.
Reporting FCAT Scores
The score report is released in spring each year. Along with posting the result for viewing by all on the official website, the reports are also made available to the following:
- Students and their parents
- School administrators
- District administrators
- State level administrators
The report is very easy to understand the growth and progress of a student in each progressing year and it indicates if the student is eligible to get promoted to the next grade, or for graduation. The report also mentions individual achievement levels from 1 to 5, as set by the Sunshine State Standards, which indicates if there has been an improvement in the student from the previous years or not.
FCAT score reports include the following:
- FCAT Score –
For Science, Reading and Mathematics – From 100 to 500,
For Writing – U to 6.
- Achievement Level – From 1 to 5
- Content Scores – The actual points in each content area are reported.
- Scores from previous years
- Performance task scores
- The score range
- Summary about the performance of the student
The importance of the scores cannot be ignored in the Florida educational system. It is one of the major criteria for granting admission to any higher level of academic courses. The higher the skills exhibited in the test, the better are the chances to get enrolled into promising courses.
Although preparation for FCAT is essential, it is not something that needs you to go out of the way. This is because the content is compatible with the syllabus taught in the respective grades to students throughout the year. Hence, if a student is focused towards learning his lessons in school, it makes up for forming a good groundwork for preparation. However, in case the students need more assistance, it is readily available and one should not hesitate to go for it.
Many times the schools run programs in collaboration with some test preparation companies to provide extra help to students. There is also in-person tutoring available to bring up the knowledge level of students to take the exam. However, for those who believe in self-help programs, there are web-based preparation programs that are very beneficial.
Preparation is most effective if students combine their learning with sample questions. It is a good habit to collect such practice materials throughout the year and make a regular habit of practicing from them.
Conducting FCAT is not only in the interest of students to make them improve their levels each year, but also in the interest of the nation since it ensures keeping up the quality of students passing out from Florida schools. The exam prepares the students to proceed with their career by providing a strong base that proves to be pivotal in deciding their future.