Official PARCC® Practice Tests + How to Use Them to Ace the Test

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career® (PARCC®) is a group of states collaborating to create assessments that measure whether students are on track for success in both college and careers.

PARCC® tests are aligned with Common Core State Standards and assess students’ progress toward these rigorous standards. The tests are given annually in grades 3-11 and focus on English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics.

Although these assessments are challenging, students can effectively prepare using PARCC® practice tests.

In this article, we’ll provide you with links to access official printable PARCC® Practice Tests PDFs for Grades 3-8 for both ELA and Math, 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 tests are made by the creator of the PARCC test. That means that these tests contain the material that most closely resembles that which your child will face on test day.

Just click the button below to get the grade-level appropriate PARCC practice tests for Math and ELA, plus our 5 proven test prep strategies for using practice tests in your study plan.

To get more information and obtain practice PARCC ELA Practice Tests for Grades 9-11, please visit this page.

Or click the relevant link for PARCC End Of Course (EOC) Algebra, Algebra II and Geometry practice tests.

In this article, we’ll also discuss everything you need to know about the PARCC tests, including test content, question types, scoring, and additional tips for success.

What is the Purpose of the PARCC Tests?

PARCC tests were originally created as a standardized method of assessing the progress of students, teachers, and schools toward the Common Core State Standards. The Department of Education awarded Race to the Top funds PARCC to develop these assessments.

Common Core is a “clear set of shared goals and expectations” for the skills and knowledge students in each grade level need in English Language Arts and Mathematics in order to be successful in college and careers.

The idea behind both Common Core and PARCC is that students across the country need the same skills and knowledge in order to be successful, so it makes sense to have a consistent curriculum and a consistent means of assessing that students are learning important skills.

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.

Teachers can gain insight on where to strengthen their instruction, and parents learn how their children are doing in school and where they may need additional support.

Unlike many other standardized tests, PARCC is designed to focus on higher level critical thinking skills, problem solving, analysis, and real-world application.

PARCC tests annually assess students in grades 3-11 in English Language Arts and Mathematics. The assessments are given during a 30-day window that ends about 90% of the way through the school year, giving students the majority of the year to learn necessary skills.

These 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 responses, drag and drop words, numbers, and variables into charts and graphs, and much more.

Let’s take a closer look at the two types of PARCC assessments: English Language Arts and Mathematics.

PARCC ELA Assesmments?

PARCC ELA assessments evaluate students on higher level reading comprehension and writing skills, including the ability to do the following:

  • Make inferences based on information provided in a text(s).
  • Evaluate author’s purpose and how the author’s choices influence the text as a whole.
  • Determine the meaning of words in context.
  • Understand cause and effect.
  • Find evidence to support a claim or idea.
  • Identify and analyze theme, characterization, conflict, and figurative language.
  • Integrate ideas from multiple passages into a written response.
  • Analyze how individuals, ideas, and events interact over the course of a text.
  • Describe how various parts of a text interact with, build on, and impact other parts.
  • Compare/contrast theme, setting, key details, etc. from two or more texts.
  • Evaluate the point of view of the narrator or characters.
  • Students respond to questions about both fiction and nonfiction passages, and they may also listen to audio or watch video.

    There are three major question types on PARCC ELA exams.

  • Evidence-Based Selected Response: This is the most common question type, and it combines a traditional multiple choice question with a question asking students to select evidence from the text supporting their response.
  • Technology-Enhanced Constructed Response: Students use technology (drag and drop, cut and paste, move items to show relationship) to demonstrate critical thinking, analysis, and comprehension abilities.

  • Students may be asked to select pieces of text to support a claim, check each box that could be a correct response to the question, drag and drop steps into the correct order, etc.

  • Range of Prose Constructed Response: These questions verify that students have understood a text(s) and can communicate that understanding through written expression, demonstrating knowledge of language and conventions. Four of these questions appear on each test.
  • Each PARCC ELA assessment is divided into three sessions, called “units.” The amount of time provided varies by grade as follows:

  • Grade 3:

    Unit 1- 90 minutes

    Unit 2- 75 minutes

    Unit 3- 90 minutes

  • Grades 4 and 5: Three units of 90 minutes each.
  • Grades 6-8 and 9-11:

    Unit 1- 110 minutes

    Unit 2- 110 minutes

    Unit 3- 90 minutes

  • Although these assessments are rigorous, keep in mind that your child will be preparing throughout the school year and that you have access to PARCC practice tests.

    PARCC Math Assesmments

    PARCC Math tests are administered to students in grades 3-8 and to high school students enrolled in Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, and Integrated Pathway. Each of these courses has its own separate exam.

    These tests assess students on the ability to solve multi-step math problems that require critical thinking and address real-world situations. Depending on grade level, students may need to demonstrate the ability to:

  • Reason mathematically.
  • Make sense of quantities and relationships to solve real world problems.
  • Solve ratios and proportions.
  • Work with expressions, equations, and graphs.
  • Find and correct errors.
  • Prove or disprove mathematical statements.
  • Create equations.
  • Work with geometric shapes.
  • Understand slope and coordinate planes.
  • Solve a system of equations.
  • Order linear functions from least to greatest.
  • There are three major task types on PARCC Mathematics assessments.

