SBAC Practice Tests and Answers + How to Ace Smarter Balanced Tests

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is a consortium of 15 states, one territory, and the Bureau of Indian Education. SBAC members cooperate to develop and continue improving assessments that are aligned with the rigorous Common Core State Standards.

Smarter Balanced assessments are intended to assess students’ progress toward Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and therefore toward the skills and knowledge students will need to be successful in college and careers.

Although these assessments are challenging, students can prepare using SBAC practice tests and answers.

The Smarter Balanced practice tests and answers provided below show students the type of test questions they will face on the SBAC assessment, and the correct answers to those questions.

For questions scored by a rubric or point system, suggested responses are provided that indicate how a student can get the most points.

Please click on the appropriate grade-level button below to access a test.

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about Smarter Balanced, including test structure, test content, sample SBAC questions, and additional strategies for success.

What is the SBAC Test?

Smarter Balance has developed an online assessment system that is intended to give teachers and schools useful information to improve instruction and help students develop the skills necessary for future success.

The assessment system includes a Digital Library, an online collection of high quality, CCSS aligned resources designed by educators for educators. There are also optional interim tests that allow teachers to measure students’ progress toward mastery of specific skills and concepts at strategic points throughout the school year.

However, we will focus on the system’s summative assessments, or end of year tests. English Language Arts and Mathematics tests are administered to students in grades 3-8 and in grade 11.

These assessments consist of two parts: a computer adaptive test and a Performance Task. The computer adaptive test customizes each student’s assessment, with questions becoming easier when a student answers incorrectly and more difficult when a student answers correctly.

Performance Tasks take about 45 minutes to complete and prompt students to apply grade level appropriate skills and knowledge, as well as critical thinking and problem solving, to respond to complex real-world problems.

At every grade level, the SBAC tests require students to write and to solve multi-step, real world problems. The results of the assessment indicate both student achievement and student growth.

Questions include more traditional selected response items, the previously mentioned Performance Tasks, constructed response questions, and non-traditional response items. The non-traditional response items ask students to drag and drop numbers or text, edit text, draw objects, complete a chart or graphic organizer, etc.

SBAC Testing Times

SBAC assessments are untimed, allowing students to take as much time as needed to complete the test. However, SBAC has provided estimated testing times for the purposes of planning.

The estimated testing time for SBAC Mathematics is two hours and 30 minutes for grades 3-5, three hours for grades 6-8, and three hours and 30 minutes for eleventh grade students.

The estimated testing time for SBAC English Language Arts is three hours and 30 minutes for grades 3-8 and four hours for grade 11.

SBAC Content

There are two major SBAC assessments: Mathematics and English Language Arts. Let’s take a look at the question types and content you’ll encounter in these exams.

SBAC Mathematics

Smarter Balanced test questions are based on “content claims.” Content claims are brief statements about the skills and knowledge students are expected to demonstrate on the assessment. Each test has an overall content claim, as well as four more specific claims.

For the Mathematics test, the overall content claim for grades 3-8 is, “Students can demonstrate progress toward college and career readiness in mathematics.” For 11th grade students, the overall content claim is, “Students can demonstrate college and career readiness in mathematics.”

The four specific content claims for Mathematics are as follows:

  • Concepts and Procedures: Students can explain and apply mathematical concepts and interpret and carry out mathematical procedures with precision and fluency.

  • Problem Solving: Students can solve a range of complex well-posed problems in pure and applied mathematics, making productive use of knowledge and problem solving strategies.

  • Communicating Reasoning: Students can clearly and precisely construct viable arguments to support their own reasoning and to critique the reasoning of others.

  • Modeling and Data Analysis: Students can analyze complex, real-world scenarios and can construct and use mathematical models to interpret and solve problems.
  • For questions related to Concepts and Procedures, students should be able to determine patterns and structures, demonstrate fluency in computation, specify units of measure, and express answers with precision. Students should also be able to explain why a certain procedure works, why a mathematical rule is true, etc.

