The Maryland School Assessment (MSA)

The Maryland School Assessment (MSA) tests students for mastery of topics in reading and mathematics. Read on for more about the test.

Find available tutors

The Maryland School Assessment (MSA) is a test of math and reading achievement that meets the testing requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Students take tests for approximately 90 minutes every day over a 4-day period - 2 days each for reading and math. Tests include both multiple-choice questions and those requiring written responses. The test is given every year in March for grades 3 through 8.


As stated, the reading section takes place over two days with 90 minute sections per day; each testing session being broken into smaller time blocks. Tests for all grades evaluate general, informational, and literary reading processes.

The Reading section of the MSA has 2 types of questions: Selected Response Items (SR) offering students four answer choices and Brief Constructed Response Items (BCR) that require students to write answers consisting of a few sentences or paragraphs.


As with the reading test, the math test takes place over two days. Testing takes approximately 90 minutes each day; each testing session being broken into smaller time blocks.

And as with the reading test, the math sections have various kinds of questions. In addition to the Selected Response Items and the Brief Constructed Response Items that all students receive, the math section poses additional forms of questions to students depending on the grade level being tested. Students in grades 5 through 8 also get Extended Constructed Response Items (ECR) that require students to write a longer, more complete answer. 7th and 8th graders will have Student-Produced Responses (SPR) which require them to record all answers on a grid by shading in the circles that correspond to the numbers of their answers.

The state provides calculators for students, though some sections allow the use of calculators and others do not. The state also provides scrap paper, graph paper and a dual scale ruler (or two separate rulers) for all grades 3 through 8, a protractor for grades 5 through 8, and a compass for grades 7 and 8.


Two kinds of scores are reported for each student. The Norm-Referenced score shows how a child's score compares with the scores of other children in his grade. The Criterion-referenced score shows how a child's score compares with the standards set for a child in his grade. An Overall Score is also rendered, based on both the Norm and Criterion referenced scores. It ranks each student by proficiency level (Basic, Proficient or Advanced) and shows how well the student learned the subject matter; how the student performed compared to other children nationally; how well the child's school, school system and the state of Maryland as a whole performed on the tests. Maryland's goal is for all students to perform at a proficient or advanced level.

Constructed Response Items account for nearly half of the testing time. Since these questions require students to provide an explanation, justification, connection or extension of the question, they are scored separately for content.

Did you find this useful? If so, please let others know!

Other Articles You May Be Interested In

  • More Blog Articles
    Can Reading Bridge Racial, Socioeconomic Gaps?

    Study after study shows the achievement gap in education between students of different cultures and economic backgrounds. Recently, two New Jersey schools successfully used literature to show students how 'the other half lives'. Can this experiment be a model for other schools to use books to bridge racial and socioeconomic...

  • More Blog Articles
    Too Much Emphasis on Reading and Math?

    According to a large number of surveyed educators who teach grades 3-12, U.S. public schools are spending too much time on reading and math and not enough on other subjects. Yes, math and reading are important. But what about science, foreign languages and social studies?

We Found 7 Tutors You Might Be Interested In

Huntington Learning

  • What Huntington Learning offers:
  • Online and in-center tutoring
  • One on one tutoring
  • Every Huntington tutor is certified and trained extensively on the most effective teaching methods
In-Center and Online


  • What K12 offers:
  • Online tutoring
  • Has a strong and effective partnership with public and private schools
  • AdvancED-accredited corporation meeting the highest standards of educational management
Online Only

Kaplan Kids

  • What Kaplan Kids offers:
  • Online tutoring
  • Customized learning plans
  • Real-Time Progress Reports track your child's progress
Online Only


  • What Kumon offers:
  • In-center tutoring
  • Individualized programs for your child
  • Helps your child develop the skills and study habits needed to improve their academic performance
In-Center and Online

Sylvan Learning

  • What Sylvan Learning offers:
  • Online and in-center tutoring
  • Sylvan tutors are certified teachers who provide personalized instruction
  • Regular assessment and progress reports
In-Home, In-Center and Online

Tutor Doctor

  • What Tutor Doctor offers:
  • In-Home tutoring
  • One on one attention by the tutor
  • Develops personlized programs by working with your child's existing homework
In-Home Only


  • What TutorVista offers:
  • Online tutoring
  • Student works one-on-one with a professional tutor
  • Using the virtual whiteboard workspace to share problems, solutions and explanations
Online Only

Our Commitment to You

  • Free Help from Teachers

  • Free Learning Materials

  • Helping Disadvantaged Youth