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California High School Exit Exam

In California, all high school students must pass the CAHSEE to earn a high school diploma.  The test helps to ensure that students graduate from high school with grade level skills in reading, writing, and math. Students first take this test in grade ten. If they do not pass the test in grade ten, they have more chances to take the test. In grade eleven, they can take the test two times. In grade twelve, they have up to five times to take the test.

When will students take the exam in 2011-12?


Non-Grads July 26-27, 2011
Grades 11 & 12, and Non-Grads October 4-5, 2011
Non-Grads November 1-2, 2011
Grades 11 & 12, and Non-Grads February 7-8, 2012
Grade 10 and Non-Grads March 13-14, 2012
Grade 10 (Make-up) & 12, and Non-Grads May 8-9, 2012

What is the focus of the exam?
The exam is divided into two sections:  English/language arts (reading and writing) and mathematics.  It is not a timed test.  However, students must complete it within the school day.

  • English/Language Arts (ELA)
    The ELA part of the exam, which addresses state ELA content standards through grade ten, has a reading section and a writing section.  The reading section tests students skills in vocabulary, informational reading, and literary reading students learned through 10th grade.  This section includes 50 percent literary texts and 50 percent informational texts.  The writing section covers writing strategies, applications, and conventions.  The ELA part of the exam consists of 79 multiple-choice questions and one essay in which students are asked to write on a specific topic or in response to a literary or informational passage.  Click here for ELA Test Questions Released by the California Department of Education.
  • Mathematics
    The mathematics part of the CAHSEE addresses state mathematics content standards through the first part of Algebra.  It includes statistics, data analysis and probability, number sense, measurement and geometry, algebra and functions, mathematical reasoning, and Algebra I.  Students must demonstrate computational skills and a foundation in arithmetic, including working with decimals, fractions, and percentages.  The math part of the exam is composed of 92 multiple-choice questions. Click here for Math Test Questions Released by the California Department of Education.

Do students receive grades based on their performance on the exit exam?
No.  It's a pass/fail test that is not part of regular class work.  Students receive a scaled score between 250 and 450 for each of the two sections.  They must receive at least 350 points to pass each section.  Scaled scores are used to assure that tests given at different times are comparable.  The passage of the exam and the date the student passed it will be recorded on each student's permanent record.

If students pass the test before they are seniors, do they qualify to graduate early?
No.  Students must pass the exit exam to graduate, but passing it is not enough to get a diploma.  Students are required to pass specific courses and earn a certain number of credits before graduating.

What happens if students fail the exit exam?
Students are given multiple opportunities to pass the exam.  If students have completed all other graduation requirements but fail the CAHSEE, they will receive a certificate of completion and may continue to take the exam until they pass.

What if students are not fluent in English?
Every student must pass the exit exam in English in order to receive a diploma.  If students do not read, write, and understand English sufficiently well, the school district can wait for up to two years from the date the students enrolled in California public schools before requiring them to take the exam.  During that time, the district will give students at least six months of instruction in reading, writing, and comprehension in the English language.

For more information about the California High School Exit Exam, check out the California Department of Education's Frequently Asked Questions on their website.


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Fontana Unified School District - 9680 Citrus Avenue - Fontana, California 92335 - (909) 357-5000