MCA Test Structure

 

The Reading, Mathematics, and Science MCAs are computer-based tests.

Students take the MCA at school for the grade and subject for which they are enrolled. The test content is grade-level specific and aligned to the Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards to determine overall proficiency and achievement levels of the standards. For more detailed information about the content assessed on the MCA, visit the MCA Content Resources page.

To ensure all students are successful in navigating the online features of the test, districts are required to help their students gain familiarity with the online format of the test(s).

Students should be able to successfully navigate, use the online tools and features, and respond to different question types.

Resources available to help with this are organized below by subject.

 

 

 

Student Resources

  • The Purpose of Student Resources document further explains the student resources available and how they should be used. Decisions may vary by school, grade, or student in regards to which resources your district chooses to use with students.
  • Student Tutorial - The student tutorial is used to familiarize students and educators with the general functionality of the online test, and includes three components: navigation, tools, and test item types. The student tutorial is only available for the online MCA.
  • Item Samplers: The item samplers are used to familiarize students and educators with how the content is presented on the test for each subject. Links to the item samplers can be found in the table at the bottom of this page, organized by grade and subject.
  • Item Sampler Teacher Guide - contains screenshots of every item in the sampler, along with the correct answer, DOK, benchmark, and rationales for each answer option for the multiple-choice (MC) items. Educators can find direct links to teacher guides for each grade and subject in the table at the bottom of this page.

Mathematics MCA

 

Assessment Format
The Mathematics MCA-III is a Computer Adaptive Test (CAT). Each student begins the test with a test item of average difficulty. When the student answers the item, the response is immediately scored. If the response is incorrect, the CAT algorithm selects a slightly easier question for the student to answer next. If the response is correct, the CAT algorithm selects a slightly more difficult question for the student to answer next.

Item Types
The Mathematics MCA-III contains multiple choice and technology enhanced items. Technology-enhanced items may consist of the following types of responses: type-in (student will type numerical answers in a box), graphing (student will plot data to complete various mathematical displays), drag-and-drop (students will formulate, rather than select, a response using drag-and-drop response options) and hot-spot (students will select multiple correct responses or will mark locations on mathematical graphics and displays).

To learn more about the various item types, refer to the item types tutorial in the student resources section above. To learn more about the quantity of items, cognitive complexity levels, and proportions assessed at the strand level, refer to the table at the bottom of the MCA Content page, organized by grade-level.

In addition, the test includes embedded field test questions that do not contribute to a student’s score, but are used to evaluate effectiveness for inclusion in future MCA administrations. Educator Review Committees meet to review all data from field test items and determine eligibility for use on future assessments.

 

 

Reading MCA

Assessment Format
The Reading MCA-III is a Computer Adaptive Test (CAT). Each student begins the test with a passage set of average difficulty. A passage set is a passage and a series of predetermined test items associated with the passage. The student then answers the test items associated with the passage. The CAT algorithm scores the set as a whole and selects a slightly easier or more difficult passage set based on the student’s responses to the first set.

Item Types
A variety of item types are used on the Reading MCA-III, including multiple-choice (MC) items and technology-enhanced (TE) items. Technology-enhanced items may consist of, but are not limited to, the following types of responses: hot-spot (students select multiple correct responses) and drag-and-drop (students formulate, rather than select, a response using drag-and-drop response options).

To learn more about the various item types, refer to the item types tutorial in the student resources section above. To learn more about the quantity of items, cognitive complexity levels, and proportions assessed at the strand level, refer to the table at the bottom of the MCA Content page, organized by grade-level.

In addition, the test includes embedded field test questions that do not contribute to a student’s score, but are used to evaluate effectiveness for inclusion in future MCA administrations. Educator Review Committees meet to review all data from field test items and determine eligibility for use on future assessments.

Science MCA 

 

Science MCA-III (Current - 2024)

The Science MCA is an online fixed form test, which means the content of the test is pre-determined. There are several forms, or versions, of the test that use different scenarios and questions, but all are of equal difficulty. A fixed form test uses the same scenarios and items for all students. However, each student’s performance on the test will result in a unique score based on the difficulty level of the questions answered correctly.

In addition, the test includes embedded field test questions that do not contribute to a student’s score, but are used to evaluate effectiveness for inclusion in future MCA administrations. Educator Review Committees meet to review all data from field test items and determine eligibility for use on future assessments.

To learn more about the quantity of items and proportions assessed from each strand or standard, click on the document in the table below that corresponds to your grade level.

Science MCA-IV (Spring 2025)

The Science MCA-IV is an online phenomenon-based assessment. The context for each phenomenon is focused around observable events occurring in the universe that can be explained or predicted with scientific reasoning (Achieve, Next Generation Science Storylines and STEM Teaching Tools).

Text, graphics, animations, or simulations are used to provide context for the student to engage in the phenomena. Various question types, including multiple choice, technology enhanced, and constructed response, are used to assess Minnesota’s multidimensional benchmarks. The Science MCA is a fixed form test, which means all students taking the same test version are administered the same questions. The operational test includes embedded field test questions that do not contribute to a student’s score.

The total number of points for the Grade 5, Grade 8, and High School Science MCA will be (45), (45), and (56) points.

 

 

 

Grade Level Assessment Details

Reading Mathematics Science

Grade 3

Grade 3

N/A

Grade 4

Grade 4

N/A

Grade 5

Grade 5

Grade 5

Grade 6

Grade 6

N/A

Grade 7

Grade 7

N/A

Grade 8

Grade 8

Grade 8

Grade 10

Grade 11

High School