Frequently Asked Questions About the FCAT

Why do you have to take the FCAT?

The FCAT is given to measure achievement of the basic standards and skills that students are required to meet to graduate. It is a way to make sure that you are not being sent out into college or the workforce without the basic skills necessary to be successful.

When do you take the FCAT in high school?

In 9th grade you take the critical reading section. In 10th grade you take the reading, writing and math sections. In 11th grade you take the science section. You also retake any other test you did not pass. In 12th grade you only take the test if you have yet to pass. The 10th grade tests are the ones that determine graduation, but the 9th grade reading test is used for placement into your 10th grade classes. You must score a 3 or higher and show improvement from previous scores to be placed into an honors program and to keep from having to take intensive reading, a course that is designed to help you make up for any deficiencies you may have in your skills.

The dates for FCAT reading this year are April 11th and April 12th.

What is a passing score?

A scale score of roughly a 3 is considered passing for the FCAT Reading and Mathematics Tests. The equivalent developmental scale score for reading is 2068. The developmental scale score is what allows you to compare your progress from one year to the next. You will tend to show larger increases at lower grade levels than you do in high school, but your score should still be increasing each year by roughly 80 points.

What is your goal?

Everyone’s first goal is to increase your developmental scale score by a minimum of 80 points.

Your secondary goal is to score a 3 or higher, but if that doesn’t happen this year, as long as you are increasing that developmental scale score significantly each year you are headed in the direction you need to go and your teachers will be able to help you pass so you can graduate!

A developmental scale score ranges from 0-3000 and 80 developmental scale points is considered one year’s worth of growth in your reading level in high school. Of course, if you are already behind in your reading levels, you need to work harder to try to increase that scale score even more or you will always stay at the same achievement level.  Here are the scores needed for each achievement level in 9th and 10th grade. Remember, you need to achieve a level 3 to pass.

What does it all mean?

Let’s say your developmental scale score was 1885 in 3rd grade; you would be at an achievement level 5- the highest level! If you did not improve at all (which is basically impossible to do unless you never come to school and never read), in 4th, 5th & 6th grade, that score of 1885 would be an achievement level 4. In 7th & 8th grade it would be barely a 3. If you scored the same 1885 this year or next, your score would be a 2 and you would not pass! So, even if you were fine the previous year, remember that the test measures growth. You can not remain in the same spot and show growth! 

What is our plan in class?

All year we have been working on your reading comprehension. If you have been completing what is asked of you, you should be fine! Every time you read something, whether it is a textbook, practice article, novel or website, you are working on your reading comprehension (which is why we emphasize reading so much). For the last few weeks prior to the test, we will do some last minute preparation. This boot camp is designed to cement what we have been doing all year to increase your reading comprehension and to help you feel prepared for the test. We will look at your strengths and weakness and work on targeted practice for the skills that give you the most trouble.  

What should I do outside of school?

Just like the PSAT and the SAT, you can not really cram for the reading section of the test. You need to read and read a lot. Read material that challenges you. The majority of the reading passages are nonfiction, so do not just read novels. Read challenging magazines, nonfiction books, newspaper articles and textbooks. Participate fully in your classes, especially as you are asked to read articles and sections of your textbooks independently. As you take the test follow the strategies outlined in your classes (such as LLCCC). Read everything fully and completely- don’t get lazy and skim the material. See the link on this site for book recommendations! 

I am a parent, how can I help my child prepare for the FCAT?

 If you have little or no time to devote to helping your son or daughter one-on-one, you can:
1) Require your child to read a book of their choice for 20-60 minutes a night. The reading comprehension section test covers not only literature, but also nonfiction articles related to science, history and math. The only really effective way to increase reading comprehension is by reading! If your child claims to hate reading, encourage them to talk to their English teacher, the school librarian or public librarian about their interests and they will help them find a book that they may be interested in. Don’t force your child to finish a book that they don’t like, help them find one that they do. Once they are hooked on reading, their test scores and grades in school will improve! 

2) Encourage your child to keep a daily diary or journal. Don’t force them to let you read it, but ask them to show it to you so that you can make sure they are doing it. The same premise as above applies here, the more you write the better writer you become.

3) Make sure that your child is absent from school as little as possible and keep track of their grades and attendance through pinnacle!

If you have a little more time to devote to helping your son or daughter one-on-one, you can:

4) Read with your child or read the same books, newspaper articles or magazines as them and talk about what you have read. You can easily check for reading comprehension by talking to your child and asking questions. Discuss what you liked and didn’t like about what you read. Come up with questions that you would like to find out more about. When your child missed important pieces of the reading, go back and point out what they missed and ask them why they think they missed it. 

5) Have your child respond in writing to what they read and talk about it. You can even do this if you haven’t read the book that they read. There are  a lot of book summaries on the Internet. Try going to a search engine and typing in the book’s title or check for a book summary and reviews. Another great site with hundreds of book notes is

6) Use the Internet. The Internet has countless resources about test taking skills, study skills, the FCAT, writing a five paragraph essay, short stories to read, nonfiction articles to read, etc. 

7) Go over some practice FCAT problems using one of the books on the  market. There are many FCAT books currently on the market, and more are coming out all the time.       
8) Be supportive! Tests can really stress a child. They usually understand how much is riding on this test, so most students don’t need more pressure, they need support and help. Of course, some students also need help motivating themselves to try their best.

21 FCAT TIPS That Really Help

Prior to the Test
1. Get a good night’s sleep for several days prior to testing.  Sleep loss is cumulative.  Losing a small amount of sleep days prior to the test can add up to poor performance on test day.
2. Warm up your brain by reading for at least 30 minutes at home on each of the five nights prior to the test.

Test Day
3.  Be here on the test day(s). Make-up day scores tend to be lower.
4.  Eat a good breakfast.  Hunger can lead to poor performance.
5.  Be sure to drink enough water so you won’t become dehydrated.
6.  Listen carefully to all test-taking directions given by the teacher and ask questions about those directions that are not clear.

During the Test
7. As you take the test, systematically check to be sure that you are ‘bubbling’ your answer in the correct number and area.
8. As you’re reading a multiple-choice question, try to come up with the correct answer in your head before you look at the choices.
9. Answer the easier questions first and persist to the end of the test. Answer every question, regardless of difficulty. There’s no penalty for guessing – or for wrong answers.
10. Be sure to move on to a new question if you are confused and are having a difficult time remembering something.  Coming back later often triggers your memory into action.
11. Make a mark on your text booklet next to questions that you want to return to.
12. Change answers only when you are certain.  The answer which comes to mind first is often correct.

Specific Reading Strategies- Remember LLCCC
13.Survey the passage before reading it.  Read the captions; notice graphs, charts, photos and diagrams.
14. Question what you’ve surveyed.  Think about what the passage will probably be about.  Write any notes or questions in the margins.
15. Underline key ideas in the passage as you read. Mark paragraphs with key ideas so that you can check for your comprehension.
16. When reading the multiple choice questions, circle or underline the key words that explain what the question is asking you to do.
17. Reread the sections that have the information you’re looking for. Underline the information, answer the question, and double check to see if you’ve underlined the proof that you’re right.

Final Words of Wisdom
Take the test very seriously and do your best, but don’t panic. You’ll do fine!

MY FCAT PLEDGE: I____________________________________________ promise myself that I will do my best on the FCAT. I understand that it does count. It will be on my transcripts and it will be used to place me in classes next year. I do not want to let myself down by not taking it seriously. I know that the better I do on the test, the fewer times I will have to take it! I will work hard to use what I have learned, including the tips listed above. I will do my best so that I can see what I can do!