How Hard is the PARCC?

April 11, 2016 0 Comments

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, better known as PARCC is preparing to administer its annual achievement test to students in kindergarten through 12th grade. These replacement tests align more closely with the Common Core standards and are administered via computer. In collaboration with college administrators, PARCC has designed the tests to assess student preparedness for college level courses. The goal of PARCC is to identify any academic weaknesses in students prior to college entrance so that students are equipped to compete globally upon entering the workforce.  With that objective in mind, the tests are more rigorous than those administered in prior years. Parents and students may be wondering just how hard is the PARCC? There are 4 main areas of complexity that the student will need to prepare for:

Technological complexities

The new test is given using computer technology and computer terminology. While this may not pose much of a problem for older students, it’s sure to be a challenge for the younger ones. Because the test is administered on the computer there are key technical areas students will need to have proficiency in. They are as follows:

  1. Keyboarding: Students will need to know the basics of where the keys are on the keyboard, be familiar with the number pad, and the F row. If they have a good idea where all the keys are laid out and practice using the keyboard 15 minutes every school day, it should be adequate for the test (at least for the younger grades. The older students should have a bit of speed as well as familiarity).
  2. Basic Computer Ability: Students will need to become familiar with navigating a computer and accomplishing such tasks as drag and drop, highlighting, operating videos, login/logout of computer, launch a program appropriately, ability to return to main menu when needed, open/close a window, use of scroll bar. Also, be sure students know such terms as cut, paste, copy, and so on.
  3. Endurance: Students need to be prepared to endure for a length of time, depending on their grade level, at the computer keyboard working steadily without interruption or break. The tests are long and require fortitude.  Students can practice taking online assessments in order to get a feel for typing at a keyboard for an extended time-period. For a student in 4th grade it’s expected he/she will be able to sit for one page of typing, 5th graders sit for two pages, 6th graders sit for three pages.

For a full list of technical requirements your child or students will need please visit this link.

Higher-order thinking skills for both English and Math

The idea of higher-order thinking is that “some types of learning require more cognitive processing than others, but also have more generalized benefits”. The attempt to teach higher-order thinking skills is an effort to better prepare students for real-world unique situations that require critical thinking as opposed to memorized or rote learning. Although, it’s more difficult to achieve, it has more beneficial results.

In the past, assessment standardized tests were based on finding the right answer, usually from a set of multiple-choice answers. While this may have challenged thinking skills to some degree, it didn’t call upon the student’s use of higher-order skills. The new PARCC administered tests that follow the Common Core Standards, encourage critical thinking skills to:

  1. Assess students’ ability to comprehend complex texts.
  2. Determine if students can assimilate information from varying sources to make a persuasive argument.
  3. Discover how well a student can utilize math reasoning skills to explain real-world problems.

Here is an actual sample 3rd grade math question that would require higher-order thinking:

"Cindy is finding the quotient of 27 ÷ 9. She says, 'The answer is 18 because addition is the opposition of division and 9 + 18 = 27.' Explain why Cindy's reasoning is incorrect in the first part of the question, and then explain how she could correct her reasoning and find the quotient in the second part”.

Essay and open-ended answers

There will be some multiple choice questions, but expect to see quite a few open-ended and essay questions. These types of questions will indicate whether the student is using critical thinking skills, comprehending the text, and can express him/herself using vocabulary. Essays will be required as early as the 3rd grade level and must be constructed straight from the mind to computer screen (versus preparing a written outline which the student is probably more familiar with doing in the classroom).

Working within a time limit

Students will not only be manipulating a computer, keyboarding essay like answers, using higher-order thinking, but they will be timed as well. For some students, this is not a problem and they may work well under pressure, but for most students it may be a challenge. Provide your child with some timed practice drills via the computer

While the PARCC exams are more rigorous, students can practice and prepare ahead of time to identify weak areas. The Test Tutor is committed to publishing high quality test preparation. If you would like help in preparing for the PARCC, take a look at what we have to offer!