    At Grade 3, students will be expected to solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems, understand place value and fractions, solve problems involving measurement and estimations of time, mass, and volume, and understand the basics of shapes and their characteristics.

    Fourth grade students will additionally need to understand decimals, generate and analyze patterns, convert measurements from a larger unit to a smaller unit, represent and interpret data, and draw and identify lines and angles.

    At the fifth grade level, students must add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions, classify two dimensional figures into categories, and graph points on coordinate planes to solve real-world problems.

    Sixth grade students must be able to use ratios and solve algebraic expressions, equations, and inequalities. They must also solve problems involving area, surface area, and volume. Seventh grade students are additionally required to use random sampling to make inferences and develop, use, and evaluate probability models.

    For eighth grade students, these questions require the ability to work with radicals and integer exponents, analyze and solve linear equations, understand and apply the Pythagorean theorem, and solve problems using the volume of cones, cylinders, and spheres.

    Eleventh grade students are asked to work with polynomials, create equations, solve equations graphically, build and analyze functions, define trigonometric ratios, solve problems involving right triangles, and demonstrate an understanding of Algebra, Geometry, Statistics, and Probability.

    To answer Problem Solving questions, students should be able to apply math to real-world situations. They must be able to strategically select and use tools as they solve problems, and they need the ability to interpret results in context. It’s also important for students to be able to identify key information in a practical situation and map the relationship using diagrams, graphs, formulas, etc.

    Below is an example of a Problem Solving short answer task.

    Communicating Reasoning questions require students to explain their reasoning, construct examples to evaluate a proposition or conjecture, and identify flaws in arguments or logic. Students may be asked to critique, prove, justify, or investigate mathematical conjectures and logic.

    Below is an example of a 7th grade Communicating Reasoning question.

    Students may also be asked to complete longer “investigations” to demonstrate the ability to communicate reasoning, as in the example below:

    Lastly, Modeling and Data Analysis questions ask students to apply mathematical knowledge to real world scenarios at a deep level of understanding. Students may be asked to develop mathematical models of their own or to improve upon provided models. Students may also be asked to make reasoned estimates and plan, design, evaluate, and recommend tasks.

    The following is an example of an 8th grade Modeling and Data Analysis task.

    Students may also be provided with resources that must be considered as they complete a task, as in the example below:

    As you can see, the SBAC Mathematics test heavily emphasizes the ability to apply mathematical concepts to complex real-world situations. Students must be able to reason mathematically and to justify and explain their reasoning.

    SBAC English Language Arts

    The overall claims for the English Language Arts assessment are very similar to the SBAC Mathematics claims. For grades 3-8, the claim is: “Students can demonstrate progress toward college and career readiness in English language arts and literacy.”

    For eleventh grade students, the overall claim is: ““Students can demonstrate college and career readiness in English language arts and literacy.”

    The four specific content claims are as follows:

  • Reading: Students can read closely and analytically to comprehend a range of increasingly complex literary and informational texts.

  • Writing: Students can produce effective and well-grounded writing for a range of purposes and audiences.

  • Speaking and Listening: Students can employ effective speaking and listening skills for a range of purposes and audiences.

  • Research/Inquiry: Students can engage in research and inquiry to investigate topics and to analyze, integrate, and present information.
  • Reading skills are measured by having students at each grade level read a variety of literary and informational texts. Some tasks will require students to compare, analyze, or integrate information from multiple texts.

    Students will answer reading comprehension questions focusing on key details, central ideas, the meaning of words in context, reasoning and evidence, analysis within and across texts, text structures and features, and figurative language, connotative meanings, and the impact of word choice on meaning and tone.

    Because the Common Core State Standards heavily emphasize the ability to provide supporting evidence, many of the test questions will ask students to cite evidence from the text. Students may be required to highlight supporting evidence or, on writing tasks, to explain their evidence. The questions below are examples of evidence-based questions for middle school students.

