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CAHSEE Description - CalEdFacts

This content is part of California Department of Education's information and media guide about education in the State of California. For similar information on other topics, visit the full CalEdFacts.

California Education Code (EC) Section 60850(a), enacted in 1999, authorized the development of the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE). The CAHSEE has two parts: English-language arts (ELA) and mathematics. By law, each part is aligned with California’s academic content standards adopted by the State Board of Education (SBE). All students in California public schools must satisfy the CAHSEE requirement, as well as all other state and local graduation requirements, to receive a high school diploma. The primary purpose of the CAHSEE is to: (1) significantly improve student achievement in public high schools and (2) to ensure that students who graduate from public high schools can demonstrate grade level competency in reading, writing, and mathematics.

Student Participation

Districts are required to send notification about the CAHSEE to parents or guardians of grade nine students at the beginning of the first semester or quarter of the regular school term and each year thereafter. Transfer students are to receive notification at the time they transfer.

The first opportunity students have to take the CAHSEE is in the second half of grade ten. Students who do not pass one or both parts of the CAHSEE in grade ten have up to two opportunities in grade eleven to retake the part or parts of the examination not yet passed; grade twelve students may have at least three and  up to five opportunities to retake the part or parts of the exam not yet passed. Adult students may take the CAHSEE up to three times per school year. Only the part or parts the student did not pass may be taken again.

Students who are English language learners (ELs) are required to take the CAHSEE in grade ten with all other grade ten students. During their first 24 months in a California school, ELs are to complete 6 months of instruction in reading, writing, and comprehension in the English language (EC Section 60852). During this time, they are still required to take the CAHSEE. Test variations are available to ELs who regularly use these variations in the classroom. Examples include being tested in a separate room with other ELs; extra time within the testing day; English-to-primary language or primary language-to-English translation glossaries; or allowing students to hear a translated version of the test directions and to ask clarifying questions in their primary language.

Options for Eligible Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities must be permitted to take the CAHSEE with certain accommodations and/or modifications as specified in their individualized education program (IEP) or Section 504 plan for use on the CAHSEE or standardized testing or during classroom instruction and assessment. Students who take one part of the examination using accommodations and earn a score of 350 or higher have passed that part of the CAHSEE. Students who take part of the examination using modifications, receive the equivalent of a passing score, and have met all other state and local school district graduation requirements may be eligible for a diploma if a waiver of the requirement to pass is granted by the local governing board.

Beginning in the 2009−10 school year, EC Section 60852.3 provides an exemption from meeting the CAHSEE requirement as a condition of receiving a diploma of graduation for eligible students with disabilities who have an individualized education program (IEP) or a Section 504 plan. The IEP or 504 plans must state that the student is scheduled to receive a high school diploma, and has satisfied or will satisfy all state and local requirements for high school graduation, on or after July 1, 2009.

Examination Content and Format

The ELA part of the CAHSEE is aligned with the California ELA academic content standards through grade ten. The ELA part of the CAHSEE consists of multiple-choice questions and a writing task. The reading portion includes vocabulary; reading comprehension; analysis of information and literary texts. The writing portion covers writing strategies, applications, and conventions. The writing task calls for students to provide a written response to literature, to an informational passage, or to a writing prompt.

The mathematics part of the CAHSEE is aligned with the California mathematics academic content standards through the first part of Algebra I. The mathematics part of the CAHSEE consists of multiple-choice questions. It includes the following mathematic strands: statistics; data analysis and probability; number sense; measurement and geometry; mathematical reasoning; and algebra. Students must demonstrate strong computational skills and a foundation in arithmetic, including working with decimals, fractions, and percentages.

Reporting and Using Results

The passing score for the mathematics part of the CAHSEE is approximately 55 percent of items correct or a scale score of 350. The passing score for the ELA part of the CAHSEE is approximately 60 percent of items correct or a scale score of 350.

Local educational agencies (LEAs) may provide supplemental instruction aligned to the state content standards to assist students who have not passed the examination. This instruction may include summer school for seniors who have not passed one or both parts of the CAHSEE. In addition, the LEA may provide intensive instruction to grade twelve students who have yet to meet the CAHSEE requirement for up to two years after completion of grade twelve for the parts of the CAHSEE not yet passed. Funds slated for intensive instruction for grades eleven and twelve, and for adult students may be used at the LEA’s discretion. 

Preparing Middle School Students

There are two California Department of Education (CDE) brochures to assist in preparing middle school students for the CAHSEE:

  1. CAHSEE: Information for Middle School Teachers and Administrators
  2. CAHSEE: Information for Middle School Students and their Parents or Guardians                                     

These brochures and other assistance packets, including ELA and mathematics study guides, can be found on the CDE CAHSEE Program Resources Web page.

For more information regarding the CAHSEE, please contact the CAHSEE/Physical Fitness Testing Office by phone at 916-445-9449 or by e-mail at Information is also available on the CDE CAHSEE Web page.

Questions:   CAHSEE Office | | 916-445-9449
Last Reviewed: Friday, May 8, 2015

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