I'm living in France right now, and this phrase is often used to check if someone is okay. (e.g. my little girl trips and falls, I say, "ca va?") And if she is okay, she can respond with "ca va." as well.
"How are you?" would be "Comment ca va?"
"Ca va?" is "It goes?" or "How goes it?"
"ça va" is often used instead of the longer "comment ça va?" with the same meaning.
I agree. In fact, translating words properly like this is better for learning a language, because now you can use the individual words to formulate your own sentences. As a second year french student, I don't know how I'm expected to change the meaning to how it would be in English.
I agree with Siebolt, with just the twist that the answer might need adjustment to be gramatically relevant: "-Comment ça va? -Bien." "Ca va? -Oui." That's theory though, colloquially people could easily answer "Bien" to the shorter "Ça va?" (but not "oui" to "Comment ça va?") Imo the safest bet in real conversation, that will also make you sound like you've been around french speakers for a while, is to answer "Ça va (bien)." to either. Add "bien" to convey the meaning "im doing well", keep it out to say "im doing OK."
I learnt french at school for 7 years. ça va is a common question to ask if it is okay but i can also means Are you feeling good?. I put "How do you do?" and it was okay.