Minnesota High School Graduation Requirements

Before you begin thinking about college, you need to get through high school. All Minnesota students are required to take the following to graduate from high school.

Credits Subject
4 credits English/Language Arts
3 credits Mathematics (including algebra, geometry and statistics/probability)
3 credits Science (1 credit of biology plus 2 additional credits)
3.5 credits Social Studies (including U.S. history, geography, world history, government/citizenship and economics)
1 credit Art
7 credits Electives

NOTE: Your school district may have additional requirements for graduation.

Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments

The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) are the state tests that help districts measure student progress. With a few exceptions, all public school students in grades 3 through 8 take the reading and math MCA-IIs every year. In addition, students in grade 10 take the reading MCA-II and students in grade 11 take the math MCA-II. A science MCA-II test is also required once during grade 10, 11 or 12 grade. All public school 10th graders must take the written composition test. In some cases, English Language Learners may be exempt from taking the reading MCA-II.

What is required for Graduation?

Generally speaking, Minnesota high school students must take and pass MCAs in reading and writing as a requirement for graduation. Students have more than one chance to earn passing scores on the MCAs. These tests replace the Basic Skills Tests previously required for graduation. Students must also take the MCAs in science and mathematics; however a passing score on these assessments is not required for graduation.

The Minnesota Department of Education is the official source for information on graduation requirements.

Why are these tests important?

The tests are important because they measure your progress and because a passing score on each is required for high school graduation. The tests also measure the kinds of things that are needed for success in college.

Your results are important because they offer valuable feedback. You should use this feedback to help you determine which subjects you want to explore more and the subjects where you might need to improve. To enhance your success on the MCAs, you could enroll in an enrichment program over the summer. For those subjects where you’re struggling, ask your teacher, counselor or parent if extra help is available at your school.

What’s covered on the tests?

Reading MCA: You’ll read both fiction and nonfiction such as poems, short stories or informational passages. To pass the reading test, you must show your ability to read and understand English passages that you’ll run across when you’re an adult. You must read a passage, such as a newspaper article, and then be able to:

  • identify the main idea and purpose
  • recognize supporting details
  • identify the meaning of words and phrases
  • recognize the author’s point of view
  • draw logical conclusions
  • distinguish between fact and opinion

Math MCA: You must be able to solve mathematical problems derived from typical situations in life, including how to:

  • solve problems involving whole numbers, fractions, decimals and integers
  • solve problems involving percents, rates, ratios and proportions
  • use concepts of number sense, place value and number relationships to compare, order and determine equivalence of whole numbers, fractions, decimals, percents and integers
  • use estimation in problem solving
  • apply measurement concepts
  • read, interpret and use tables, charts, maps and graphs to analyze data, identify patterns and make predictions
  • use elementary concepts of probability and statistics
  • apply geometric and spatial relationships

Science MCA: You must know the basics of life science and the history and nature of science, including how to:

  • understand the nature of scientific ways of thinking and that scientific knowledge changes and accumulates over time
  • design and conduct a scientific investigation
  • understand the relationship between science and technology and how both are used
  • recognize the historical and cultural context of scientific endeavors and how they influence each other
  • comprehend that all living things are composed of cells, and that the life processes in a cell are based on molecular interactions
  • classify, compare and contrast the diversity of organisms on Earth
  • describe how the environment and interactions between organisms can affect the number of species and the diversity of species in an ecosystem
  • explain how inherited characteristics are encoded by genes
  • understand how biological evolution provides a scientific explanation for the fossil record of ancient life forms
  • describe and explain the cycling of matter and flow of energy through an ecosystem’s living and non-living components
  • understand how all organ systems, including the nervous system, interact to maintain a state of equilibrium

Written Composition MCA: You must write a clear message in English for an adult reader. Successful compositions must have:

  • a clearly stated message
  • supporting ideas related to the message
  • a clear connection among ideas
  • a logical beginning, middle and end
  • correct use of grammar, spelling and punctuation

A passing paper is well organized and may only have minor mechanical or spelling errors. Results are based on the overall quality of the composition. A set of criteria (scoring rules) is used to determine if the composition meets the passing score.

The scoring criteria focus on the following five characteristics of written composition:

  • clarity of central idea
  • coherent focus
  • organization
  • detail support or elaboration of ideas
  • language conventions (sentence formation, vocabulary, word order and other language mechanics)