All students in grades 3 through 10 are required to take the AIMS test. High school students take the tests for the first time in the spring of their sophomore year. In order to graduate, a student must meet the standard in all three categories of the test which include Math, Reading and Writing. If a student doesn't pass any one of the three tests then he/she can retake the test(s) in the fall or spring of their junior and senior year (5 tries altogether). Also if a highschool student is from out of state he or she is not granted augmentation if they do not pass.
According to a comparison of standardized tests, Arizona is second-to-last in the number of passing students among the fifty U.S. states. A cumulative score of at least 500 on each section denotes a passing performance. The more commonly recognized scores are on a scale of 1-4. The performance ranges on the AIMS are "falls far below the standard," (fail - score of 1) "approaches the standard," (fail - score of 2) "meets the standard," (pass - score of 3) and "exceeds the standard." (pass - score of 4)
The Goldwater Institute noted that the state has lowered the passing bar or made content easier every year since 1999, with failure rates falling from about 60 percent in 2002 to 2004 to 30 percent in 2005. This defeats one of the main features of a criterion based test, the use of a fixed, unmoving standard which can be compared across years.
In addition, starting with the class of 2006, high-school students in Arizona who exceed all three standards in reading, writing, and math may be eligible for a scholarship to any of the three public state universities if they also meet certain criteria.
Students must complete all 16 Core Competency Courses by graduation with a B or better in each course. (16 Core Competency Courses: 4 units English; 4 units Math; 3 units Lab Science; 2 units Social Science; 2 units Foreign Language; and 1 unit Fine Arts, as defined by the Arizona Board of Regents Tri-University Admission requirements.)
Students must also meet at least one of the following academic requirements: Have a cumulative GPA of 3.50 on an unweighted 4.0 scale, or rank in the top 5% of the graduating class.
If the student does not exceed standards on all three tests, they may still qualify for a scholarship if they exceed standards on two of the AIMS Tests and meet standards on one of the AIMS Tests. Additionally, they would either need to receive at least a score of 3 on two Advanced Placement tests or a score of at least 4 on two International Baccalaureate exams.
Qualified students will receive a full state university tuition waiver valid for one year following graduation from high school. The scholarship is renewable for four years based upon university-determined criteria. The actual dollar amount of the scholarship will vary based upon the tuition charged by the state university in which they have enrolled.
In 2008, the test will have 2 more portions added to the criteria. Starting in 2008, students who are taking the test for the first time will be the first students to take the new Science and Social Studies portions, along with the original Reading, Writing, and Math tests. It has been stated that from then on, students will be required to take all 5 parts in order to meet graduation status.