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About the CAHSEE Exam


The CAHSEE (California High School Exit Examination) is a required test in the subjects of Language Arts and Mathematics.  All students in public high schools in the state of California must pass this exam in order to receive their diploma.  The test is first administered during the sophomore (10th grade) year for all students, and can be repeated as many times as necessary until a passing grade is earned.  The exam is comprised of two sections: Language Arts and Mathematics.  One particular characteristic of the exam is that once a student passes a section of the CAHSEE exam, it need not be repeated.  For instance, if a student takes the CAHSEE and passes the Mathematics section, but not the Language Arts section, they only need to retake the Language Arts section at a future date.  Another helpful characteristic about the exam is that is it not timed.  During the first administration of the CAHSEE, it will typically be proctored over a two-day period – one day per section.  It is offered several times per year.

Test Content:

Being that the exam is first offered during every student’s 10th grade year, content material is designed as such.  The Mathematics section is entirely in multiple-choice format, and the majority of the Language Arts section is also mostly multiple-choice, with the exception of the essay.  For the writing application, the student is to write an essay in response to a given prompt.

Language Arts Section: 

The Language Arts portion of the exam is comprised of 79 multiple-choice questions, 72 of which are scored and divided among five subsections. In addition, there is a writing application in which the student will be asked to write an essay in response to a given prompt. 

The following is a breakdown of the test components:

  • Word Analysis - 7 multiple-choice questions - Students will be expected to apply their knowledge of word origins to determine the meanings of new words. This will test the students’ knowledge of prefixes, suffixes, root words, word origins, etc., as well as test the students’ ability to determine the meaning of the word from the context of a given sentence or passage.

  • Reading Comprehension - 18 multiple-choice questions - Students will be asked to analyze passages from a variety of sources to determine meaning, answer logic questions, analyze organizational patterns, timelines, and arguments.

  • Literary Response and Analysis - 20 multiple-choice questions - Students will be asked to read and respond to historically or culturally significant works of literature related to history and/or the social sciences. Students will be expected to conduct in-depth analyses of patterns and themes.

  • Writing Strategies - 12 multiple-choice questions – Students will be asked to answer questions concerning essay passages.  Questions range from improving organization and focus of the essay at-hand to identifying writing elements and assessing how to best revise the passage.

  • Writing Conventions - 15 multiple-choice questions - Students will be tested on their knowledge of conventions including grammar, sentence construction, and paragraph structure.

  • Writing Applications - one essay - Students will write one essay in response to a myriad of prompts.  Prompts range from: literary, expository, biographical narratives, persuasive, or business letter topics.


Mathematics Section:

The Mathematical portion of the CAHSEE is comprised of 80 multiple-choice questions, divided among five sub-sections. 

The following is a breakdown of the test components:

  • Number Sense - 17 multiple-choice questions - Students will be asked to demonstrate the foundational understanding of numbers and ways they are represented.

  • Statistics, Data Analysis, Probability - 13 multiple-choice questions - Students will determine ways to collect, analyze, organize, and display data.

  • Measure & Geometry - 18 multiple-choice questions - Students will select and use appropriate units; estimate and calculate measurement for length, area, and volume or geometric figures; understand scaling in scale drawings and how changes in linear dimension affect area and volume; and solve problems involving dimensional analysis and conversion from one unit to another.

  • Algebra and Functions - 20 multiple-choice questions – Students will formalize patterns, functions, and generalizations; work with algebraic symbols, expressions with variables, and graphical representations; understand different meanings and uses of variables; develop concepts of proportionality; and recognize and generate equivalent expressions, solve linear equations, and effectively use formulas.

  • Algebra I - 12 multiple-choice questions - Students will solve linear equations and demonstrate symbolic reasoning.


When do students find out if they passed the CAHSEE? 

Students will be notified by their school district within eight weeks of the exam date. One copy of the score report will be kept on file at the student’s school, and one will be mailed to the parents of the student. It is important for the parents/guardians of the student to keep their copy on file as the State does not keep these records.

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