A Review of Sample Questions Released by PARCC: Implications for English Language Arts/Literacy (Part III)

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Over the past two weeks, we’ve taken a deeper look at sample questions for two of the sections of the ELA PARCC Assessment: the Narrative Writing and Literary Analysis tasks. This week, we will investigate the differences and advances between the NJ ASK and PARCC with respect to the third section of the English Language Arts/Literacy assessment: the PARCC Research Simulation Task.

PARCC sample question review3

This portion of the test is designed to assess students’ college- and career-readiness skills – skills including “observation, deduction, and the proper use and evaluation of evidence across text types” (from www.parcconline.org/samples/english-language-artsliteracy/grade-7-elaliteracy ).

The PARCC Research Simulation Task presents an informational topic to students with three texts, nine questions, and one Prose-Constructed Response (PCR). The nine questions are a combination of Evidence-Based Selected Responses (EBSRs) and Technology-Enhanced Constructed Responses (TECRs). These items are similar to traditional multiple choice questions, yet the capability for students to drag and drop, select more than one answer to a question, and even reorder responses elevates these test items to a more challenging level than past assessments.

PARCC Test Practice: Online Resources for Educators

In reviewing the 7th grade sample questions that PARCC provides, it is important to note the following:

More Rigorous Scoring Criteria, With a Continued Emphasis on Citing Evidence

Like the Narrative Writing and Literary Analysis sections, many questions will include two parts, where “Part B” builds upon the “Part A” question. If the student answers both parts correctly, he or she would earn two points. However, due to the construction of these questions, a correct answer to Part B (with an incorrect response to Part A) yields no credit (even though a correct Part A response would result in one point). The reasoning behind this scoring criteria is that in order to answer Part B correctly – without guessing – it is imperative to understand Part A and answer it accurately.

For the Narrative Writing and Literary Analysis tasks, many Part B questions rely on citing evidence, and the PARCC Research Simulation questions are no different. Here is an example that illustrates both the need to cite evidence and the Part A/Part B question format:


In paragraph 6 of “The Biography of Amelia Earhart,” Earhart is quoted as saying, “After scaring most of the cows in the neighborhood . . . I pulled up in a farmer’s back yard.” How does the quotation contribute to the meaning of the paragraph?

a. It demonstrates Earhart’s sense of humor when describing a potentially frightening situation.*

b. It shows that Earhart loved taking risks but regretted when her actions put others in danger.

c. It suggests that Earhart was humble about her accomplishments and able to admit serious mistakes.

d. It illustrates Earhart’s awareness of her responsibility as a role model for other women.


In which other paragraphs in the article does a quotation from Earhart contribute to the reader’s understanding of her character in a similar way as does the quotation in Part A?

a. paragraph 7*

b. paragraph 8

c. paragraph 9

d. paragraph 11

Once again, it is obvious that there is a heavy emphasis on the need to support answers with proof from the text. As a result, many questions in Part B will build upon Part A by asking the student to identify supporting excerpts, revisit the text, and cite evidence in order to demonstrate full comprehension of the material.

Multimedia Components

Check out this sample question based on an Amelia Earhart Video:


In the video “Amelia Earhart: Life and Disappearance,” the narrator mentions people who “qualified [Earhart’s] skill as adequate.” (1:04)

What meaning is this phrase intended to suggest to the viewer of the video?,

a. that Earhart’s skill as a pilot deserved popular admiration

b. that Earhart’s skill as a pilot eventually allowed her to receive a license

c. that Earhart’s skill as a pilot may sometimes have been overrated*

d. that Earhart’s skill as a pilot was surprising in a woman


Which piece of evidence from the video provides a second example of the correct response to Part A?

a. the reference to Earhart earning her pilot’s license (0:56)

b. the quick smile on the face of the actress portraying Earhart (1:03)

c. the excitement of the crowd greeting Earhart (1:05)

d. the statement that Earhart did not actually pilot the plane in the first flight across the Atlantic (1:21)*

Note that for the Research Simulation component, the “texts” can take the form of articles and/or brief videos. To succeed with these multimedia-related questions, then, students will need to understand the time stamp notation and be able to replay selected video segments in order to answer the questions accurately.

Related Texts

Consider this sample question:

You have read two texts and watched a video describing Amelia Earhart. All three include information that supports the claim that Earhart was a daring, courageous person. The three texts are:

• “The Biography of Amelia Earhart”

• “Earhart’s Final Resting Place Believed Found”

• “Amelia Earhart’s Life and Disappearance”(video)

Consider the argument each author uses to demonstrate Earhart’s bravery. Write an essay that analyzes the strength of the arguments related to Earhart’s bravery in at least two of the texts. Remember to use textual evidence to support your idea.

Instead of simply reading one passage and answering related questions, students taking the PARCC will need to integrate the information in three related texts in order to fully demonstrate their ability to comprehend and draw inferences from the nonfiction information. The PCR (prose constructed response) clearly illustrates the demand that will be placed on students to synthesize key ideas and themes across all three texts in their responses.

For more sample questions and explanations at various grade levels, visit PARCC’s website at: www.parcconline.org/samples/item-task-prototypes. When you check out sample questions, you will notice that certain grade levels only provide questions for one section. For example, the 7th grade ELA samples only deal with the Research Simulation component. Therefore, you may need to search a different grade level to locate the types of sample questions you are looking for (Narrative Writing, Literary Analysis or Research Simulation).

More Sample Questions

Grade 7 ELA sample question
Grade 7 ELA sample question 2

For More PARCC resources

PARCC resources


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Julie Lyons