What is the CAHSEE?

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  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2019
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The California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) is a mandated test that must be passed by all high school students in California prior to receiving a high school diploma. In 1999, California state laws were passed to develop standardized tests to address concerns that many California students were graduating high school without the necessary skills to succeed in higher-level universities. The CAHSEE was developed in response to these laws. Though it began to be offered in 2001, it was first imposed as a graduation requirement on the class of 2006.

The CAHSEE is a two-part exam covering language arts and mathematics. The math portion includes basic arithmetic problems as well as basic algebra concepts. Students must demonstrate knowledge in probability, measurement, basic geometry, basic statistics, and first year high school algebra skills.

The second part of the CAHSEE is language arts. Students must be able to demonstrate reading comprehension, knowledge of grammar conventions, and writing skills. Writing skills are tested in an essay-writing format, requiring the student to show his or her ability to write a basic five-paragraph essay with logical flow, proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling.


Students begin taking the CAHSEE in the 10th grade. Sections passed count toward the graduation requirement, and sections not passed can be taken again, sometimes two to three times a year. Passing the CAHSEE is not always accomplished, and many parents of kids with learning disabilities claim that the test is inherently unfair since it allows for few modifications.

When modifications, like needing a calculator or word processor to complete the test are allowed, the test score is not counted as passing. There are some ways to get around this. A school administrator can petition the school board to award a diploma to students who needed modifications to pass the test.

Still this may not always occur, and even students with high-level thinking but with learning disabilities may finish high school with only a certificate of completion, as opposed to a diploma. Most state universities do not accept certificates of completion, but they are usually accepted by junior colleges, where more remediation and aid can be given to the student as needed. High school seniors who don’t receive a diploma usually have opportunities to take more classes at a high school in order to pass the CAHSEE.

Unlike many standardized tests, there is no charge for taking the CAHSEE and it is frequently administered during regular school hours. Legally, public schools cannot charge for the CAHSEE because it is a diploma and graduation requirement and public education must be freely available to students. Most private schools also administer the CAHSEE without charge.

As with all standardized exams, the CAHSEE has both faults and merits. Proving that certain basic skills have been mastered assures that most students who pass are ready to enter at least freshman college level courses. On the other hand, inflexibility regarding modifications for students who do need them can make the CAHSEE burdensome for some students. Concern exists that dropout rate will increase if students know they will not be able to pass the CAHSEE without modifications, since the certificate of completion fails to be recognized by most colleges.


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Post 24

Does anyone know if the g.e.d is harder then the cahsee? I'm just so tired of re-doing the g.e.d test and when I was younger I couldn't pass the cahsee, so now I'm debating. I know a high school diploma is better so I'm trying to figure out if it's easier.

Post 23

I have to write a argumentative essay about the cahsee. I thought the test was hard too, but I passed with a 366 in english and 376 in math.

Post 22

If the test is required, why don't the teachers review the CAHSEE prior to the test versus concentrating on only the state standards. My student passed the math test on the first try but failed the english because of his learning disability in speech and language. Shouldn't the teachers be working on this in class?

Post 21

This test was extremely easy. A middle school student could pass it. I got a 450 on both sections. There are no excuses. If you're not disadvantaged you should absolutely pass it easily. If you don't pass, it's your fault for not using skills taught in elementary school, along with logic!

Post 19

I passed the CAHSEE and I'm horrible at math! I've always had horrible grades and barely passed any math class I had. So if I can pass both parts the first try, then anyone can.

Post 18

To all the students who complained about not passing the CAHSEE, stop blaming the test. You failed the test; the test did not fail you. If you were in the twelfth grade and you did not pass, you should have been held back because this test is written at an eighth through tenth grade level. I'll bet your CST scores were crap and they would explain why you can't pass a test for someoen two to four years your junior.

Couldn't pass the CAHSEE? How's college working out for you? Don't worry, Texas needs more low skilled labor and by Texas standards, you're probably a genius.

Post 17

This test is a crock. In 2007 when I graduated, I failed the CAHSEE by one point (Math section). They held my diploma until I passed it. I had to take an additional class for the CHASEE after I had graduated! I think that was a load of crap. I feel for all these students who take this test and fail by a few points then are forced into extra classes they don't really need. It's a joke.

Post 16

This test is the worst thing ever. It's the education system that we have and all the unions. There are new teachers who get fired after their first year because unions protect the old teachers which doesn't let the school fire them.

The teachers don't teach at all. There is no need for them to teach. Their job is safe unless they do something bad like have sex with a student. Now back to the new teachers: they are the new generation of teachers who should be teaching.If we have teachers that actually teach, there would not be students failing the CAHSEE.

