What to Expect during the California Achievement Test

The California Achievement Test is a set of tests first established in the 1950s, which now exist in their sixth edition, known as CAT/6. In the California school system, only students in the middle grades actually sit the exam, but they can also be written by home-schooled children. There are several different California Achievement Tests, which evaluate student skills in reading and writing, math, science, and social studies.

Currently, California schools administer the CAT/6 version of the California Achievement Test, and they do so only to students in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh grades. For these years, the test is a multiple-choice test, with a heavy emphasis on basic skills, in which students (particularly those with English as their first language) typically do relatively well. It will take about two-and-a-half to three hours in total, broken down into three basic sections. The largest section is on reading and language, and should take up about half the test time. The smallest is spelling. The third section is mathematics.

California Achievement Test scores are based on a system called norm-referencing. This means that students typically do not receive a score based on how they measured up to an objective grading key. Instead, their grade reflects how they compared to other students who sat the same exam. A student measuring in the 90th percentile, for instance, may or may not have received a “grade” of 90% on their work: what this score means is that their score, whatever it was, exceeded that of 90% of their peers. Norm-referenced grades are used in certain testing schemes because they reflect the fact that different versions of the test (prepared in different years) may turn out to be easier or more difficult. Within the California schooling system, school-level outcomes are also collected and measured to rank school performance, again on a comparative basis.

Some home-schooling parents also choose to order the California Achievement Test for other grades. For instance, the Family Learning Organization currently sells tests based on the 1992 edition of the test, known as CAT/5, for kindergarten through grade 12. Other organizations also sell versions of the CAT, which has become a popular standardized test in the home-schooling environment. Carefully standardized instructions are sent out to parents, so that they can be sure their child is tested according to the same standards as other students at the same level.

– More Information –

Family Learning Organization. “Tests & Assessments.”

San Diego Unified School District. “California Achievement Text Sixth Edition Fact Sheet.”