It's common for students and parents to experience some anxiety during FCAT season, which generally starts in March of each year. Worries about passing the exam run rampant in the minds of many children and adults, particularly because those who don't perform well can be held back. The test measures the academic progress made during the course of a school year, and it centers on a specific set of skills depending on your child's grade level. To achieve success on the fifth-grade FCAT, students must demonstrate proficiency in fifth-grade-level science, reading and mathematics.

Required Reading Skills

The reading portion of the fifth grade FCAT evaluates students' vocabulary, comprehension, literary analysis and research skills, according to the Florida Department of Education website. The vocabulary portion examines the use of context clues, bases and affixes to determine the meaning of unknown words. In the comprehension portion, children must identify the main idea of a passage, recognize cause-and-effect relationships, and compare and contrast specific elements of a passage. In the literary analysis portion, students determine the author's purpose and each main character's point of view. Fifth-graders must also understand plot development, identify figurative language, and understand the mood or setting of a passage. The research portion requires students to demonstrate their ability to use indexes, headings, graphs, table of contents and charts to find information.

Fifth-Grade Mathematics

The math portion of the fifth grade FCAT covers the use of algorithms, solving division problems with remainders, using base 10 blocks, solving division word problems, and adding and subtracting decimals. Students must also demonstrate their ability to identify prime and composite numbers, analyze three-dimensional shapes, determine the area and volume of parallelograms, trapezoids and triangles, and convert units of measurement, including mass, length and time. Students should be familiar with multiple geometry terms, including prism, solid, pyramid, vertex and polyhedron. Students will also simplify mathematical expressions containing parentheses and exponents.

Science Preparation

The science portion of the fifth grade FCAT tests each child's ability to define and solve scientific problems using references that support scientific understanding. They must make systematic observations of experiments, identify scientific variables, collect and organize data, interpret the data correctly, make predictions and draw fact-based conclusions. Test-takers must understand why scientific conclusions should always have evidence and why replication of scientific experiments is necessary. Children are tested on the solar system and Milky Way, and they must recognize that a galaxy consists of dust, stars and gas. Students also must recognize that the earth revolves around the sun and must be able to explain why seasons develop and the relationship between the sun, moon and stars.

Getting Ready for the FCAT

The Florida Department of Education provides sample questions and answer keys on its website in each subject area for each grade level, so you can download fifth grade test preparation materials directly from the Internet. Pearson Education, in partnership with the FDOE, provides computer-based assessments to help students practice the skills necessary to perform well on the exam. Most Florida public libraries have FCAT preparation materials, including textbooks, workbooks, computer-based assessments, worksheets and more. Classroom teachers are a great resource as well, as they generally have FCAT preparation materials available in the classroom.

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About the Author

Before starting her writing career, Tanya Brown worked as an eighth-grade language arts teacher. She also has a background in nursing, with extensive experience in urology, neurology and neurosurgery clinics. Brown holds a bachelor's degree in psychology and is pursuing her master’s degree in educational psychology.