What does a PARCC ELA test look like? How can I help my child prepare for it?

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The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is one of the two state consortiums responsible for developing assessments aligned to the new, more rigorous Common Core State Standards. A combination of educational leaders from PARCC governing and participating states, along with test developers, have worked together to create the new computer-based English Language Arts and Math Assessments. Because these exams are so different, teachers and students need to have an understanding of what the tests will look like and how they will be arranged.

The purpose of the PARCC English Language Arts assessment is to assess students’ knowledge of both reading and writing simultaneously. Reading and writing go hand in hand and should be assessed that way as well. A good assessment combines various question types which test the students understanding of the concepts related to various standards and the proper usage of the same, in other words, evaluating the student’s knowledge and skill.

To do well and succeed in any exam, it is important to know what the assessments will look like in terms of the types of questions and the time that is available to answer. Knowledge of the what the test looks like combined with rigorous practice will help the student crack the exam and score well.

Types of questions in PARRC English Language Arts exam:


Each test will consist of a combination of three new types of questions:

  • EBSR (Evidence Based Selected Response) – Students will need to provide evidence to prove their answers; choices will often be given.
  • TECR (Technology Enhanced Constructed Response) – Students will use technology to demonstrate comprehension. For example, they may be asked to drag and drop, cut and paste, or highlight their responses.
  • PCRs (Prose Constructed Response(s)) – Students will be required to construct written response(s) to a test prompt using specific evidence and details from the passages they have read.
  • The Performance Based Assessment (PBA) will be administered once 75% of the school year is complete. It will consist of a literary task, a research simulation task, and a narrative writing task. In the PBA, students will be given a set amount of time to read several texts (many of which will be paired together for the upper grades), answer several vocabulary and reading comprehension questions, and write a short essay.

    Test Timing for EOY


    The EOY for Grade 3 is 90 minute session for Unit 1 and 3 and 75 minute session for Unit 2.

    For grades 4 to 5 , there are 3 sessions of 90 minutes each.

    Grade 6 to 8 have 2 sessions of 110 minutes and 1 session of 90 minutes.

    Its important to ensure that the even for practice tests the time allotted is maintained. Not only answering correctly, but answering within the stipulated time is also very important to score well in any exam

    Test preparation Tips:


    Yearlong learning and adequate practice are the keys to succeed in standardized tests. Wide range of books, Apps, videos and online workbooks are available which help the student to prepare for the tests, recognize areas for improvement and work on it. As parents and teachers, it would be good to make use of these resources and support the child’s learning and preparation.

    The online resources available will help you

  • Understand the tasks (Three ELA PARCC Tasks: Literary Analysis Task, Research Simulation Task, Narrative Writing Task)
  • Know the tools used in exams (Blue arrows, review button, flag, highlighter tool, etc)
  • Knowing and getting to practice tech enhanced question types like drag and drop, highlight text, etc
  • Preparation is the key to success. Today’s tech savvy world has no dearth of resources that support this.

    Computer-based PARCC Practice Program for Schools

    Online PARCC Practice for Students

    The above article is an excerpt from PARCC Guidebook: Success Strategies for Teachers: Professional Development.

    To learn more about the book, click here.

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