Released Science MCAS Questions

 The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education maintains a website on which students and parents/guardians can find MCAS questions from previous tests. This offers a valuable opportunity for students to see what kinds of questions are asked, and what answers were acceptable. Here are some important links:

Released Test Questions

On this page, you can click on a particular year, such as 2008, to select test questions from that year. This link will take you to questions given on the initial MCAS tests that year, as well as any re-tests. Test items are available in either English or Spanish.

After selecting which test you want, the link will bring you to a page with a menu of all subject areas tested. Select the one you want, for example: “High School - Biology.” The test will appear.

Test-practice Strategies for Students:

  • Set aside some time, perhaps 20-30 minutes to start.
  • Have a pencil and a notebook or paper ready.
  • If you can print out the exam, do so. Then find a quiet place to work. If not, work at a computer where one is available.
  • Start to answer the questions in order.
    • Read each question carefully.
    • Try to identify the MAIN point of the question. Sometimes information is included in a question that is not needed in order to answer the question.
    • Look for clues in the question, such as key words, or words that are written in bold, are underlined, or written in italics.
    • Examine any pictures, diagrams, or graphs carefully.
    • Cover the answer choices, and try to predict what the correct answer will be. Then uncover the answers, and look for one that matches your prediction. This strategy will help you avoid distractors, answer choices that test-makers include that sound good, but are not really right.
    • If you are not sure of the correct answer, try to use the process of elimination to narrow down the choices to 2 possibilities. Then choose one of those two as your answer.
    • Do not leave any answers blank!
  • After answering the test questions, check your work by using the answer key at the back of the test. Make note of what subject areas were difficult for you; then study those subjects using your class notes or textbook.

Open-Response Questions

One type of question that many students need to practice is the “open-response question.” You can look at samples of open-response questions, as well as examples of student work that received good or poor scores here

Follow the same procedure as above, by selecting: A year (ex. 2008) → High School → Subject (ex. Biology) → a particular question (a menu will appear with several listed, ex. Question 12)

The question will appear. You should attempt to answer the question before looking at the correct answers.


  • Read the entire question before beginning to write a response.
  • As with the multiple choice questions above, look for clues in the sentences to find out what the is the most important question to answer.
  • Answer ALL parts of the question; use numbers or letters that match the question to indicate that you are remembering to answer all parts of the question.

After you have written your response, you can check your work by scrolling down to the “Scoring Guide and Sample Student Work” table. You will see a chart that lists scores from 0 (no credit) to 4 (the most credit granted). A description will tell you what the test-makers were looking for in a good response. Compare this description to what you have written.

Reviewing Student Work

Notice that each score on the left is in BLUE, and underlined. You can click on these numbers to see actual student responses from the year the test was given. For example, if you click on ‘4,’ you will be able to read a response that earned a student full credit. By reviewing all of the available answers, you can see what is considered a good, average, or poor response. Check these answers against what you have written. Make note of what could be added to your essay to make it as strong as possible! 

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