PARCC® (the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career®) is a consortium of states devoted to creating common standardized assessments to measure students’ readiness for college and careers.
Students in grades 3-11 who attend public school in a PARCC® state take the PARCC English Language Arts assessment annually.
The test is linked to the rigorous Common Core State Standards, a shared set of goals and expectations about the skills students in each grade level should be learning to prepare for success in college and careers.
The exams are challenging, but a PARCC practice test ELA can help students build confidence and effectively prepare.
In this article, we’ll provide you with links to access official printable PARCC® ELA Practice Tests PDFs for Grades 3-11, with answer keys. Completing full-length practice tests is one of the most effective test preparation strategies, and doing this will help put your child on the path to success.
We also will provide you with our top five test prep tips for using official PARCC® practice tests to effectively prepare.
These downloadable PARCC tests are made by the creator of the PARCC assessments, so they are the gold standard for practice. That means that these tests contain the kind of material that your child will face on test day.
Just click the button below to get the grade-level appropriate ELA PARCC practice test, plus our 5 proven test prep strategies for using PARCC practice tests in your study plan.
In this article, we’ll also explore key information about PARCC ELA exams, including test content, scoring, and additional tips for acing the assessment.
What is the Purpose of the PARCC ELA Assessments?
After Common Core State Standards were developed, Race to the Top funds were awarded to PARCC and another consortium called Smarter Balanced to create standardized exams linked to the standards.
PARCC assesses the progress of students, teachers, and schools toward the skills and knowledge deemed important by Common Core. In the creation of its assessments, PARCC consulted with over 200 postsecondary educators and administrators on key skills needed for success in college.
PARCC tests are designed to not only measure a student’s current performance, but also indicate what students still need to learn in order to be ready for college and/or a career.
With PARCC ELA assessments, English teachers can gain insight on where to strengthen their instruction, and parents learn where their children may need additional support in the areas of language and literacy.
Unlike most traditional multiple choice tests, PARCC is designed to measure higher level critical thinking skills, problem solving, analysis, and real-world application.
PARCC ELA Basics
The PARCC ELA assessment is administered to students in grades 3-11. Students take the test during a 30-day window that ends about 90% of the way through the school year, giving students the vast majority of the year to master necessary skills.
The assessments are computer based and use interactive questions to determine that students have mastered both basic skills and higher order skills that are not easily assessed by more traditional multiple choice exams.
Students write short responses and essays, provide evidence to support these responses, drag and drop words and sentences to demonstrate their relationships, and more.
Each PARCC ELA test is divided into three sessions, called “units.” The amount of time allotted for each unit varies by grade level as follows:
Unit 1- 90 minutes
Unit 2- 75 minutes
Unit 3- 90 minutes
Unit 1- 110 minutes
Unit 2- 110 minutes
Unit 3- 90 minutes
What Do the PARCC ELA Exams Measure?
PARCC ELA assessments evaluate students on higher level reading comprehension and writing skills, with a particular focus on analysis, critical thinking, integration of ideas, and the ability to support conclusions with textual evidence.
Students respond to questions about both fiction and nonfiction passages, and they may also listen to audio or watch video. In some cases, they will be required to synthesize and integrate information from varied texts into written responses.
Depending on your child’s grade level, a successful performance on the exam may require the ability to do the following:
Although these skills can be challenging, keep in mind that students will be working toward mastering these abilities throughout the school year. Additionally, your child can always work through a PARCC practice test ELA to sharpen skills and build confidence.
Are the Test Questions Multiple Choice?
PARCC tests are not your traditional multiple choice assessments. The computer based testing platform allows for interactive question types, and PARCC is committed to asking more in-depth questions that test higher level skills.
There are three major question types on PARCC ELA exams:
Students may be asked to select evidence from the text to support a response, drag and drop steps into the correct order, organize pieces of text on a chart, place sentences into a coherent summary, etc.
We’ve provided three examples below to demonstrate that there is indeed a wide “range” of written responses students may be asked to construct.
These unique and rigorous question types are one reason it’s so crucial to work through a PARCC practice test ELA prior to taking the official test.
Parents are often surprised by the difficulty level of PARCC test questions. However, each question type is essentially measuring the student’s ability to comprehend a text and then express, organize, and provide evidence to support their conclusions.
What Does My Child’s Score Report Mean?
PARCC score reports are useful tools that can help you understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as get an idea of how well-prepared your child is for the next grade level.
Of course, it’s not helpful if you don’t understand the information presented on the score report. So let’s take a minute to decipher PARCC ELA scoring.
All PARCC exams are scored using performance levels, which range from 1-5 and describe how well a student has mastered grade-level appropriate skills. A score of 1 indicates the greatest need for improvement, while a score of 5 represents the strongest performance. PARCC has provided the following descriptions for each performance level:
At the top of your child’s score report, you will see her performance level and numeric score. Cut scores for each level vary according to grade level and subject area.
Next, you’re provided with a chart depicting score ranges for each performance level on this particular test and where your child’s score falls on that range. This shows you how close your child is to reaching the next level.
You’ll also see information on average test scores for your child’s school, district, and state, as well as a cross-state average (in some states).
On page two of the ELA score report, you’ll see your child’s overall scores in reading and writing. You’ll also receive information about your child’s performance on specific skills, including the following:
For each of these specific skills, the score report will also tell you one of the following:
Each specific skill set also includes a description of the skills that are required to demonstrate an understanding of that skill area at your child’s grade level.
Page two of the score report gives you an in-depth look at what your child specifically needs to work on to continue improving.
On the subject of how exactly the test is scored, PARCC has not released much information. We do know that students are evaluated for correct use of conventions in all written responses, so remind your child to pay attention to spelling, grammar, capitalization, punctuation, and word usage.
How Can I Help My Child Prepare for the PARCC ELA Test?
Now that you know all about PARCC ELA test content and scoring, how can you help your child reach the best possible score?
To start with, it’s important to remember that PARCC ELA tests students on the skills they have studied in English class throughout the year. Encourage your child to pay attention in class, take notes, and complete assigned reading, classwork, and homework.
Another long-term learning strategy is to have your child read a certain amount of pages or minutes weekly. Consistent reading is the most effective way to enhance vocabulary, improve comprehension, and even absorb correct conventions.
For the purposes of PARCC ELA—and the development of college level reading skills—it’s also important that your child understands how to read a text on a deeper level.
Instead of reading to understand what happens, your child should also work on evaluating why and how events occur in a text. Additionally, students must consider why the author makes certain choices about structure and content and how these choices impact the overall text.
To familiarize your child with the unique question types asked on the exam, it’s important to help your child work though a PARCC practice test ELA. Have him explain his answers, giving you a chance to reinforce logical thinking and correct misconceptions as needed.
If your child answers a question incorrectly, work together to determine a better approach to this question type in the future.
Remember to build your child’s confidence and avoid overemphasizing the test to prevent your child from developing test anxiety, which is both unhealthy and detrimental to a student’s performance on exams.
Lastly, be sure that your child gets a solid night of sleep and a filling, nutritious breakfast prior to test time.
To work toward a stress-free and successful performance on PARCC ELA, use the information, tips, and PARCC practice test ELA found here. Your child should be well on her way to acing this assessment!
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