The Smarter Balanced Assessments consist of end-of-year tests in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics that are administered to students in grades 3-8 and once more in 11th grade.
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 in order to be successful in college and careers.
Although these assessments are rigorous, students can prepare using Smarter Balanced practice tests PDFs.
This article will cover everything you need to know about Smarter Balanced, including test structure, test content, sample test questions, and tips for success.
Let’s get started! Click the button below to get a relevant grade-level SBAC practice test. Along with this test, you will also receive a bonus PDF "5 Top Tips to Use Practice Tests Effectively" to help your child study for the test.
What is Smarter Balanced?
The Smarter Balanced tests were designed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), 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.
These assessments consist of two parts: a computer adaptive test and a Performance Task. With the computer adaptive test, questions become easier if students are struggling and more difficult if a student is performing well. This allows for a more accurate and precise test score.
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.
Question types include:
SBAC Testing Times
SBAC assessments are untimed, allowing students to take as much time as needed to complete the test.
However, the estimated testing time for SBAC Mathematics are:
For SBAC English Language Arts, the estimated testing times are:
As we mentioned earlier, there are two end-of-year SBAC assessments: English Language Arts and Mathematics. Let’s take a closer look at the content and question types you can expect on these challenging exams.
SBAC English Language Arts
Smarter Balanced tests have content claims, which are basically statements about the skills students must demonstrate to perform well on the exam.
For the ELA exam, the overall content claims are:
Of course, those are some pretty general statements. How exactly can students demonstrate “college and career readiness in English language arts and literacy?”
This is where SBAC ELA’s four specific content claims come in:
How are these skills measured by the SBAC ELA?
To demonstrate Reading skills, students are expected to read a variety of grade-level appropriate texts, both literary and informational. Students may be required to compare, integrate, and analyze information from multiple texts.
Reading comprehension questions may focus on:
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 constructed response tasks, to explain their evidence.
Students may also be asked two part questions, with Part A asking a typical selected response question and Part B asking students to select the best piece of evidence to support their answer to Part A, as in this third grade sample question:
To show mastery of Writing skills, 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).
The following is an example of a 5th grade question asking students to revise a text:
Students may also be asked to write brief narratives, as in this 6th grade sample question, posed after a short narrative passage:
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.
Speaking and Listening questions require students to listen to a variety of one-minute informational texts and respond to listening comprehension questions, which are very similar in content to the reading comprehension questions.
For example, the following question is based on an 11th grade listening passage audio presentation from The Big Book of Pop Culture:
Students do have the ability to individually rewind the audio or pause to take notes as needed.
Lastly, students are required to demonstrate Research/Inquiry skills by answering questions related to paraphrasing texts, avoiding plagiarism, and identifying credible sources. Below is a sample 4th grade Research/Inquiry question:
Students are also expected to evaluate the strength or appropriateness of information to support a specific claim, as in the following 11th grade question:
Lastly, there is a Research/Inquiry Performance Task, which requires students to explore a topic, issue, or complex problem and interpret, analyze, and synthesize related information from a variety of sources.
Students are asked three research questions about the materials and are then given a writing task requiring them to respond to a related prompt or problem.
As you can probably tell, this is a challenging and unique assessment. However, students can build confidence and familiarity with test content by using Smarter Balanced practice test PDFs. Later, we’ll discuss how to make the best use of the provided PDFs.
Smarter Balanced Mathematics
The overall content claims for mathematics are very similar to the content claims for ELA:
The four specific content claims for Mathematics are:
So how exactly can students show that they have mastered these skills?
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:
Fourth grade students will additionally need to:
At the fifth grade level, students must:
Sixth grade students must be able to:
Seventh grade students are additionally required to:
For eighth grade students, these questions require the ability to:
Eleventh grade students are asked to:
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 a sample 6th grade Problem Solving question.
In order to demonstrate the ability to Communicate Reasoning, students must 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 and complete longer “investigations.”
The example below is from a 5th grade question requiring students to justify an answer:
For your reference, here is the Gift Store Prices table mentioned in the question:
Finally, 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.
You can view an 8th grade Modeling question below:
This particular activity had many parts, culminating in the following:
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.
If your child struggles with these higher level skills, practicing with Smarter Balanced practice test PDFs can be an extremely effective way to learn this type of critical thinking and reasoning.
Using Smarter Balanced Practice Test PDFs Effectively
Although these PDFs are an excellent resource, simply completing the practice questions and moving on won’t be much help.
To make the best use out of the Smarter Balanced practice test PDFs, use the following tips:
By practicing early and often with Smarter Balanced practice test PDFs using these tips, your child will become a Smarter Balanced rock star and ace the SBAC.