If everyone is passing the CAHSEE why need it? California is in debt and this pointless CAHSEE exam

is one of the reasons. The budget also brings up the teacher unions.

We can't fire them and they're taking up the jobs. Educated and inspired students come out of college but don't get the job as a teacher thanks to the teacher unions. To sum it all up, we have to get rid of the CAHSEE and change the education system!

Post 12

i really really hate this stupid test, especially the math part. I didn't get to walk stage this year just because of the stupid math part I had all my credits and got straight A's but yet this stupid test held me back. Really, i hate this so much!

Post 11

The CAHSEE tests 6-8 grade standards and if you can't pass a test that asks middle school level work, you shouldn't be allowed a high school diploma. For those who complain about having received their credits to graduate, but it's only the test that's holding you back, you probably shouldn't have received credit for those courses to begin with.

Post 10

this test is really stupid. if i don't pass the test i might not even get my diploma.

Post 8

no offense or anything, but, i don't see why everyone is complaining so much. The CAHSEE is the easiest thing ever. basically, if you know your multiplication table then you're set.

i passed with a perfect 450 in english and a 435 in math. so stop complaining, and if you can't do it then you should stay back until you can because its ridiculous if you can't.

that's how easy it is.

Post 7

though i passed the test with high scores the first time around i really don't see the reason why we have to take this test. as others said it is not helping them but making them not be able to graduate.

if my parents or my siblings didn't have to take this test in order to obtain a high school diploma i don't see why we need to take this test or how it helps us. if students have their credits let them graduate!

Post 6

This test is stupid! I should be graduated already but this damn test has held me behind as all my friends are in college and I sit here behind everyone over a stupid math test when I have all my damn credits! What's the point in keeping your grades up if this dumb test holds you back If you passed all the classes than you've got the credit! This is stupid.

Post 5

Just FYI for WGwriter: California has passed an allowance in 2009 for those students with an IEP. They need to take the CAHSEE test only once. If they pass or don't pass, it will not keep a diploma out of their hands. If they meet the requirements of the high school to earn a diploma then they receive the diploma regardless of the CAHSEE score.

As an educator, I recommend they continue to take the CAHSEE until they pass or graduate. In case the state changes the law again. But for now, things are as they should be -- in this case. :)

Post 4

I hate the test. I've taken it five times! >:(

Post 3

the exit exam is completely and absolutely ridiculous. they say it helps you for college and that it shows you the standards, but that's just a bunch of trash. sorry to say that i'm just expressing my opinion. also the math exam is really low leveled. it's only 5th to 8th grade math and a lot of my friends passed it their first time. as for me, i passed on my second try, but with a 404 out of 350 so yeah the math exam is just pathetic.

Post 2

My two cents,

I agree with you and I live in California. Both my sons will need to take this exam. Unfortunately, my eldest son has significant learning disabilities which may greatly affect his ability to pass the essay section of the test. So far, we have not made much strides in trying to get some accommodations for this testing, though we've got a few more years to argue it out.

I do think that the test violates the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act since administrators refuse to provide a level playing field, and it is up to the discretion of school administration to determine how much or how little they will consider disabilities when it comes to

graduation. It is leaving children behind as you say.

Some schools and school districts offer more reasonable accommodations. So it can really vary by district. I would start talking to your school about what can be done for English learners. But as a former English teacher, I'd have to ask, under what circumstances would you consider new English learners as ready to pass high school? If a new EL student has only been in the country for a few months, they might be better served by further education, since they could in no way be ready for college if they cannot speak English fluently. What they would lack is years of passing classes in the US that would prove general knowledge in subjects.

Still, I think the test makes no sense. Why have the test if students pass their courses? Are the schools saying that the teachers have not imparted enough information to kids during the four years in high school? And what about kids that don't pass courses but pass the tests? What does that say about methods of testing inside of classes.

The good news is that whether a student earns a diploma or a certificate, they can still go on to local junior colleges. If they go directly to JC instead of a 4 year college, and transfer as juniors, their high school transcripts really won't matter.

Great comments though and I wish you luck,

Tricia E-C

Post 1

How about our students who are 'forced' to test that are EL (English Limited) say in the country only months, and expected to pass this test. How are schools addressing the issue to help those with 'other' barriers? Yes, districts provide extra support/assistance and remediation classes, but how about the many ELD kids who are being left behind and expected to pass? What becomes of those children if it is claimed that "No Child is Left Behind?" Please advise.....

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