What YOU can do to prepare for MCAS

Aishani Ghosh, Contributor

With MCAS just around the corner, there’s a lot of tension in the air right now. But fear not, there’s a lot you can do to prepare. But first, here’s a bit of a backstory:


Where did MCAS originate from?

MCAS is a result of the 1993 MA Education Reform Act. This act is said to have made MA number 1 in the USA on a national test. MCAS is said to help the Commonwealth find schools/districts that need support. MCAS also reports your scores in categories that show whether you are meeting expectations for your grade.

Why is MCAS important and how does it affect your future?

MCAS is (said to be, I disagree) necessary to provide a common assessment that is comparable across students to find who needs support. It can also show gaps on a broader perspective, like through race. Now, don’t worry too much about MCAS now, but later on in high school you need to pass MCAS to graduate!  


Now that you know exactly what’s at stake, here’s how you can practice for it: 

There are many ways you can prepare for MCAS but a few of my favorites are practice tests, the released documents, and past answers. On the MCAS website, Practice Tests, you can find practice tests and samples from past years to study and get a better idea for how tests are administered. This way, you can take a test, just like you would in TestNav, and then see your score. The practice tests are great because it takes you to TestNav so you can get a better hold of all the controls. You’ll find that they’re pretty self explanatory to use, and what I love about the practice tests is that they score you at the end (only for the multiple choice though, not the open response). 

You can also use documents from here, MCAS Released Item Documents, to get real tests from past years with answers you can study. These released documents are just MCAS tests from the years before, and since they can’t use the same tests again, they release it with answer keys for you to study. 

Another tool I like to use is to look at work from students from a few years ago and see how I can improve my writing. Here, MCAS Student Work/Scoring Guides, you can find sample work from real students and what they scored. To get there, first, choose a year. Then scroll down to Grade 7 and choose English Language Arts. After that, it’s a little different for each year to get to the sample work. Follow the directions on the page to get to it. If there are no instructions, then click the link right below the title that says ‘Grade 7 English Language Arts’ and you’ll get a pdf with all the past answers. It’s a little confusing to get it, but it’s definitely worth it to get a better idea of what the administrators are looking for.

In all reality, we all know MCAS is a difficult and a dreaded day no one looks forward to. It never ends well, and by the time you’ve forgotten about it next September, the results come back. 

Sure, they help teachers and districts to see where students are at, but at the end of the day they’re like every other standardized test: draining, ineffective, and stressful. Unfortunately, they’re here to stay for the foreseeable future, so you and I better get practicing.