    To demonstrate Writing ability, students at each grade level must compose, revise, and/or edit both shorter and longer literary and informational texts for a variety of purposes (narrative, informational/explanatory, and opinion/argumentative).

    Students are assessed with multiple choice questions, brief writes, and a Performance Task. The Performance Task is scored based on focus/purpose, evidence/elaboration, and conventions. The task involves reading sources, taking purposeful notes, and then writing and revising a response to a given topic.

    The following is an example of a narrative brief write appropriate for 8th grade students.

    For Speaking and Listening questions, students will listen to a variety of one-minute informational texts and respond to listening comprehension questions. Students have the ability to individually rewind the audio or pause to take notes as needed. The listening comprehension questions are very similar in content to the reading comprehension questions.

    Below are two examples of elementary level Listening Comprehension questions.

    The Research/Inquiry questions focus on the ability to paraphrase text, avoid plagiarism, identify credible sources, and evaluate the strength of information to support a claim or the appropriateness of information for a stated purpose.

    Students also complete a Performance Task in which they will explore a topic, issue, or complex problem and interpret, analyze, and synthesize related information from a variety of sources. Students will be asked three research questions about the materials and will be given a writing task requiring them to respond to a prompt or problem.

    Below is an example of a Research/Inquiry question for eleventh grade students.

    Partial SBAC Research/inquiry sample question -11th grade

    Partial SBAC Research/inquiry sample question -11th grade

    This lengthy question went on to present additional resources and descriptions of these resources, giving students the opportunity to decide which resources were both credible and relevant to the stated purpose.

    SBAC and PARCC: What’s the Difference?

    Both SBAC and PARCC were awarded Race to the Top funds by the Department of Education for the purpose of developing assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). So how are these assessments different?

    The most obvious difference between the SBAC and PARCC is that they have different member states. The SBAC is in use in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, West Virginia, Delaware, Connecticut, Idaho, Vermont, New Hampshire, Hawaii, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    Iowa and North Carolina are also “affiliate members” of the SBAC, meaning they do not administer the tests, but they may participate in work groups and provide feedback and guidance on test development.

    The other key difference is that SBAC uses computer adaptive testing (adjusting the difficulty level of questions based on student responses), while PARCC gives every student the same questions regardless of responses.

    Additionally, PARCC is administered to K-12 students, while SBAC is administered in grades 3-8 and again in grade 11. SBAC is untimed, while PARCC is timed.

    Although question types are very similar on the SBAC and PARCC, the SBAC has more Performance Tasks and other longer form responses.

    How to Effectively Use Smarter Balanced Practice Tests

    The key to successful SBAC prep is to familiarize yourself with test content, building confidence and skill. Fortunately, there are plenty of Smarter Balanced Practice Tests available online.

    However, even the SBAC practice tests and answers are not much use if you don’t utilize them effectively. Here are a few strategies to keep in mind:

  • Begin practicing a few months in advance, and practice consistently.

  • Once you notice which questions are the most difficult for you, begin focusing your practice sessions on these particular question types.

  • When you miss a question, be sure you take the time to understand why your answer was incorrect and the right answer was correct.

  • Consider how you can better approach this question type in the future.

  • Familiarize yourself with the structure of various SBAC question types.

  • Also familiarize yourself with the different tools available on SBAC computer based testing.
  • Aside from using Smarter Balanced Practice Tests, you can work on SBAC prep throughout the school year by paying attention in class and completing your assignments, particularly in English and Math. SBAC questions are based on the content your teachers should be teaching you all year long.

    If you find yourself struggling in English or Math, consider asking your teacher for extra help or hiring a tutor.

    Right before test day, make sure you get a solid night of sleep and eat a nutritious, filling meal. Be confident that all of your practicing has prepared you well, and don’t make yourself feel too anxious or nervous about the test.

    We hope we’ve given you all the information you need to answer the question, “What is the SBAC test?” These tests are certainly challenging, but with the sample SBAC questions, SBAC practice tests and answers, and other information provided here, you have all the right tools to conquer the SBAC.