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Frequently Asked Questions about the PSSA Tests

Frequently Asked Questions


– Which schools participate?

All school districts and charter schools participate in the assessments. Nonpublic schools may also participate on a voluntary basis.



– Which students take the assessments?

Except for a very few students who meet specific criteria for participation in an alternate assessment, all students are included in the assessments as outlines below:

  • English Language Arts- Grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8
  • Mathematics – Grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8
  • Science – grades 4 and 8



– Who decided what the assessment should measure?

Groups of educators from all levels of education in Pennsylvania chose the areas of knowledge upon which the assessments is based. The groups included teachers, supervisors, curriculum directors, and college specialists. They also reviewed, edited, and approved the test items.



– Who administers the assessment?

Each school chooses the person(s) who will administer the assessment. In most cases, these are the students' teachers, who are often helped by the principal or guidance counselor.



– How are the results reported?

Two copies of the individual student report for all assessments will be sent to the school districts and charter schools for distribution to parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and/or principals. The state will not receive any report with the individual names included.

School-level reports will be used for curriculum and planning purposes. School districts and charter schools may publish the results of the PSSA testing for each school. the state will also receive school-by-school assessment data.



– May parents see the assessments?

Parents and guardians may review the assessments by making arrangements with the School Assessment Coordinator once the assessments arrive at the school. Confidentiality agreements must be signed, and no copies of the assessments or notes about assessment items will be permitted to leave the school.

If after reviewing the test parent(s)/guardian(s) find the test to be in conflict with their religious belief and wish their student(s) to be excused from the test, the parent(s)/guardian(s) must provide a written request that states the objection to the Superintendent or Curriculum Coordinator.



– How long do the assessments take?

The English Language Arts assessment takes approximately 166 minutes, the Mathematics assessment takes approximately 156 minutes, and the Science assessment takes approximately 76 minutes (4th grade only). Your school district should inform you about the assessment schedule.



– What do the assessments include?

Each student completes three sections of questions for English Language Arts and two sections for the Mathematics assessments. The Science assessment for grade 4 also has two sections. Some portions will be the same for all students, and some will consist of different groups of questions.



– What type of questions are on the assessments?

Students respond to two types on questions: multiple-choice questions and open-ended questions. In a multiple-choice question, the correct answer is chosen from four options, while open-ended questions require student to compose their responses. In addition to these types if questions, students in grades 3-5 respond to reading selected-response questions and student in grades 4-5 respond to passage-based essays. Selected-response questions have two parts, and students select one or more answers for each part. For the passage-based essay, students analyze a text and use evidence from the passage to compose an essay.



– How are written responses to open-ended items scored?

The written responses for reading and mathematics open-ended items are scored by evaluators trained in applying a pre-determined scoring system. In mathematics and reading, scores are based on content only. Spelling and punctuation are not included as part of the scoring process.



– What is assessed in English Language Arts?

Please see the English Language Arts test design here.


– What is assessed in Mathematics?

Please see the Mathematics test design here.


– What is assessed in Science?

Please see the Science test design here.



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