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Pennsylvania Keystone Exam

What are the Keystone Exams?  The Keystone Exams are end-of-course assessments designed to evaluate proficiency in academic content.  Beginning with the class of 2017, students must demonstrate proficiency on the Algebra I, Literature, and Biology Keystone Exams to graduate.  Students will be offered multiple opportunities to take the Keystones throughout their high school careers. 

Who will participate in the Keystone Exams?  Students who already have, or are in the process of, completing Algebra, biology, and literature, will take the Keystone Exams.  This is generally given during the sophomore year.

When will the exams be offered?  Keystones will be administered three times each year – winter, spring, and summer.  PDE will publish specific administration dates on the SAS website.

Who decided what Keystone Exams should measure?  Groups of teachers, supervisors, curriculum directors, and college specialists from across Pennsylvania chose the areas of knowledge on which the exams are based.  These groups also reviewed, edited, and approved exam questions.

What is assessed on the Keystone Exams?  Pennsylvania adopted the Common Core Standards, standards-aligned with expectations for success in college and the workplace.  The Keystones are designed to measure these standards.

How long is a Keystone Exam administration?  There is no time limit for a student to complete a Keystone Exam.  Each Keystone Exam should take the typical student 2 to 3 hours to complete.  There are two modules on each test, and each module (or test session) of the Keystone Exam should take 1 to 1½ hours to complete.

What are the available formats for administering the Keystone Exams?  The Keystone Exams are available in both online and paper/pencil formats.  Districts will determine if online, paper/pencil, or both formats will be used locally.

Will students have an opportunity to experience online testing before taking a Keystone Exam online?  Tutorials and online training programs have been developed for the Keystone Exams.  The online exam has a “Help” feature that is available to the student during the exam. 

What types of questions are on the Keystone Exams?  The Keystone Exams will include multiple-choice questions and constructed-response, or open-ended, questions. 

How are the written responses to constructed response questions scored?  Written responses for constructed response questions are scored by evaluators trained in applying a pre-determined scoring system.  Scores are based on content only.  Most constructed-response questions require students to show their work or explain their reasoning.  These questions will ask students to explain, analyze, describe, or compare.  Some questions will also require students to perform calculations or create graphs, plots, or drawings.

For important information concerning cellphones and Keystone testing, see the document below

Please click below for information available for parents or guardians regarding the Pennsylvania Keystone Exams.

For additional information, you may visit the SAS website at

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