  • Type I: Tasks assessing concepts, skills, and procedures. (Suggested Image 5: Math Type I question)
  • Type II: Tasks assessing the ability to express mathematical reasoning (written arguments and justifications, critiques of reasoning, precision in mathematical statements). (Suggested Image 6: Math Type II question)
  • Type III: Tasks assessing models/application in real world contexts or scenarios.
  • Like the ELA assessments, each Math exam is divided into “units.” The number of units and the amount of time allotted per unit varies for each grade level as follows:

  • Grades 3-5: Four 60-minute units
  • Grades 6-8: Three 80-minute units
  • Grades 9-11 (Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and Integrated Pathway): Three 90-minute units
  • Although some units are designated as “no calculator” sections, students in some grade levels are permitted to use calculators on the PARCC Math test.

    Students in grades 6-7 can use a four function calculator, grade 8 students may use a scientific calculator, and high school students are permitted to use graphing calculators. No calculators are allowed for grades 3-5.

    Lastly, there are a few things to keep in mind concerning the scoring of PARCC Math exams:

  • If a child makes a mistake early on when solving a problem, and the work follows that single mistake, no additional points will be deducted.
  • If a method for solving a problem is specified, the student must use that method to score full points.
  • Remind your child to label all parts of an answer appropriately (feet, yards, etc.), or he will lose points for precision. Precision points can also be lost if your child uses incorrect mathematical vocabulary or defines variables incorrectly.
  • What Does My Child’s Score Report Mean?

    Once the PARCC test is over and done with, you’ll receive score reports for your child. The score reports can help you understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as get an idea of how much—or how little—support your child is likely to need in the next grade.

    Of course, none of that can happen if you don’t understand the information presented on the score report. So let’s take a minute to break down how to decipher score reports for ELA and Math.

    All PARCC exams are scored using performance levels, which range from 1-5 and describe how well a student met grade-level expectations. A score of 1 represents the greatest need for improvement, while a score of 5 indicates the strongest performance. PARCC defines the five performance levels like this:

  • 1: Did not yet meet expectations
  • 2: Partially met expectations
  • 3: Approached expectations
  • 4: Met expectations
  • 5: Exceeded expectations
  • 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.

    The next portion of the score report shows the 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’re also provided with information on average test scores for your child’s school, district, and state, as well as a cross-state average (in some states).

    Page one of the report is essentially the same for both Math and ELA, but page two differs slightly.

    On page two of the ELA score report, you’ll see your child’s overall performance in reading and writing. You’ll also receive information about your child’s performance on specific skills, such as literary texts, informational texts, vocabulary, writing expression, and knowledge and use of language conventions.

    For each specific skill, the score report will tell you one of the following:

  • Your child performed about the same as students who met or exceeded expectations.
  • Your child performed about the same as students who approached expectations.
  • Your child performed about the same as students who did not yet meet or partially met expectations.
  • Each specific skill set also includes a description of the skills that are required to demonstrate an understanding of that skill at your child’s grade level.

    Page two of the score report gives you a more in-depth look at what your child specifically needs to work on to continue improving.

    Similar to the ELA score report, page two of your child’s mathematics score report will include information about how well your child performed in specific skill areas. For mathematics, these skills include major content, expressing mathematical reasoning, additional and supporting content, and modeling and application.

    The report will also provide information about your child’s performance relative to that of other students’ (about the same as students who met or exceeded expectations, about the same as students who approached expectations, or about the same as students who did not yet meet or partially met expectations).

    Lastly, the report includes a description of the skills needed at your child’s grade level to demonstrate a solid understanding of each skill area.

    Which States Use PARCC TESTS?

    As you may know, not all States are part of the PARCC consortium. Some states have chosen to be are members of the SBAC, or Smarter Balanced Consortium.

    Both consortiums create tests based on Common Core standards, though there are some differences (for e.g: the SBAC tests are ‘adaptive’, which means the questions provided to a student changes or ‘adapts’ to the level of the student’s knowledge depending on the response. The more traditional PARCC tests present the same questions to each student and does not adapt to how many questions the student got wrong or right. The following States belong to the PARCC Consortium States:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • How Can I Help My Child Prepare for PARCC Testing?

    Now that you’ve learned all about PARCC test content and scoring, how can you help your child achieve the best score possible?

    Since PARCC tests are based on the skills your child learns throughout the year, remind your child about the importance of paying attention in school, taking notes when needed, and completing classwork and homework. All of these tasks are helping your child work toward the same key skills and knowledge tested by PARCC.

    To help enhance your child’s vocabulary and improve reading comprehension, encourage your child to read a certain amount of pages or minutes each week. Consistently reading texts that your child enjoys will make a significant difference in his reading abilities.

    Another highly effective way to boost your child’s chances of success is working through PARCC practice tests. This will help your child become familiar with test structure and content, building comfort and confidence that are a test day must.

    Of course, it’s also important that your child gets a solid night of sleep and a filling, nutritious breakfast prior to the big test. Send your child off with well wishes and expressions of confidence.

    By utilizing the information, tips, and PARCC practice tests found here, you’re helping pave your child’s way to a successful performance on the PARCC assessments.

    PARCC® – The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career®  is a registered trademark of PARCC, Inc. is not related to PARCC Inc, Inc or its affiliates. PARCC does not endorse any product, nor have products or services been approved by PARCC. Trademarks used by are for nominative purposes only and PARCC trademarks are solely the property of PARCC, INc.