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Practice for the SBAC ELA Summative Assessment

The SBAC English Language Arts (ELA) test is one of two sections that appear on all levels of the Smarter Balanced Assessment tests. SBAC testing begins in 3rd grade and assesses student progress up until grade 8. Students take the test once again in 11th grade to gauge college and career readiness. Every ELA test is further broken down into two testing methods: the performance task and the computer adaptive test (CAT).

The level of difficulty on each section depends on grade level. The areas of study assessed in each grade correspond to the Common Core’s grade level standards. Every ELA test is based around four predetermined content claims that ensure alignment with the Core Curriculum. Content claims are targeted skills that the SBAC board believes are essential to college and career readiness. Each question on the SBAC test is meant to assess some or all of these target claims.


The SBAC ELA test has four content claims that test items adhere to:

  1. Reading: students can read closely and analytically to comprehend a range of increasingly complex literary and informational texts.
  2. Writing: students can produce effective writing for a range of purposes and audiences.
  3. Speaking and listening: students can employ effective speaking and listening skills for a range of purposes and audiences.
  4. Research/inquiry: students can engage in research/inquiry to investigate topics, as well as to analyze, integrate, and present information.

Each grade has different targets and benchmarks within each content claim that correspond to grade-level standards.


The SBAC ELA tests are given in two parts.

  • Computer Adaptive Test – Students must answer a series of CAT questions that assess their skills across the four content claim areas. The CAT administers the same amount of questions to all students. However, the difficulty level of these questions depends on student response. The CAT test uses several forms, such as multiple choice with evidence responses, hot text, and listening tasks. The test also utilizes automated essay scoring. The CAT ELA test usually takes between an hour and a half to two hours to complete depending on grade level.
  • Performance Task – Students must also complete a performance task (PT), which requires them to tackle one writing assignment that demonstrates their researching skills. Students are given a series of short texts that they must use to compose an essay. Essays may be argumentative, explanatory, informational, narrative, or opinion-based. This section usually takes about two hours to complete.

ELA Question Types

The following list details the various types of questions and categories that might be on the CAT section of the ELA test:

  • Reading is assessed by providing students with two main types of texts: informational and literary. The number of test items increases in quantity and level as grade level increases.
  • Writing is assessed in the PT part of the test. However, some grade levels offer writing tasks within the CAT section. Questions assess language and vocabulary use as well as editing and proofreading skills.
  • Listening test items ask students to answer a series of comprehension questions after listening to short text excerpts. This section asks students in higher grade levels to use interpretation skills as well.

Each PT includes two to three research items, two of which are short text items. Additionally, each PT includes one full writing task that assesses the following areas:

  • Organization/Purpose – Students must write a well-constructed essay demonstrating that they have thought about the structure and content in each section.
  • Evidence/Elaboration – Every piece of the essay must include appropriate evidence to back up the main argument.
  • Conventions – Students must show a mastery of punctuation, vocabulary, and paragraph breaks, amongst other writing conventions. Students are graded to a higher standard of writing conventions in upper grade levels.

Because of the vast amount of information involved on the ELA SBACs, it is crucial to receive proper exposure to SBAC pratice tests and questions. Visit our SBAC Practice page to get started and pave your way through the preparation process.

SBAC English Scores

Students receive two scores at the end of the SBAC testing process. The first is the scale score, which gives a composite score of both the ELA and Math tests. These scores range anywhere between 2000 and 3000. The scale scores are then converted into achievement levels, which range between 1 and 4. Students who receive high scores demonstrate a greater accumulation of knowledge, skills, and processes. Each achievement level measures a student’s grasp of the main content claims assessed across test items. For a more detailed understanding of ELA scoring, and more about the SBAC test as a whole, visit our SBAC Practice page.

SBAC ELA Practice

TestPrep-Online is here to help your child practice for the SBAC tests. We offer a variety of test prep packs, including SBAC for 3rd- 5th grade, SBAC for 6th-8th Grade, and SBAC for 11th grade. These packs provide your child with extensive practice, as well as a review of the ELA test, its format, and the rest of the SBAC test. Start preparing with TestPrep-Online today so that your child will arrive at test day feeling confident and prepared.


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