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Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT)

The FCAT is an annual test given to students in grades 3-11 that measures their skills in the areas of reading, math, science and writing according to Florida’s Sunshine State Standards. All public school students are required to take the FCAT. The FCAT is given to students each year in February (writing) and in March (reading, math, and science). The areas of reading and math are tested each year in grades 3 through 10. The area of writing, in addition to reading and math, is tested in grades 4, 8, 10. The area of science is tested in grade 5, 8, 11. In grade 5 and 8, science is tested in addition to reading and math. In grade 11, only science is tested.

Students with disabilities can take the FCAT and can be provided accommodations while taking the FCAT.

Sunshine State Standards

These are Florida’s standards for determining what a child should know and be able to do at each grade level. The areas of social studies, science, language arts, health/physical education, the arts, foreign language, and math are the seven academic areas under the Sunshine State Standards (SSS). These standards are then divided into benchmarks.  The benchmarks outline the specific content, knowledge, and skills that students are expected to learn in school. Each student’s performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) in the areas of reading, math, writing, and science indicates his or her progress in reaching these benchmarks.


Similar to having accommodations for the classroom, students with disabilities may be provided with accommodations for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). Just like the student’s accommodations for the classroom, the accommodations for the FCAT should also be listed on the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  The student’s IEP must determine what accommodations the student will need. Accommodations are changes in how the test is given and not in what is tested on the FCAT. The purpose of providing accommodations is to enable the student to demonstrate knowledge and skills without affecting the validity or reliability of the test.  Some accommodations allowed in the classroom are not allowed on the FCAT.  Examples of accommodations not allowed on the FCAT include: use of calculator for basic computation in grades 3 through 6, use of spelling or grammar check on written responses, graphic organizer software to assist in preparing responses, text-to-speech software for the reading portion of the test, having a proctor read aloud items that test reading skills.  To review those accommodations allowed during the FCAT, please click on the following link for a 2003 Florida Department of Education publication:  http://www.fldoe.org/ese/pdf/descfcat.pdf


Students requiring unique accommodations not found on the publication must be approved by the Commissioner of Education. 

3rd grade FCAT

In order for students in grade 3 to be promoted to grade 4, they must score at least a level 2 in reading on the 3rd grade Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT).  If a student does not receive a level 2 or higher in the 3rd grade reading portion of the FCAT, the student will be retained in the 3rd grade. There are, however, good cause exemptions that may allow a student in these circumstances to still be promoted on to the 4th grade.  Students who meet one of the following criteria may be considered for a good cause exemption: 

  • English Language Learners (ELLs) with less than two years in an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program,
  • students with disabilities whose individual educational plan (IEP) indicates that participation in the FCAT is not appropriate,
  • demonstration of an acceptable level of performance on an alternative standardized reading assessment approved by the State Board of Education,
  • demonstration of proficiency in accordance with the Sunshine State Standard Benchmarks of Language Arts through a student portfolio,
  • students with disabilities who participate in the FCAT, but still demonstrate a deficiency in reading after more than two years of intensive remediation,    and were previously retained in kindergarten, first, second, or third grade, or,
  • students who still demonstrate a deficiency in reading after two or more years of intensive remediation and who were previously retained in kindergarten,    first, second, or third grade for a total of two years.

Mid-year promotion is available to a retained 3rd grader who, during the first semester of the school year, demonstrates mastery of the 3rd grade Language Arts SSS benchmarks and beginning mastery of the 4th grade Language Arts SSS benchmarks (mastery should be consistent with the month of promotion to 4th grade).  One way the student may show this is by completing a portfolio that demonstrates mastery of the appropriate benchmarks. 

FCAT Waiver

Students must pass the grade 10 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) to graduate high school with a standard diploma.  A passing score on the grade 10 FCAT is a developmental scale score of 1926 (scale score of 300) or above in reading and a developmental scale score of 1889 (scale score of 300) or above in math. But for those students with disabilities who have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and who are in their senior year of high school, and who have taken the grade 10 FCAT at least two times, and who have not been able to pass it the FCAT with allowable accommodations, the IEP team may decide to provide the student with an FCAT waiver.  That is, the student may have the FCAT requirement for graduation waived.  To qualify for the waiver, the student must meet all other graduation requirements, must have participated in intensive remediation, must have taken FCAT during March of his/her senior year in high school, and must be in the 24-hr credit graduation program.  The student’s IEP team must determine that the FCAT does not accurately measure the student’s ability and that the student has mastered the Sunshine State Standards (SSS).

Students with disabilities and who have an IEP may also receive a special exemption from the FCAT graduation requirement if the student asks the school district’s Superintendent and he/she requests this on behalf of the student.  The Superintendent must send documentation to the Commissioner of Education showing that the student has mastered the SSS and that the FCAT scores reflect the student’s disability in sensory, manual, or speaking skills rather than the student’s academic achievement. 


  • Discuss with the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team the ways the school can teach the student to learn the skills needed for all content areas tested on the FCAT.
  • Remember that students with disabilities may also take the FCAT and earn a standard diploma unless the IEP team, on which the parent is a required member, determines that the student should be exempted from the taking the FCAT.  An IEP team should not automatically determine that a student should be exempted from taking the FCAT just because the student is one with disabilities or because the student’s disability is “severe”. 
  • Discuss with the IEP team what accommodations the student will need for the classroom and for the FCAT.  Remember that not all accommodations for the classroom are allowed during the FCAT.
  • If the student has not passed the grade 10 FCAT after taking it at least twice, ask the IEP team to consider the FCAT waiver and/or special exemption. 
  • If you have any other questions concerning the FCAT, you may contact the Florida Department of Education at 850-245-0513 or visit www.fldoe.org.


  • FCAT brochure
  • FCAT accommodations for students with disabilities
  • FCAT explorer
  • Florida Department of Education Website