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
- 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
- Look for clues in the question, such as key words, or words that are written in bold, are underlined, or written in
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
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 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
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!