A Review of Sample Questions Released by PARCC: Implications for English Language Arts/Literacy (Part II) – by Julie C. Lyons

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Beginning in 2014, students will take the PARCC assessment in lieu of the NJ ASK standardized test. For English Language Arts/Literacy, there are three parts to the test: the narrative writing, literary analysis, and the research simulation tasks. Last week’s post analyzed the key differences and advances between the NJ ASK and PARCC for the narrative writing component. This week, we will unpack the PARCC literary analysis portion to give you an idea of what this will mean for you as a teacher, administrator or parent.

PARCC sample question review2

The Literary Analysis Task

This section of the assessment will include seven questions: six of them are going to be either an Evidence-Based Selected Response (EBSR) or Technology-Enhanced Constructed Response (TECR). This portion of the test will include two passages with several questions following each passage. After students answer those six questions, they will then be presented with one Prose-Constructed Response (PCR).

Here is an example of each type of item with a brief explanation that follows (based on Grade 8 sample questions that are based on excerpts from Jack London’s Call of the Wild and Gary Paulsen’s Brian’s Winter):

a)The Evidence-Based Selected Response (EBSR) and The Technology-Enhanced Constructed Response (TECR)

Sample #1:

Part A Question (EBSR): Which statement correctly shows a difference between the beginnings and endings of the excerpts from Brian’s Winter and Call of the Wild?

1. Call of the Wild begins with a former conflict between characters, and Brian’s Winter ends with a current conflict between characters.

2. Brian’s Winter begins by revealing a character’s faulty reasoning, and Call of the Wild ends with a character’s faulty reasoning.

3. Call of the Wild begins with a crisis to be resolved, and Brian’s Winter ends with a crisis that needs to be resolved.*

4. Brian’s Winter begins with the thoughts and actions of a character seeking shelter, and Call of the Wild ends with the thoughts and

actions of a character seeking shelter.

Sample #2:

Part B Question (EBSR): Select one detail from the list below from Brian’s Winter and one detail from the list below from Call of the Wild that best support the answer in Part A.

1. “He had seen them several times while picking berries, raking the bushes with their teeth to pull the fruit off …” (Brian’s Winter,paragraph 2)

2. “Other than some minor scratches where the bear’s claws had slightly scraped him—it was more a boxing action than a clawing one— Brian was in one piece.” (Brian’s Winter, paragraph 16)

3. “Everything in nature means something and he had missed the warnings that summer was ending, had in many ways already ended,and what was coming would be the most dangerous thing he had faced since the plane crash. “(Brian’s Winter, paragraph 21)*

4. “The tent, illumined by a candle, glowed warmly in the midst of the white plain…” (Call of the Wild, paragraph 1)

5. “Miserable and disconsolate, he wandered about among the many tents, only to find that one place was as cold as another.” (Call of the Wild, paragraph 1)*

6. “The day had been long and arduous, and he slept soundly and comfortably, though he growled and barked and wrestled with bad dreams.” (Call of the Wild, paragraph 3)

Sample #3:

Question (TECR): Create a summary of the excerpt from Brian’s Winter by dragging four statements from the list and dropping them in chronological order into the table titled “Summary.” Note that not all statements will be used.

(1) Brian is sore as he gets into his bag that night.

(2) Brian attempts to scare away the bear that wakes him up.*

(3) The bear is more powerful than Brian thinks.

(4) Brian believes that he has learned to co- exist with the bears.*

(5) Brian takes a serious risk.

(6) Brian thinks about solutions to his major problem.*

(7) The bear tosses Brian and eats the scraps of Brian’s meal.*

(8) The bear looks at Brian and walks away. The bear sits back and sniffs the air.


These questions, like all questions on the PARCC, reflect the new Common Core standards, and in this case these questions focus on Standards RL 8.2 (determine theme), RL 8.5 (compare/contrast structure) and RL 8.1(cite textual evidence).

As in the narrative task portion of the test, some of these questions will also have two parts, and a student must answer both correctly in order to receive full credit (two points). If the student answers Part A accurately, the student will earn one point. However, it is important to note that if the student does not answer Part A correctly, he or she will receive no credit (even if Part B is correct), because the Part B questions build on Part A; therefore, credit for guessing is all but eliminated, and “true mastery” is necessary to receive full credit.

A benefit of the TECR questions is that they allow for many different responses (making it difficult to “guess” the correct answer), along with the capability to create questions with more than one answer and to reorder those answers – thanks to the drag and drop element.

Finally, note that following directions is a crucial skill: for instance, to accurately answer the TECR question above, the student must realize that he or she must select one detail from each excerpt (and read the answer options carefully to differentiate between the two excerpts).

b)Prose-Constructed Response

Sample question:

You have read excerpts from two novels focused on survival in the wilderness. These excerpts are from:

• Brian’s Winter by Gary Paulsen • Call of the Wild by Jack London

Consider how the main character in each excerpt reacts to the incidents that occur, and write an essay in which you analyze how each character’s thoughts and actions reveal aspects of his personality.

You do not need to compare and contrast the characters from the two texts. You may consider each one separately. Be sure to include evidence from each excerpt to support your analysis and understanding.


This question serves a variety of purposes. First, unlike some traditional essay questions, students now need to draw upon the text as they cite evidence to reflect deep understanding of their reading. By providing two text passages, students also will demonstrate their ability to analyze and synthesize the information from both excerpts. Lastly, demonstrating the ability to effectively use English language conventions will be evident in their response for this section.

Next week, we will provide you with several research simulation samples and a discussion of each. For more sample questions and explanations for various grade levels, visit PARCC’s website at: www.parcconline.org/samples/item-task-prototypes.

More Sample Questions

ELA Sample question


PARCC Test Practice: Online Resources for Educators

For More PARCC resources

PARCC resources


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Julie Lyons