Training Test, Practice Test, and Sample Items and When to Use Them

Three Tools to Help You (and Your Students) Get to Know the Smarter Balanced Summative Test: Training Test, Practice Test, and Sample Item.

Elizabeth Johnston, Guest Blogger
English Language Arts Teacher (7th Grade)

With all the different tools and resources available to help us get familiar with the summative test, it can be confusing what the best use is for each one. Here is a summary of three different tools (training test, practice test, and sample items) and the uses for them.

1. The Training Test
This is a great, small sample of the style and formatting of the testing program, the question structures, and the available tools. I would recommend this for students who are new to testing on the computer, new to your state, or young enough that they are just learning how it works. The intention of the training test is for students to play around with the testing environment without feeling overwhelmed with a lot of questions that they may feel the need to answer. The training test does not include an answer key for this reason. NOTE: Be sure to use your state’s Training Test!

2. The Practice Test
The practice test is a more authentic representation of the summative assessment (without the adaptive component). There is a wide variety of question types so that students should see a sample of all the structures they may encounter on the test. I particularly like this one because it does have an answer set provided. Going through questions and answers with the students provides teachable moments with the different question types. It is good to make sure students notice how it appears in the test when words have a glossary annotation, and when the mouse tip changes to represent selectable answers. I find the performance task valuable so that I can point out all the different tools available to the students as well as the difference between Part 1 and Part This is a good resource to use when pointing out that there are multiple “tasks” for the sources and that students randomly end up with different modes of writing for the assigned sources. I also like to point out the access to common word processing tools, the dictionary, and the thesaurus. These are also state-specific so be sure to use your state’s Practice Test.

Screenshot of Sample Items Website home page.

3. The Sample Items Website 
The Sample Items are best used to inform your classroom instruction and your own assessment writing. They are sortable by grade level, content area, claim, and target. The questions are interactive, like on the test, and could also be used as discussion points for instruction. When you are looking at an item, the “About This Item” button shows detailed information about the item, the relevant standard, and the target description. I appreciate the “More Like This” button to see other related items. This is useful when you are looking for additional examples and forms of the question types used for the target. When item writing, additional examples for a specific claim and target can help you find the best wording for your intended outcome, and, while the item specifications do have the item stems (sentence frames), it helps to see them applied.

There are many different Smarter Balanced assessment tools to suit many purposes. How have you have used the tools? Please share your ideas and the way you use the resources with (or for) your students!

About our Guest Blogger

Elizabeth Johnson, Guest Blogger, Educator.

Elizabeth Johnston is a secondary certified, middle-level 7th grade teacher in Shelton, WA, a rural community with a diverse population. She has taught high school and middle school for over a decade. She has her M.Ed. and certifications in ELA, ELL, Drama, and Middle Level Humanities. After moving to the Northwest as a child, she cannot imagine living in a more beautiful place (but sometimes wishes for a little more sunshine).

Elizabeth Johnston can be found on Twitter at @ejohnstonteach