Sample Questions

We witnessed firsthand how the new assessments will challenge students to think critically and problem solve.Parent from Hawaii
These sample questions illustrate the rigor and complexity of the English language arts and math items and performance tasks that students will encounter on Smarter Balanced assessments. They are intended to help teachers, administrators, and policymakers get a snapshot of Smarter Balanced questions. Although the questions and performance tasks are not intended to be used as sample tests, educators can use them to plan the shifts in instruction that help students meet the demands of the assessments.

The test simulation platform formerly used for Sample Items and Tasks is undergoing updates to ensure that all samples are representative of the range of items used in the operational Smarter Balanced assessments. The English language arts and math sample items also include Practice Test scoring guides, which contain items and tasks in their entirety. You can also explore the Practice Tests for sets of questions used by teachers and students to gain experience with the test software.

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High School

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High School


Types of Questions

The Smarter Balanced assessment system includes a variety of question types:

  • Selected-response items prompt students to select one or more responses for a set of options.
  • Non-traditional response questions take advantage of computer-based administration to assess a deeper understanding of content and skills than would otherwise be possible with traditional item types. These kinds of questions might include drag-and-drop, editing text, or drawing an object.
  • Constructed-response questions prompt students to produce a text or numerical response in order to collect evidence about their knowledge or understanding of a given assessment target.
  • Performance tasks measure a student’s ability to demonstrate critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Performance tasks challenge students to apply their knowledge and skills to respond to complex real-world problems. They can be best described as collections of questions and activities that are coherently connected to a single theme or scenario. These activities are meant to measure capacities such as depth of understanding, writing and research skills, and complex analysis, which cannot be adequately assessed with traditional assessment questions. The performance tasks are taken on a computer (but are not computer adaptive) and will take one to two class periods to complete.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sample items and performance tasks are intended to help teachers, administrators, and policymakers implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and prepare for Smarter Balanced assessments.
The sample items and tasks are meant to illustrate the rigor and complexity students encounter on the Smarter Balanced assessments. They also show the different types of questions that appear on the assessments, including: selected-response; constructed response; technology-enhanced; and performance tasks. While these items and tasks may be included in the non-secure interim assessments, they are not part of the secure summative assessments.
The sample items and tasks are not intended to be used as practice tests. However, educators can use them to plan the shifts in instruction required to help students meet the demands of the new assessments.
Performance tasks are extended activities that measure a student’s ability to integrate knowledge and skills across multiple standards—a key component of college and career readiness. Performance tasks will be used to better measure capacities such as depth of understanding, research skills, and complex analysis, which cannot be adequately assessed with selected-or short constructed-response items. Some performance tasks can be scored automatically; many will be hand-scored by professionally trained readers.

These tasks are delivered as part of the interim and summative components of the assessment system, with more extended tasks available in the Digital Library as part of the Smarter-developed exemplar instructional modules and inventory of currently available resources.

Smarter Balanced worked with educators to write and review items and tasks. Detailed item and task specifications, training modules for item developers, and sample items and performance tasks ensured that each question is aligned with approved content claims, assessment targets, and the Common Core State Standards.
Smarter Balanced is committed to providing valid, fair, and reliable measures of achievement and growth for English language learners and students with disabilities and has developed a wide array of resources to help all students demonstrate what they know. The sample items and tasks do not include these accessibility tools and accommodation options, but the Practice and Training Tests do include all of these features. Please see Accessibility and Accommodations for more information on these features.